Max Verstappen led a Red Bull 1-2 in qualifying for Formula 1’s 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix season opener, with Charles Leclerc third, but unexpectedly missed the final Q3 flights.
Carlos Sainz finished fourth ahead of compatriot Fernando Alonso, the Aston Martin driver running just once in the final segment due to having one less set of soft tires compared to the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers.
Verstappen had led Leclerc after the first races of Q3 by 0.103s, but just as the action was about to reach the climax of qualifying, the latter suddenly climbed from his Ferrari and was shuffled down to third by Perez’s last-lap improvement.
Up front, Verstappen had already gone even faster on his second run to post 1m29.708s, which meant he finished clear of his team-mate by 0.138s and Leclerc by 0.292s.
Sainz was able to make a second Q3 flyer and set a personal best, but finished fourth behind his teammate.
Then came Alonso and George Russell, who led Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in sixth and seventh, the duo also completing just one race in Q3.
Lance Stroll did the same, although he was running shortly after Alonso, and he took eighth while running with his injured right wrist.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was ninth ahead of new Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, who marked his first time back in qualifying as a full-time F1 driver since 2019 by making Q3, but lost his only time in it for going too far outside the lane limits in turn 4.
In Q2, Stroll’s last-gasp improvement to sneak through in 10th beat McLaren’s Lando Norris, who himself had just advanced from Q1.
All the drivers eliminated in Q2 set personal bests in their final races, but were shuffled back, bar Yuki Tsunoda, whose best effort for AlphaTauri just cemented his place in 14th.
Alex Albon also did not improve on his final lap for Williams, who was displaced from the rest and with four minutes remaining in Q2.
Running solo, Albon ended up abandoning the lap after appearing to understeer off and beyond the heavily scrutinized track boundary at Turn 4, after which he also went off and cut behind Turn 7 quickly left and toured back to the pits still in 15th place.
Alfa Romeo pair Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were the other drivers eliminated in the middle segment.
Before that, Q1 had barely started when it was red-flagged after Leclerc lost two pieces of his front wheel camber running down the pit straight ahead of his first run on mediums.
The first part flew off shortly after he opened the DRS, and when he braked and locked up – probably as a result of the missing aero part – a second, larger part of the underside of the Ferrari fell and came to rest on track, after which race control chose to stop the session so the pieces could be recovered.
When action restarted after an eight minute delay, Leclerc returned to action after Ferrari repaired his car and he went through with the third fastest time behind Sainz and Russell.
With a significant track evolution factor, all drivers Bar Sainz were up and running as the opening segment came to a close, with Kevin Magnussen completing his final lap in a personal best with the checkered flag appearing, but was shuffled down as others improved later and the Dane was out. at 17.
It was initially where Pierre Gasly finished his first qualifying for Alpine, but running too far beyond the track limits on the final out of the final corner meant he was dropped to the back of the field.
It lifted Nyck de Vries a place on his usual F1 appearance, the AlphaTauri driver finishing behind Oscar Piastri, who could not escape the drop zone after disappearing there with Norris after they had completed their Q1 banker laps on used softs as their first run on new ones. they had been destroyed by the red flag.
Norris only made it into Q2 as the last 2023 rookie, Logan Sargeant, set an identical time on the final lap of Q1 and was therefore dumped out in 16th, then matching their efforts exactly.
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda RBPT||1’29,708|
|2||Sergio Perez||Red Bull/Honda RBPT||1’29,846||0.138|
|5||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin/Mercedes||1’30,336||0.628|
|8||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin/Mercedes||1’30,836||1.128|
|12||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1’31,443||1,735|
|1. 3||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1’31,473||1,765|
|14||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT||1’32,510||2,802|
|19||Nyck de Vries||AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT||1’32,121||2,413|