Qualifying for the Bahrain GP lived up to expectations: Red Bull placed two RB19s on the front row with two Ferraris on the second. And the others more detached behind, with Fernando Alonso first of the others. There were no surprises in the first direct comparison on equal terms.
Max Verstappen signs the 21st pole position of his career, giving continuity to the history of Red Bull who arrived in Sakhir as world champion. The Dutchman, after an excellent performance in the first run (1’29″897), was forced to improve in the second because the threat from his teammate, Sergio Perez, was materializing and he deserved the front row with a gap by just 138 thousandths, a sign that the Mexican has started the championship with the right pace.The team from Milton Keynes starts the world championship ahead, in the awareness that in the race they will have a margin in race pace over their pursuers.
Did 2023 start like the last World Cup ended? At first glance it seems to be so, but the feeling is that Ferrari managed to recover something on the drinkers during the winter.
Charles Leclerc is in third place 282 thousandths from pole: it is an untruthful gap because the Monegasque gave up the second run to save a train of new softs. The Scuderia made a tactical choice while Leclerc was second just 103 thousandths from pole position.
The new Cavallino wall didn’t let himself be enticed by the pole start, preferring to focus on an aggressive strategy for the race: Fred Vasseur chose tomorrow’s hen and today’s egg, sharing the choice with Leclerc who signed it.
The second row is completed by Carlos Sainz: the Spaniard pays a gap of over four tenths even if he was able to have two runs. The Madrilenian feels the pressure of having to set the time in the key moment and doesn’t reap what he has sown, but the Scuderia can be satisfied with the initial response from the track. The team kept calm at the start of Q1 when a piece of carbon flew off the Monegasque’s SF-21. The session was blocked by the red flag to clear the debris from the asphalt. The pilot didn’t lose heart and the team reacted calmly to carry out the repair.
Aston Martin is the third force: Fernando Alonso, after being the fastest in free practice, brought the “verdona” to fifth place, placing the AMR23 ahead of the two Mercedes. The Spaniard with 1’30″336 opens the second group, leaving George Russell just 0.4s behind with Lewis Hamilton right behind.
If the Silverstone team can settle (last year it was seventh in the Constructors’ championship!), the same cannot be said for the Black Arrows who pay a very heavy gap on a track where the gaps are very small.
Russell chose the more unloaded wing that Lewis had decided on in FP3 and for 44 thousandths he didn’t want to start again in front of the seven times world champion. The Mercedes played defensively: it will remain to be seen whether the W14s will be able to keep up with Alonso’s race pace.
Lance Stroll is eighth in the second Aston Martin: the Canadian is more than a second away because he is suffering from physical problems after wrist surgery: he will have a hard time confirming the qualifying result, given that Esteban Ocon’s Alpine is very close. The Frenchman has slipped the A523 into the top 10, while Pierre Gasly is suffering at the back of the grid: he tries to draw the attention of the Enstone team after him.
Among the heroes of the day we must include Nico Hulkenberg who brought Haas into the Top 10 when he returned to F1 on a permanent basis: the German had his time taken away after the first run and having no more new tires he gave up on the second attempt. His had already done it big time before. Gongola Gunther Steiner for the choice of the German expert.
Lando Norris performed a miracle in putting McLaren in 11th place: the Englishman did his best to save face from a disappointing MCL60 that is already waiting for major modifications to hopefully get back on top. Behind Lando are the two Alfa Romeos from which something more was expected: Valtteri Bottas preceded teammate Guanyu Zhou by 30 thousandths, a sign that both have reached the limit of the car.
Yuki Tsunoda was consistent: the Japanese with an AlphaTauri that was anything but irresistible grabbed an honorable 14th position ahead of Alexander Albon who only made one attempt in Q2 which was conditioned by a couple of crosses that made him go wide with his Williams: the marshals had no doubts and took away his time. The Anglo-Thai then gave up the second run, knowing he couldn’t improve.
Logan Sargeant fails to jump the trap of Q1 with the Williams, despite the American having obtained the same time to the thousandth of Lando Norris (1’31″652): the rookie has to settle for 16th place on the grid ahead of Kevin Magnussn that with the second Haas didn’t find a clean lap.
Oscar Piastri with McLaren pays the price of the novitiate: the Australian will start from the penultimate row with the papaya car only 18th. Choosing to go to the Woking team he didn’t expect to finish so low. Nyck De Vries in difficulty with AlphaThauri: the Dutchman is not satisfied with the AT04 which disappoints the expectations of the team from Faenza.
Next to the Frisian at the back of the starting grid will be Pierre Gasly: the Frenchman had his best time canceled due to a track limit. It would have changed little because he was still excluded with the Alpine. Bad start to the season for the transalpine…
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