Hello and welcome to this live blog for the qualifying session of the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, the first race of the 2021 Formula 1 season.Daniel Ricciardo is out to make an early statement with his new McLaren team, while Max Verstappen seeks to kickstart his 2021 title bid in the opening race of the new Formula One campaign.
Verstappen put his Red Bull on pole ahead of the two Mercedes of world champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas – the first time in the hybrid era (since 2014) that Mercedes has not started from top spot in the opening race of a season.
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The stage is set for the Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir to host a thriller – and perhaps set the tone for what should be a much more closely-contested championship fight.
We’ll be covering all of this Saturday’s developments, from the final practice session to the quest to qualify in pole position. So, follow along with us for all the updates from the Bahrain International Circuit as we see if Max Verstappen can keep up his excellent practice pace to defeat Lewis Hamilton.
Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying LIVE:
17:00 CET: VERSTAPPEN TAKES POLE POSITION!!!
Q3 is in the books and it’s Max Verstappen who takes pole position with a time of 1:28.997, 0.388 seconds quicker than Lewis Hamilton in second. It’s a great day for Verstappen, who confirmed his excellent practice times when it really mattered. “We worked hard throughout the whole winter, so you all deserve it and also the whole team at the factory,” he told team principal Christian Horner on the radio. However, Mercedes take second and third on the grid while Red Bull’s other driver Sergio Perez is down in 11th. That’s all from this live blog, then. Our qualifying report is here and there will be further coverage on MARCA this evening.
16:54 CET: Verstappen has provisional pole
The first runs are done and Max Verstappen is provisionally top, with a time of 1:29.526. That’s 0.023 seconds quicker than second place Lewis Hamilton. Pierre Gasly is third for the moment. The AlphaTauris have been quick all day. After a few adjustments in the garages, we’ll go again for the final flurry.
16:48 CET: It’s Q3 now, so let’s see who takes pole
The final 10 drivers are now fighting for pole. Q3 is under way. Stay tuned!
16:41 CET: Q2 is done: Perez is out and the Ferraris are top!
Red Bull’s new man Sergio Perez is the big name who goes out at this stage and his team radio is a series of bleeps. The Mexican cannot be happy with that. Yet it’s not his teammate Max Verstappen who was fastest this time as the two Ferraris are first and second, with Carlos Sainz posting a 1:30.009 and Charles Leclerc just 0.001 seconds behind. Yes, just 0.001 seconds! We did mention that the Ferraris could be quicker than their practice pace, as they’d ran in mediums in the final pre-qualifying session. Now, on softs, they’re flying.
16:34 CET: Hamilton has the fastest time
Lewis Hamilton has, for now, proved many of the doubters wrong with a time of 1:30.085. It’s the fastest after the first runs. Let’s see how it all goes as the cars make another run, this time with more cars on softs.
16:26 CET: And now we go into Q2
Several of the drivers are going out with medium tyres to start of this session. Let’s see what happens as we lose five more drivers. Sainz, by the way, has been able to go back out. His car seems fine now.
16:22 CET: It’s Ocon, Latifi, Vettel, Schumacher and Mazepin who are out
The five drivers who didn’t make it through were 16th placed Esteban Ocon, 17th Nicholas Latifi, 18th Sebastian Vettel, 19th Mick Schumacher and 20th Nikita Mazepin. Vettel is the high-profile name there of course, while it’s also strange to see Ocon down that low. He blamed a yellow flag during his fast lap.
16:20 CET: Q1 is done: The two Spaniards are through… only just for Sainz!
We thought it might be Alonso who could be at risk, but he goes and puts in the seventh fastest time. Then, Carlos Sainz suddenly became the driver on the brink of elimination. In the end, the new Ferrari driver makes the cut in 15th after his engine cut out as he was setting what should have been his fastest lap. We’ll need to see if Sainz can get his car fixed in time to run in Q2.
16:18 CET: Alonso is at risk
As the time runs out, Fernando Alonso is only just above the cut. We’ll have to see how he does as he completes his final lap.
16:12 CET: A problem for Verstappen?
Max Verstappen is the favourite for pole position and, with six minutes to go, has the fastest lap for the time being. But, he runs wide on turn two on a second attempt and sparks fly. He has asked his team to check his floor for damage.
16:08 CET: Schumacher leads the F1 world championship… sort of…
The first time is set by Haas’ Mick Schumacher. He won’t stay top of the standings for long, but for the moment he is technically the leader of this first qualifying session of the season and, in a way, of the very first moments of the 2021 world championship. The Schumacher surname is back in F1.
16:04 CET: Mazepin is the first driver to have a wobble
We’ve had the first off-road moment of the competitive part of this Bahrein Grand Prix, as new Haas driver Nikita Mazepin skidded off track. “I lost the rears there,” he told team radio. Fortunately, he didn’t crash and was able to make it back to the pits.
16:00 CET: Qualifying is live!
Q1 has started. This is where the new 2021 F1 season really begins. We’ll lose five drivers at this stage of qualifying. The first four cars to go out are the two Williams cars and the two Haas cars.