By Sophie Collins
The season opener is just 22 hours away, with Qualifying done and dusted, and our first grid lineup of 2021 confirmed.
The competition was electric on track this afternoon in Bahrain as the drivers put their 2021 to the test.
Heading up tomorrow’s battle is Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in P1, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas taking up P2 and P3 respectively.
Here’s how it played out this afternoon:
The cars hit the track this afternoon in Bahrain and finally gave fans a taste of the competition to come this year.
Clocking the fastest lap of Q1 was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen crossing the line in 1:30.499 following on from his dominance in all three free practice sessions.
Yuki Tsunoda continued his impressive debut this weekend, and at the close of Q1 was just .1s off the top spot, followed by Hamilton, only a marginal .01s off the rookie driver.
Closing out the top spots at this point were Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo in P4 and P5 respectively.
At the other end of things, The Haas duo of Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher were at the bottom of the timesheets once again and they exited at the end of Q1.
Joining them most surprisingly was the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel, the former World champion hindered by two yellow flags on his last flying lap.
Out too went Williams’ Nicholas Latifi in P17, and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon just missed out on a Q2 spot in P16.
At the close of Q2, the Ferrari’s in the hands of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz filled the top spots, Leclerc crossing the line at 1:30.009, followed by Sainz just .001s behind as the prancing horses showed strides of improvement already from the 2020 season.
Hamilton found himself third fastest at this point, while Bottas crossed the line fifth, the world champions split by the McLaren of Lando Norris.
Losing out on the chance to fight for the first pole of the season was the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez who missed out by only .035s to Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in P10.
Joining Perez in the elimination zone was Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi in P12, Yuki Tsunoda in P13, the second Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen in P14, and Williams’ George Russell in fifteenth.
The final fight for 2021’s first pole saw Max Verstappen tear up the track on his final flying lap to cross the line in landing the first pole position of the 2021 season – and the first season-opening pole of the 23-year-old’s F1 career so far.
Mercedes‘ Hamilton and Bottas fill P2 and P3 respectively for tomorrow’s race – a disappointing feat for Valtteri Bottas who has sat on the pole for the first race in each of the last two seasons.
P4 will be occupied by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, followed by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in fifth – as Red Bull’s sister team look to be in possession of some serious potential this season.
The McLaren’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris line up P6 and P7 respectively for tomorrow’s race, meanwhile closing out the top ten are Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in eighth, ninth and tenth.
Lights out for the 2021 season will take place tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 pm Irish time, as Mercedes and Red Bull are expected to battle it out for the first win of the season.