F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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In what could be a season-defining qualifying session, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has beaten Lewis Hamilton to pole position ahead of the opening Formula One race of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit.
For the first time in his Formula One career, Verstappen topped the timing sheets in every session ahead of quali – snatching the top spot by a whopping 0.388s ahead of both of the Mercedes with a 1:28.997.
Three purple sectors on his final flying lap from Verstappen sent a clear warning sign to Mercedes that he is a force to be reckoned with this season, with Hamilton starting P2 ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
And Hamilton admitted he gave all he had throughout the session, but it just wasn’t enough to beat the flying Dutchman.
He said: “Congratulations to Max, he did such a great job. So fast on that last lap. Absolutely gave it everything I have, but unfortunately wasn’t good enough.
Max Verstappen blows Lewis Hamilton out of the water leaving
“There’s always more [pace] but it was the best I could do that’s for sure. I got absolutely everything I could from the car.
“I think we did a really good job from testing, to come here. The lads back at the factory, they’ve really done such an amazing job, and our aerodynamicist Kim, she’s been giving such great information for us to be able to get the car to where we needed it to be closer to the Red Bulls so, to be that close, considering I think in testing we were further behind.”
Verstappen is the first non-Mercedes driver to take pole on F1’s opening weekend since Sebastian Vettel in 2013 but that will not guarantee him a winning start to the season.
“Of course we already had a great test week,” the Dutchman said. There are no guarantees coming to the first race weekend but the whole week so far the car has been working really well and it’s just been really enjoyable to drive.
“The wind changing across every session is not easy to set up the car.
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“It all worked out perfectly in qualifying so of course I’m very happy with pole position.”
“My first lap in Q3 wasn’t amazing so I knew there was some more in it but you’re never sure how much.
“The balance was there so you could push it a little more. We have a good car so we have to have a nice clean start.”
Meanwhile, the pressure will be on Bottas, who comes into 2021 with just one win in 16 races in the same machinery as Hamilton, who snatched 11 wins over 17 races last season.
He starts P3 behind Hamilton and Verstappen in the first race of the season.
“It was a bit better but Q1 we went out for the second run with the soft tyres so we wasted a tyre set so in Q3 I only had one set of new tyres and it was tricky to compete against Max and Lewis with just one set,” the Finn said.
“It’s obviously not too bad. Not where we wanted to be but at least starting third and starting from there, anything is possible and obviously the aim is for tomorrow.
“It seems like us and Max will be starting on the medium tyre so strategy-wise there isn’t anything huge.
“I think we may have more hard tyres for the race. I can’t reveal much more.
“Now we have two cars in the mix at the front against Max so I’m sure we can co-operate and do something good.”
The Ferrari of Charles Leclerc starts P4, ahead of the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly – who will be one to watch during the race in a rapid car, starting P5.
Daniel Riccardio out-paced his team-mate Lando Norris in the McLaren starting P6 and P7.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jnr, Fernando Alonso, back in the sport after two years away, and Lance Stroll in the Aston round-up the top 10.
Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez was out in the second part of qualifying on debut with the team, alongside Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Giovinazzi’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
George Russell impressed in the first part of qualifying, however struggled in Q2 and starts 15th on the grid.
Sebastian Vettel was the big story coming out of the first part of qualifying, after he was knocked out of the session in his new Aston Martin.
Team boss Otmar Szafnauer told Sky F1 that Vettel was caught up with yellow flags after Nikita Mazepin spun and Carlos Sainz Jnr’s engine problems in the Ferrari.
Esteban Ocon in the Alpine, Nicholls Latifi in the Williams and both Haas drivers were out in Q1.
Tomorrow, 22-year-old Mick Schumacher will start the race at exactly the same age his father Michael made his debut in 1991.
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