Bahrain GP: Leclerc takes pole for Ferrari ahead of Verstappen, Sainz

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Charles Leclerc overcame reigning champion Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz in a qualifying session that went down to the wire and took the first pole position of the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship.

Ferarri’s Leclerc was fastest in the first qualifying session but Red Bull’s Verstappen hit back in the second, making it to the top-10 shootout in one take. The stage was thus set for a face-off between the champion and the Scuderia in Q3.

And it was then that Leclerc set a blistering benchmark of 1m 30.558s, taking his second Bahrain GP pole. Verstappen could only come within 0.123s while fellow Ferrari driver Sainz couldn’t improve on his first run, ending up third by 0.129s. In a distant P4 was Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez.

Mercedes made it to Q3 but couldn’t make it into the front row. Lewis Hamilton took fifth while his former teammate Valtteri Bottas made it to a surprise sixth on the grid for Alfa Romeo.

For the first time since the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, both Haas drivers made it to Q2 but Kevin Magnussen went all the way to Q3, qualifying seventh ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. That left Mercedes’ George Russell in ninth – Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10 for AlphaTauri.

Surprise eliminations from Q2 included Lando Norris (P13) of McLaren and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon (P11), with Haas’s Mick Schumacher splitting them for P12.

Alex Albon, 14th on the grid, made it to Q2 on his first Williams appearance, while rookie Zhou Guanyu qualified 15th on debut for Alfa Romeo, according to a report on formula1.com

That was at the expense of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in 16th, both Aston Martin drivers (substitute Nico Hulkenberg 17th and Lance Stroll 19th), plus McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo between them. Nicholas Latifi was last on the grid for Williams.

On their first runs, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz shot to the top of the timesheets, Leclerc leading his teammate by 0.096s thanks to a flying lap of 1m 31.471s. Neither Scuderia driver emerged for a second run – nor did Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was three-tenths off and third in Q1.

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas raised eyebrows by going fourth, 0.448s off P1, while Haas’s Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top five ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon – who finally showed his hand having forgone soft-tyred runs in FP3.

Adding to the wide-ranging set of rule changes for 2022, drivers who make it through Q2 no longer need to use the same tyres to start the race, while the soft tyre is now mandatory in Q3.

Verstappen set the fastest time till then with a 1m 30.767s and remained in the pits as the Ferraris emerged for their second runs. Sainz made it to P2, within 0.030s off Verstappen, while Leclerc was third and 0.175s off the reigning champion.

In the other Red Bull, Perez finished fourth – 0.251s off – while Mercedes’ Hamilton was narrowly off in fifth and Russell sixth.

In Q3, Hamilton and Russell emerged first, the seven-time champion getting a tow off his teammate. Hamilton went quicker than Russell on his first run, but neither were in the fight for pole position.

Leclerc and Sainz, however, were in the fight for P1 – and practically neck-and-neck too, followed very closely by Verstappen after the first runs. Sainz had a preliminary pole position ahead of Leclerc then Verstappen – the trio split by just 0.056s.

The second runs, however, saw Leclerc improve while Sainz failed to do so. The Monegasque driver took a first pole position since the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and his second in Bahrain, with a time of 1m 30.556s. Verstappen was 0.123s off by the flag and Sainz ended up 0.129s back in P3.

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