Charles Leclerc has beaten his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel to take his maiden F1 pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Monacan beat the four times champion by just over a quarter of the second to beat his record and become the sports youngest pole sitter.
Leclerc has been the pace all weekend toping two of the practice sessions, and in all three sessions of qualifying, he asserted his authority over his four-time champion teammate.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said on Friday that Leclerc was free to lead the race and stay there, so their new driver has a great opportunity to take his first win on Sunday if he can convert pole into a lead at the start.
The result is one of his best sessions in F1 and could pose a threat to his teammate. He will want to build on that, Leclerc was lucky to have two runs in the closing moments to secure a maiden pole and give Ferrari their first front row lockout since Monza last September.
Mercedes proved that they were not able to play at the same level as Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton going third and Valtteri Bottas fourth with the cars a further three-hundredths of a second slower than Vettel. The result is a good turn around given Ferrari’s struggles in Melbourne showing the same pace as in testing.
Leclerc said, “A lot of emotions but I am trying to stay as cool as possible because there are no points for pole position. It has been a great weekend for us but now we have to focus on the race and do the best race possible.”
Vettel added “In the end, Charles did a very good job today and he deserves to be on pole. I felt happy with my only run and we are in a good place for the race.”
Hamilton added “Ferrari have been incredibly quick. They have shown incredible pace but that doesn’t mean they can’t be beaten.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was best of the rest, in a close fight with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen he out qualified him by five-thousandths of a second. However the Dutchman’s teammate Pierre Gasly endured another tough afternoon only managing thirteenth.
Gasly complained throughout Q2 off throttle problems, failing to improve after his first run meaning he starts thirteenth. But Haas and McLaren continued to impress as both its drivers made it through to Q3. For McLaren, that shows another step forward the first time both cars made it through to Q3 since Sepang in 2017.
Gasly said “The beginning of the weekend we struggled with the rear of the car and we struggled to really get the grip from the rear axle, there is potential but maybe this weekend I didn’t take the right direction and we will be hoping to improve it.”
Carlos Sainz going seventh ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean, that gives the team their highest grid position they managed last year. However, the Frenchman was awarded a three place grid penalty, as the stewards decided he impeded the McLaren of Norris, they believe that the Frenchman was trying to deliberately hinder his session.
Daniel Ricciardo was unable to improve on his final run in Q2 and missed out on a place in the top ten by a hundredth of a second, he starts eleventh. Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon out-qualified the fellow Red Bull driver Gasly by a tenth.
Gasly failed to improve on his time from the first run, complaining over the radio that “I can’t put the throttle down, I don’t know why – it snaps everywhere”.
It was another disappointing session for Racing Point both Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll knocked out in Q2 and Q1 respectively. Perez only managing one run to go ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Alex Albon, while Daniil Kvyat starts fifteenth.
Antonio Giovinazzi was fastest of those knocked out in Q1, just six hundredths off Raikkonen. The Italian losing out as a number of late improvements and the Italian’s complaints about tyre life saw him drop out early on.
Nico Hulkenberg was the big casualty as the Renault failed to make it out of Q1 by just over two-tenths of a second, he starts ahead of the second Racing Point of Lance Stroll.
There was no sign of improvement from Williams, George Russel and Robert Kubica locked in a battle of there own a second behind Stroll. Russell however once again got the better of Kubica, going four hundredths faster.