Formula 1: Max Verstappen upsets Lewis Hamilton to first pole of 2021 as Bahrain GP takes center stage

Formula 1 could potentially be looking at the long-awaited duel between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton as the former beat the F1 champion for 2020 to the first pole position of the 2021 season at the Bahrain GP qualifying round.

After two long weeks of predicting games about how the pecking order will truly shape out at the start of the season after Red Bull topped testing, Verstappen delivered on Red Bull’s promise to end world champions Mercedes’ seven-year run of pole positions at F1’s season-opening round.

Both Verstappen and Hamilton were separated by just a tenth of a second after the first laps of Q3 but the Dutchman pulled clear by an impressive 0.388s margin with a brilliant final lap of 1:28.997.

“Congratulations to Max, he did such a great job. He was so fast on that last lap,” said Hamilton.

A delighted Verstappen 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.”

Valtteri Bottas took third in the second Mercedes but Red Bull suffered unexpected disappointment with their other car as new signing Sergio Perez surprisingly dropped out in Q2 in 11th.

A much-improved Ferrari saw Charles Leclerc and the Monegasque going on to take an impressive fourth just ahead of his long-time friend Pierre Gasly who showed strong speed throughout for a rapid AlphaTauri.

McLaren came in sixth and seventh, with new signing Daniel Ricciardo just pipping Lando Norris to Saturday honours in their first head-to-head as team-mates.

Fernando Alonso made Q3 on his F1 return for Alpine, qualifying a strong ninth, but fellow ex-champion Sebastian Vettel was a shock Q1 casualty on his Aston Martin debut after being caught up with yellow flags.

Vettel will start from the 18th spot ahead of only the two Haas cars.

Sunday’s race starts at 4 pm.

Watch the qualifying highlights below

Bahrain GP Qualifying top 10

  1.  Max Verstappen, Red Bull
  2.  Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
  3.  Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
  4.  Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
  5.  Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
  6.  Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
  7.  Lando Norris, McLaren
  8.  Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
  9.  Fernando Alonso, Alpine
  10.  Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
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