The Friday in F1 Bahrain GP saw a close qualifying eventually with Red Bull edging out competition, with the race wide open at the moment.

It was not an unexpected F1 Bahrain GP qualifying on Friday under the floodlights where Red Bull’s Max Verstappen edged out the competition. While the gap by the rivals was noted to be on the higher side, the reigning champions didn’t think it will be.

On the one lap side, Verstappen has had difficulties all-weekend long and eventually had his best lap when it mattered to take pole to open 2024 F1 season. He expects the race to be close but feels confident that Red Bull has enough in the bag to win it.

Teammate Sergio Perez feels mostly the same after ending up fifth due to final lap hiccup. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc felt pole was there for them after clocking a slower Q3 time than what he managed to do so in Q2. He reckoned it was a missed opportunity there.

Teammate Carlos Sainz was not far off in fourth behind Mercedes’ George Russell, who felt the team delivered a bit more than what they expected. His teammate Lewis Hamilton was behind, but he sacrificed bit of qualifying pace for a better one in the F1 race.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was surprised to find himself in sixth after they decided to run in the gap where they managed to out-qualify both McLaren F1 drivers. The duo were not too disappointed, as Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg was the surprise of the lot in 10th.

Verstappen: “I just had a bit more grip somehow. The first run, it just didn’t really feel that great. The tyres never really switched on. And then on the final lap, yeah, it just felt better from Turn 1. I think it was just a very tight qualifying and I think it was just also very tricky conditions with the wind this whole weekend. So, yeah, if you can get the lap together immediately, you can find one, one-and-a half-tenths in a corner. And I think it was just good for us in Q2, Q3, especially Q3, I would say. It all just improved a little bit more. But yeah, I think throughout the whole of qualifying, you could see the gaps were super close and I think you never really knew who was going to be on pole heading into Q3. So I think that was very exciting to see. It feels like it has closed up, because all the way until qualifying I didn’t have a good feeling, where last year I think it was a bit better, we were a bit stronger throughout the whole weekend.

“So yeah, we’ll see how that will evolve. As for the issues I said on radio, I mean, that is something that has been around for quite a while, but you always try to optimize these things. But that was not really the balance problem of the car. It was just trying to get it in the right window with the front axle and the rear axle. You tried to tackle the front axle, then it shifted to the rear, other way around. It was all about just trying to find that middle way to feel a bit more comfortable. And also, around a track like this, which is quite hard on tyres, the tarmac is very aggressive and one little slide or a lock up can cost you quite a lot of lap time. So it’s about small little things that can improve the car quite a bit.”

Leclerc: “The car felt good. The last lap wasn’t the best lap I’ve done. I think the best lap was in Q2, where I put everything I wanted in that lap. In Q3, I didn’t really find the grip straight away out of the box, which was a bit strange, so we’ll look at that. And yeah, having a scrubbed set also at the beginning of Q3, I think, put us a little bit on the back foot, because the track is evolving and it’s a bit more difficult to read how much front flap you need to put for that last run. And there I think we lost a little bit the rhythm. the feeling is much better compared to last year. Last year, whenever we had used tyres, the car would become very, very difficult to drive. The balance would be completely out of place compared to the short runs. This year, we are a bit more… I mean, we are in the right window now in the long runs. So it feels quite a lot better. It helps us to be more consistent. However, again, for the competitiveness, we’ll see tomorrow. As for Red Bull, I think it’s pretty in line with what we expected. If anything, it’s a bit better than what we expected. Because again, today there’s three tenths in Q3, but I think we could have, realistically in the car, I think we could have gone closer to Max. So a bit more, a bit better than what we expected. But yeah, let’s see tomorrow.”

Russell: “I think after testing last week, we wouldn’t have expected to be qualifying third. And then yesterday, driving, we made a lot of set-up changes over the course of the weekend. And as I mentioned before, Lewis and I were back at the factory and the team have been doing a really great job to find these small improvements and we were really fast just in FP2, Lewis and I, P1 and P2, which caught us by surprise. But as we saw, it was so close out there. You know, if you take Max out of the equation, I think it was two tenths between P2 and P8 or something. And I don’t think we’ve seen F1 like this for a long, long time. So, you know, we only dream and wish that was fighting for pole position and victory. And I think we’re going to have a great battle on our hands for the next spot. I think what we saw in testing was our qualifying pace being a little bit offset and our race pace probably being next best to Max.

“Now we’ve improved the qualifying pace, we hope it hasn’t hindered our race pace. It’s uncharacteristically cold here in Bahrain at the moment. I think tomorrow it’s going to be about 16 degrees by the time we go to the race and we’re normally talking 30s or mid-30s here in Bahrain. There’s a lot of unexpected things to come. The Soft tyre is performing well around this circuit, in the race maybe people will do two sets of the Softs, two sets of the Hards, a Medium. But it’s the first race of the season and I think we’re all just excited to get going. I think it was better than expected. I think we all knew it was going to be very, very close between ourselves, Ferrari, Aston, McLaren and Checo. And I think, you know, the gap in qualifying today was probably slightly closer to Max than we all expected. I think race pace is the important one. We’re expecting probably a half second deficit. That’s what we thought after testing. We’ll see tomorrow, I think.”

Hamilton: “It was a fun session. It’s not the result obviously that I wanted, but these things happen. I wouldn’t say that I’m surprised [at the result]. I went in a direction… I’m always taking risks, so I went in a direction with my set-up and it was just, even from P3 [final practice], it was possibly not the right one, but I think hopefully the right one for the race.”

Alonso: “It was a nice surprise tonight in Qualifying to finish sixth and a very good way to start the new season. We were cautious heading into the session, but we found ourselves competitive and in the end we were only a tenth away from the Ferraris in Q3. The car felt more connected this weekend and our fine tuning was a real positive. I think it will be very close tomorrow in the race and the fine margins between us all means how we manage everything will be key. Let’s see what we can do, but I’m confident heading into the race.”

Norris: “The car felt great all through qualifying and there’s a lot of potential. I didn’t get the best lap in at the end, but it’s a long race and there are plenty of overtaking opportunities. We’ll see what we can do to go forwards.”

Hulkenberg: “Probably a bit unexpected the pace over one lap. There’s no reason to get over-excited and over-ambitious now, I think there were a few people that didn’t do low fuel runs and have more potential. So, it’s going to be tight and interesting to see. To be honest I expect a very tight field in qualifying, like it was last year, probably it will continue to be like that. So smallest mistake or a not clean lap can have a big impact. Not sure what it’s worth where we’ll slot in but we’ll put everything in that we have tomorrow and see what we get.”

Hulkenberg made it in the Top 10 at the expense of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll who ended up even behind Visa Cash App RB’s Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese F1 driver felt solid with his pace unlike teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who did not enjoy his laps in qualifying.

Williams’ Alexander Albon also felt that they delivered a bit better than the expected results, where he once again managed to beat teammate Logan Sargeant. The disappointment list certainly had both the Stake F1 Team and Alpine drivers at the back of the grid.

Tsunoda: “It’s a shame we missed out on Q3 by that little, but I’m happy with my performance. We struggled a lot yesterday, especially in FP2, but the team did a fantastic job of turning things around overnight, and the car felt good today. We’re still in the process of understanding our car properly, but we’re improving in each session, so we’re happy with the progress. I think we maximised our package today, but the race is where points are scored, so we’ll focus on tomorrow and do it again. The car is in a good place in the long run, so I’m feeling confident and excited to race again!”

Albon: “P15 was where we predicted we’d be today so it’s a slight reward qualifying P13. On paper, it’s mixed feelings because I feel like we did a good job and got the most out of the car but we’ve definitely got more performance in it, which isn’t a bad thing. I was excited to go out today on low fuel and feel the car light but I think tomorrow will be very close. We’ve made big improvements, but everyone has so it’s all relative. This circuit is always very close so let’s see how we go tomorrow.”

Bottas: “It’s no secret that we are not where we expected to be today. As a positive, everything worked okay on our car – unfortunately, what we were lacking is a bit of single-lap performance. We already saw from the final practice session, earlier today, that getting past the Q2 threshold was going to be a tough job, as it is really close out there in the field. In terms of setup, we opted to prioritise the race more than qualifying, and hopefully tomorrow we’ll get to take advantage of that. We’ll be working on finetuning our package overnight, to try and extract something more ahead of the race.”

Gasly: “We knew it was going to be tough. We saw it coming, so not a surprise. At the same time, not ideal, because we didn’t do the best job we could today; we were the last cars out on track on that last run and ran out of time on the out-lap, and I ended up racing with Checo. The time was running out and it was a very poor out-lap, so that last run was quite compromised, and I feel we would have had a shot at Q2, which in the big picture is still not great, but better than the position we’re in right now. We know we have a lot of work ahead of us. We know we’re not in the position we want to be. It’s a new car, it’s not performing the way we would like. The whole team is working really hard to improve this current situation, but we also know that we’ll have to be patient and we’ll have to wait for these upgrades. We’ve been experimenting quite a lot this weekend, all sessions, trying various set-ups on the car. So far there is no magic button, but I’m confident the team will find a way to bring more performance over the next few weeks.”

Here’s how F1 Bahrain GP qualifying panned out

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