Charles Leclerc takes a superb pole position ahead of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz in Bahrain. Mercedes only manage 5th and 9th, while the midfield mix-up takes a fascinating turn.
Q1 – Aston Martin woes, Ferrari lead the pack.
And finally, one of the most antipated sessions of the year was finally underway. Early in the session McLaren confirmed their fears with a seeming lack of one lap speed. The Red Bulls were out early setting the pace, while the Mercedes were the last cars to leave the garage. The order was a complete mix up after the initial runs with Bottas and the Haas cars making surprisingly high appearances on the timing beams.
As the session came to the dying minutes, all eyes were on the McLarens, with Ricciardo in the drop zone and Norris a perilous 15th. Norris would jump to the safety of 6th, while Ricciardo was eliminated, only managing 18th overall.
Zhou managed to escape elimination with his last lap and Albon scraped through in 15th during his first qualifying session with Williams, but crucially beating his team-mate, Latifi.
Hulkenberg, who is replacing the COVID-affected Vettel, could only manage 17th. However, that result was still 2 places higher than his full-time team-mate, Stroll. Both Tsunoda and Latifi had unremarkable sessions, finishing 16th and 20th respectively.
At the top end of the grid, both Ferraris led the way, 0.3s ahead of Verstappen, while Russell and Hamilton finished 9th and 10th.
- 16th Tsunoda
- 17th Hulkenberg
- 18th Ricciardo
- 19th Stroll
- 20th Latifi
Q2 – Red Bull strike back, McLaren flounder.
A regulation change for the 2022 season means that whatever tyre used to complete a driver’s fastest lap in Q2 would not have to be used at the start of the race.
Despite initially going 4th, Magnussen had to rush back to the pits for a suspected hydraulic issue. He would later finish the session 7th, gifting his team more time to fix the problem.
It was almost too close to call at the front as Verstappen posted the fastest time, less than 0.1s faster than the Ferrari duo. Perez was able to place the second Red Bull 4th, while Mercedes lined up significantly behind.
Norris was the first confirmed elimination, finishing a woeful 13th. Albon posted a time good enough for 14th, a solid effort from the returning driver. Ocon appeared to have Q3 lined up until a last gasp lap from Gasly knocked him down to 11th.
Zhou was already eliminated, but a track extending penalty dropped him down to 15th. Meanwhile the other Alfa Romeo of Bottas continued his remarkable run of Q3 appearances.
Schumacher had a strong session, finishing 12th, but this was somewhat bittersweet as he was five places below his team-mate.
- 11th Ocon
- 12th Schumacher
- 13th Norris
- 14th Albon
- 15th Zhou
Q3 – Verstappen vs Leclerc, Round 1.
With the gap being so small at the front, Q3 held a significant amount of anticipation. Intial runs placed Hamilton ahead of Russell in 5th, while Sainz and Leclerc led the way, ahead of both Red Bulls. 0.056s split the top 3.
Mercedes led the second runs but Russell’s scrappy first sector dented any chances of improving from 6th. Matters were made worse as ex-Mercedes driver, Bottas, stole 6th place on his last lap. Then Magnussen and Alonso drove superbly to finish get in front, leaving Russell 9th. Hamilton couldn’t improve from 5th, o.6s behind the eventual pole time.
Leclerc stormed to 1st and Verstappen looked set to take the place away, but dropped 0.1s behind at the death. Leclerc had his first pole since 2019 confirmed, while Sainz took an impressive 3rd, marking a phenomenal day for the scarlet team. Perez shook off his practice worries to take 4th, a fascinating prospect for the rest of the season.
It appears that the wishes of many fans has come true with Ferrari leading an incredibly tight battle at the front. While it may be a worrying time for Mercedes, they have time on their hands. However, a Mercedes being legitimately out-qualified by an Alfa Romeo, a Haas and an Alpine car may mean that the sandbags they carried this year might have been considerably lighter than previous years.
Verstappen vs Leclerc. A tantilising prospect for lights out tomorrow.
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