Leclerc beats Verstappen to first F1 pole of 2022

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Leclerc beats Verstappen to first F1 pole of 2022

Formula 1

Leclerc beats Verstappen to first F1 pole of 2022

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Charles Leclerc has flipped the script on reigning champion Max Verstappen to snatch pole from the Dutchman at the death in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Verstappen had been in a commanding position throughout the weekend, including the early stages of qualifying, but Ferrari had a little extra in hand for Q3, with Carlos Sainz leading Leclerc to a provisional front-row lockout.

Leclerc found time with his second lap, but Sainz couldn’t squeeze any more from a fresh set of tires, gifting his teammate top spot.

Verstappen was behind them on the road when the checkered flag fell, and the Red Bull Racing driver was fractionally ahead as he started his final sector, but by the time he crossed the line his advantage had evaporated.

His lap was good enough to get him to second, with Leclerc winning the day with a 0.123s margin.

It’s the 10th pole of the Monegasque driver’s career, and he paid tribute to the tribulations of Ferrari over the past two years on the way to being an apparent title contender.

“Thee last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team,” he said. “We were quite hopeful that this new opportunity for us was an opportunity to be back at the front.

“I’m very happy with today. It’s been a very tricky qualifying session. I wasn’t completely happy with my driving, but I managed to do that lap in Q3 and we’re starting from pole, so I’m very happy.”

Verstappen was flat to qualify second. The Dutchman had complained over radio that his tire preparation program was leaving him marginally off the pace, but he said after qualifying that he was still optimistic for the race.

“It was a bit of hit and miss,” he said. “Q2 seemed quite good; Q3 was a struggle with the balance and to get it together.

“But we have a good race car and it is a good start for tomorrow.”

Carlos Sainz is yet to claim his first F1 pole position, but the Spaniard was pleased to be in the hunt after being off Leclerc’s pace at the end of Friday.

“I’m really struggling with this car, understanding how to drive it,” he said. “I’ve been more than half a second off all weekend.

“To be even fighting for pole position today in qualifying was good news for me.”

Sergio Perez will slot into fourth alongside Sainz, the Mexican 0.363s off the pace.

Despite appearing to improve its porpoising problem overnight, Mercedes was as off the pace as it expected to be after Friday practice, with Lewis Hamilton fifth and 0.68s slower than Leclerc.

His new teammate, George Russell, who appeared to have his measure on Friday, was more than a second slower on his way to ninth on the grid after a mistake at the first turn.

Splitting the pair in sixth was ex-Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who was superb for Alfa Romeo to lead the midfield at around a second off the headline pace.

Kevin Magnussen confirmed Haas’s resurgence with an excellent seventh, delivered after his mechanics executed a quick fix for a hydraulic problem at the end of Q2 to ensure he could set a lap in the shootout.

Fernando Alonso was eighth for Alpine ahead of Russell, with Pierre Gasly completing the top 10.

Esteban Ocon was pipped for a spot in the top-10 shootout by just 0.065s and will start 11th alongside Haas driver Mick Schumacher on the sixth row of the grid.

Lando Norris was an underwhelming 13th for McLaren and never looked like to make the shootout. Still, he qualified five places higher than teammate Daniel Ricciardo, whose lack of track time to a positive COVID test during testing and a water leak during practice left him underprepared to deliver any more.

Alex Albon was a grateful 14th on his first race back as a full-time Formula 1 driver since the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the result unexpectedly lofty for Williams, which has been struggling all weekend for pace.

Zhou Guanyu qualified 15th on his F1 debut and will start alongside 2021 rookie Yuki Tsunoda, who put his AlphaTauri into 16th.

Nico Hulkenberg was sensational on an otherwise deeply underwhelming evening for Aston Martin. The German was called up to substitute COVID-positive Sebastian Vettel at late notice and set his first laps in the car on Friday, but he managed to outpace teammate Lance Stroll by more than 0.2s, the pair qualifying 17th and 19th on the grid.

Splitting them was Daniel Ricciardo, while Nicholas Latifi will prop up the grid from last for Williams.

RESULTS:

Driver Team Time/Gap
1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 1:30.558
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull, +0.123
3) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, +0.129
4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +0.363
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +0.680
6) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, +1.002
7) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +1.250
8) Fernando Alonso, Alpine, +1.637
9) George Russell, Mercedes, +1.658
10) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, +1.780
Out in Q2
11) Esteban Ocon, Alpine, 1:31.782
12) Mick Schumacher, Haas, 1:31.998
13) Lando Norris, McLaren, 1:32.008
14) Alex Albon, Williams, 1:32.664
15) Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, 1:33.543
Out in Q1
16) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, 1:32.750
17) Nico Hulkenburg, Aston Martin, 1:32.777
18) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, 1:32.945
19) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, 1:33.032
20) Nicholas Latifi, Williams, 1:33.634

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