Verstappen picks up from where he left off last season as he leads a front row lockout in Bahrain for Red Bull.
Red Bull remain the team to beat heading into the 2023 season. Late times saw both Verstappen and Perez both improve, though it was the reigning world champion who edged out his teammate.
However it was quite a close session, with 1.1 seconds covering the entire field after Q1, and just under seven tenths separated the top seven drivers after Q3.
The first qualifying session of the season was quickly red flagged after some bodywork had fallen off of Leclerc’s Ferrari during his first flying lap.
When action resumed it proved to be a close fight to escape elimination. It ended up being five drivers from five different teams that got eliminated by the end of the 18 minutes. It wasn’t a good day for F1’s rookies, as all of them were eliminated in Q1. Gasly also struggled in his first qualifying session at his new team, only putting in a time good enough for 17th.
Lando Norris was lucky to escape a Q1 elimination, as Logan Sargeant managed to match his time of a 1:31.652, however since Norris set his time first it meant he got to narrowly squeak through into Q2.
16 Logan Sargeant Williams +0.000
17 Pierre Gasly Alpine +0.166
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas +0.240
19 Oscar Piastri McLaren +0.449
20 Nyck De Vries Alpha Tauri +0.469
Most of the drivers set their banker laps early into the session. Alex Albon however chose to wait for a clear track to set his time. Unfortunately for him, he would go wide at turn four and invalidate his only flying lap.
Track evolution throughout the session meant that times were getting much quicker. This led to everyone going for most of the drivers going for another run, except for the two Red Bulls and Albon.
Stroll managed to make it through to Q3 as well despite his hand injuries, beating Norris in 11th by two tenths.
The session was topped by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, followed closely by Verstappen and Russell. The top 10 was separated by 8.5 tenths, with 12 hundredths being the difference between second and fifth.
11 Lando Norris McLaren +0.254
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +0.316
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +0.346
14 Yuki Tsunoda Alpha Tauri +1.383
15 Alex Albon Williams NO TIME
Max Verstappen was the man to beat in Q3, setting a 1:29.897 0n his first run, the first lap time to go under 90 seconds all day. Leclerc attempted to take top spot on his one and only run in this session, but fell short with a 1:30.000.
As the Red Bulls and Ferraris pulled into the pits, the rest of the top 10 came out, but with only enough time for a single lap. Alonso demonstrated Aston Martin’s performance gains, putting in a time that was within four tenths off Verstappen.
With Leclerc not coming back out it became a three way fight for pole position. Carlos Sainz put in a time only good enough for fourth. Perez did improve two leapfrog Leclerc onto the front row, but Verstappen also improved by enough to stay ahead of his teammate.
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:29.708s
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.138s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.292s
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.446s
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.628s
6 George Russell Mercedes 0.632s
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.676s
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1.128s
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.276s
10 Nico Hulkenberg Haas NO TIME