What the teams said – Qualifying in Bahrain
After Red Bull stole the limelight in FP3, the jury was out as to whether Mercedes were the form runners at this track. But Hamilton soon set the doubters straight, and in truth looked unstoppable. He topped all three qualifying segments to secure his 98th career pole and third in Bahrain, finishing a reasonably emphatic three tenths of a second ahead of his team mate. Bottas made it a one-two for the Silver Arrows but couldn’t find any answers to the pace of his team mate today.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1: 27.264
"Ninety-eight poles, wow! There is always more time to find, small places to improve, but it was a really clean lap for me today. I'm not sure why, but I've felt so clear-minded this weekend. I just wanted to have fun today and that's the most important thing for me. I've been doing this a long time now, but I still love this challenge, of trying to understand the tyres, fine-tuning the car. I love what I do, and I can still feel myself improving all the time. And you can see it's not just me, but everyone in the garage too is just enjoying their work. The pressure of fighting for a championship is immense, but with the titles both secure that gives me that feeling of release to go out and drive like I did today. Today is the continuation of the special things that we're achieving as a team. Weekend in weekend out I'm amazed by this group of people. No matter what has been thrown at us this year we've risen to it. For me it's important to use these final three more races to learn as much as possible and carry that on into next year."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:27.553
"My second Q3 lap actually felt good today - but that's the tricky part when you feel like you're extracting everything out of the car and there's still lap time missing. I made no mistakes and my last lap felt were good so we need to find out this evening in the debrief if there are areas we can improve around the lap. Lewis and I went into different set-up directions with the cars, so that might have played a role. But it's great to have another front row lockout for the team today. I'm looking forward to tomorrow; it'll be an interesting race with different strategies and everyone trying to keep the tyres from overheating, so I think we can expect a good fight."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"For a Saturday, it was a good day in the office. We weren't quite sure how much performance Verstappen really had left, so we're happy we managed to lock out the front row. Tomorrow is going to be fairly tricky; Verstappen has a second Hard tyre and will most likely run a Medium-Hard-Hard strategy which, on paper, is the fastest strategy. But we're going to do everything to put up a good fight. It's going to be an exciting race an we're looking forward to putting on a great show under the lights here in Bahrain."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"A great result for the team and a seriously strong session by Lewis. He looked to have everything well under control from the first run, so congratulations to him. It's not completely straightforward, we've been battling a bit with the car balance and throughout free practice we were struggling to get everything in the right window. However, in qualifying it came together nicely and we were able to find more and more time as the track gripped up. We're happy that we have both cars starting on the Medium tyre but we're expecting to see some differences in the strategy tomorrow as a number of teams have carried an extra Hard tyre into their race allocation. Our long runs on Friday were distinctly average so we've made quite a few changes coming into today and hopefully we can keep the tyre temperatures under control during the race. It's also a track where you can overtake, where degradation plays a big part in the strategy and where you can undercut from a long way back which should make for an exciting race."
Credit where credit is due, Albon bounced back from his crash yesterday and looked comfortable from the off in FP3. That session was topped by his team mate, despite some DRS issues that saw Verstappen running with an oscillating rear wing at times. That sent Verstappen into qualifying as a narrow favourite but as has so often been the case, Mercedes were able to turn it up when it mattered and find that extra edge. P3 for Verstappen at least leaves him on the clean side of the track for the start and with a handy tow down to Turn 1, while Albon was a decent fourth to give Red Bull a rare second row lock-out.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:27.678
“My lap felt pretty good but we just lacked a bit of rear grip in the low speed corners but overall it was quite a decent qualifying. Of course I would have liked to fight for pole but if that is not possible I think it is ok to start third and on the clean side of the grid. Let’s see how we go tomorrow in the race because it’s very hard on tyres here so hopefully we’ve made the right compromise on that. We have different tyres to choose from so hopefully that works to our favour but we’ll see. It’s always difficult to say if we can fight Mercedes and I definitely think they picked up their pace today but I will try and keep as close as possible and hopefully find an opportunity.”
Alex Albon, 4th, 1:28.274
"It feels good to equal my best quali, I did want more from the session but if you look how it was 24 hours ago, this was a good result. Starting on the second row puts us in a good position to take the fight to Mercedes. Coming from FP3, the car was feeling really strong and I was ready to push hard in qualifying. We were surprisingly quick today compared to yesterday but I haven’t done a long run yet so let’s see how that goes tomorrow! I’ll be starting on the mediums tomorrow, I think the deg will be high so managing the tyres will be crucial. It will be a fun race for the fans to watch, that’s for sure.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It was a solid qualifying session from both drivers with third and fourth our best result at this circuit in the hybrid era. We thought we might be able to split the two Mercedes with Max but we just missed out by a tenth in the end. Nonetheless Max in third and a good qualifying for Alex to line up alongside him in fourth are great starting positions for tomorrow’s Grand Prix, especially at a track where overtaking is possible, so hopefully we’re set up for an exciting race. It was a good recovery for Alex, particularly after yesterday’s incident, and with fourth he matches his best qualifying result of the season.”
A mixed bag for Racing Point who had looked the third quickest car all weekend. Perez was able to make Q3 and once there came incredibly close to pipping Albon for P4 but at least has the preferential side of the grid to start on and is one of very few drivers who is expected to try a one-stop strategy tomorrow. As for Stroll, he couldn’t escape Q2 after a miscommunication with the team left him running used medium tyres.
Sergio Perez, 5th, 1:28.322
“P5 is a great result for the team and I’m very happy with our performance. We were able to be really decisive on the strategy and get through Q1 by using just one set of the soft tyres, which was absolutely the right call and meant we could use two sets of new soft tyres in Q3. When you look at the fact that I found two tenths on my second run in Q3, that call helped earn us several spots on the grid. It was a good lap at the end of Q3, although I think I lost a little bit of time in Turn 13 that might have helped me get P4. It’s a real shame what happened to Lance in Q2 because his pace looked good, but I’m sure he can recover in the race tomorrow and score points, which will be crucial in a close midfield battle. It’s a good result today for me but qualifying isn’t so representative here. What matters is strong race pace, which I think we have, and it’ll be important to get a strong start and make good strategy calls. It looks like a two or three-stop race tomorrow, so there’s plenty to play for and the goal is to score big points.”
Lance Stroll, 13th, 1:29.557
“We made some changes to the car after FP3 that really paid off and I was happy with the balance of the car going into qualifying, which we demonstrated in Q1 by going P2. Unfortunately, the red flag during Q2 ended up having a big impact on us. After the red flag, there was a miscommunication that cost us a potential place in Q3. We went out on a used set of mediums, when the rest of the field were on new tyres and it stopped us from having any chance of getting into Q3. We’ll review the situation tonight as a team, learn from it, and move on. The positive to take is that from P13 on the grid we have a free tyre choice. It’s possible to overtake here and strategy is important, so we can make progress. We can aim for the points and I’m happy with the pace of the car, so it’s all to play for tomorrow in the race.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“The car had good pace this evening – as seen by Lance ending Q1 second fastest – and Sergio’s eventual fifth place on the grid. With Lance in Q2, there was a simple misunderstanding brought about by the red flag and shortened session. By the time Lance went out on track – on used mediums – there was only time for one run, and no time to use softs as well. Had this been more evident, Lance might have run the softs instead. Because Lance had also used a set of mediums in Q1, we didn’t have new mediums available in Q2 [because the red flag forced his first lap in Q2 to be aborted]. Sergio’s session was more straightforward and his final effort in Q3 confirmed the speed we have shown leading up to qualifying. But it’s tomorrow that really counts and there’s a long race ahead of us, and plenty of opportunities to show our competitive race pace with both cars.”
After a disappointing time of it in Turkey, Renault have lost some ground in the constructors’ championship to their rivals. But getting both cars into Q3 while Racing Point and McLaren only managed one apiece is a good start as the French team seek to try and close the gap. Just 0.002s separated their two drivers in the end, with Ricciardo a hair’s breadth up the road from Ocon. But the important thing will be bringing home double points tomorrow regardless of the intra-team rivalry…
Daniel Ricciardo, 6th, 1:28.417
“I’m happy with the top six today. It was very close, but I was pleased with my lap to put us up there at the top end of the timesheets. I used both new sets in Q1 so I only had one new set in Q3 and maybe with an additional run it could have been a little better. It’s still good, though, and I’m happy Esteban is up there as well. It’s important for the Constructors’ and we need to put pressure on Sergio [Perez] tomorrow. I think the race will be interesting. The compounds are softer than last year, so I’ll be surprised if it’s a one-stop tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll see some variety on strategy.”
Esteban Ocon, 7th, 1:28.419
“The car felt awesome today and I’m very happy with our qualifying result. It was a good lap in Q3 with just 0.002secs between Daniel and I, which is almost as tight as it gets! Overall, we produced a good session and it was very well managed by the team. We got through Q1 on one set and then in Q2 we managed to qualify in the top ten on Mediums. It’s great that we have both cars in the top ten, but it’s not done yet. We know tomorrow’s race will feature high degradation and a lot is likely to happen. We’ll have to fight hard to score solid points tomorrow.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“It was a good qualifying for us today with Daniel sixth and Esteban a close seventh. It’s even better from a championship perspective as we’re in front of the majority of our close competitors and that’s an excellent place to start the race. We will be starting on the Medium tyres, the same as everyone in the top ten, and that’s the right tyre for the race here with high tyre degradation expected. We’re confident of a strong race tomorrow with some differences on strategy expected. We’re aiming to score some good points with both cars.”
It was no surprise to see AlphaTauri with both cars in Q3, with the team having looked competitive all weekend. With such narrow gaps though, Gasly found himself just pipped by the Renault boys and Kvyat wound up in P10. Nonetheless it was a good result and one that could help the team close the gap to Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.
Pierre Gasly, 8th, 1:28.448
“It’s really positive to get both cars into Q3 today, but as for myself, even if I’m happy for the team, deep inside I’m still a bit disappointed with P8. I don’t really know how to feel about it because we looked really strong all weekend, so I wanted a bit more. It was so tight, only a tenth to P5 and I would have liked to be on that third row tomorrow, but that’s how it is and I think it’s still a decent place to start the race. I expect pretty exciting battles on track tomorrow and I think we have the potential to fight for a good position. Strategy-wise, it will be pretty unusual and interesting, so I think we’ll see many different options between the teams. Tyre degradation will be the key factor, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Daniil Kvyat, 10th, 1:28.618
“I’m quite happy with how qualifying went as it was a good and competitive session. Q2 was very solid, we had one shot with a different compound and we took it, there was quite a bit of pressure on us, but we managed. I wasn’t too happy with my Q3 lap, as I made a couple of mistakes and maybe we took a slightly wrong direction with the front wing. Nevertheless, it was a strong Qualifying and puts us in a good position to have a strong race tomorrow. The tyres suffer a lot around here, so it will be different from what we’ve experienced so far this year. Of course, there were some races where the tyres were tricky, but tomorrow will certainly be an interesting challenge.”
Claudio Balestri, Chief Engineer - Vehicle Performance
“Today's sessions have highlighted how tight the midfield pack is, with small differences in lap time having quite big effects on the final positions. Compared with the past years, FP3 was closer to qualifying in terms of track conditions and we were able to validate the setup changes we made overnight, focusing the attention on quali preparation using two sets of options this afternoon. This evening’s session was not an easy one, especially Q2 when we were forced to change our plan due to the red flag. However, the performance from both cars was strong today which allowed Pierre and Daniil to make it into Q3 and start tomorrow’s race on what we consider to be the best tyre. Considering our competitive long-run pace on Friday, we will try to get into the points with both drivers.”
McLaren were off the pace yesterday but with a programme focused more on qualifying, looked really strong in FP3. That made it a doubly tough blow then when Sainz spun in Q2 due to a suspected mechanical issue and thus wound up 15th and with it all to do tomorrow. Norris at least saved the team’s blushes with a Q3 slot but the youngster couldn’t get the beating of their midfield rivals and wound up a slightly disappointing ninth.
Carlos Sainz, 15th, No time set in Q2
“Very disappointing day today. I was feeling comfortable with the car and managed to go through Q1 with only one set of tyres, saving two new sets of Softs for Q3. We obviously hit an issue at the start of Q2, which locked up the rear axle and that was it. It’s very frustrating that I couldn’t qualify higher despite having strong pace. We start on the back foot for tomorrow, so we need to decide carefully which is the best strategy, taking into account that the top-10 qualified on the Mediums. Tough one, but we won’t give up and I’ll give it my all in the race to recover as many positions as possible.”
Lando Norris, 9th, 1:28.542
“A tough quali today, because of the tyre differences and the red flag. So, it was quite a messy qualifying but the same for everyone. We did a good job with the tyres and getting the car turned around quickly. We had a slight issue with the car in the first run of Q1, but other than that my only bad run was on the very final set where I made a mistake at Turn One. It cost me probably a tenth which was a good few positions today, so I’m quite frustrated and annoyed – but I’ll try to make up for it tomorrow.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“Finishing qualifying in P9 and P15 is a disappointing outcome. Apologies to Carlos: he’s felt strong in the car all weekend and unfortunately we experienced a problem with the braking system in Q2, which denied him an opportunity to show his true performance. On Lando’s side, we were able to progress to Q3 with the tyre strategy we wanted. Regrettably, in the final run we couldn’t make the step that others made.
“On a happier note, the points are distributed tomorrow, and we’ll be giving it our all. As was the case in Turkey, our qualifying performance will make the race very challenging – but we’re expecting an interesting Bahrain Grand Prix with various different strategies in place, which should open up opportunities and allow us to recover positions.”
Off the pace all weekend in practice, it was no surprise to see both Ferrari cars fall by the wayside in Q2. They have struggled for pace here so far but at least will start the race on fresh tyres, and with high degradation expected, that could still prove to be quite an advantage. Add in that this track has plenty of overtaking opportunities, and all is not lost in the Scuderia’s quest for points tomorrow.
Sebastian Vettel, 11th, 1:29.149
“Being able to do just a single lap is never ideal and that was clearly the case in Q2 today. We missed the cut to the next stage by a little over a tenth, but on my only quick lap, I first had George Russell ahead of me, which stopped me getting a tow from Charles, and then I didn’t manage to have a perfect second sector. That just adds to the disappointment because even if we expected to be in the midfield here, we could just as easily have been in the top ten rather than on the sixth row.
"All the same, I am confident that the team can still bring home a good amount of points tomorrow. Because of the track characteristics, the race will be mainly about tyre management and I think that we can do something good on that score. We will have to be as sly as a fox, be patient and make no mistakes.”
Charles Leclerc, 12th, 1:29.165
"After FP3 I didn’t think we could have ended up higher than P12, but looking back at how quali went, I feel I could have done a better job here and there, so I cannot hide the fact that I’m disappointed not to make it to the top ten. Seb and I are the first on the grid to have the freedom of going for a different strategy but I don’t think this is going to be much of an advantage, to be honest, since starting on the Medium seems like the best option and the top ten will be starting on the Medium too. It’s going to be a tricky race where tyres will overheat quickly so managing them will be key."
Laurent Mekies Sporting Director
"As expected, given how free practice went yesterday, this was a tough qualifying for us. As has been the case all season, the gaps between us and our closest competitors are pretty small but we were missing a few tenths to make it to Q3. The red flag early in Q2 certainly did us no favours, as Charles was on a really strong lap at the time. In terms of tyre useage today, we were thinking of the race and we hope that choice will work out tomorrow.
"We can expect a difficult race given our grid positions but there are around a dozen cars that all have quite similar pace. In a race in which we can expect more pit stops than usual the various strategies could open up opportunities and tyre behaviour will clearly be one of the key factors. The slightest detail could make the difference and, as usual, we will try our utmost to bring home as many points as possible."
Another team to struggle in the desert, Alfa Romeo seem to lack power here and lost time on the straights, with lock ups not helping their cause. Both cars being eliminated in Q1 was quite the comedown from that double Q3 appearance two weeks ago, but with overtaking likely, there is always the chance of salvaging something from the race – especially if Raikkonen gets one of his electric starts.
Kimi Raikkonen, 17th, 1:29.810
“I feel we made a step forward with the car compared to the previous session of the weekend. The car felt better than before but it was still a tricky session and to go out in Q1 was of course not ideal. It is what it is, let’s see what we can do tomorrow. We have been better in the races so far so hopefully we can make up some ground.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 16th, 1:29.491
“My fastest lap was really good and we were so close to making it to Q2, only missing out for less than half a tenth. It’s obviously frustrating but all we can do is focus on tomorrow. I was quite happy with the car but we know it will be a challenging race, especially with tyre degradation being quite high around here. Managing them and getting the strategy right will be crucial: let’s see what we can do from here and if we can bring home a good result.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“The team did a good job to improve the car overnight but unfortunately we were still a tiny bit away from making our way into Q2. Antonio missed out by less than three hundredths, which is a very small margin, but that’s how it goes sometimes and we have to make the best of this situation tomorrow. It will be a long race on a track that can deliver unpredictable events, so we will have to get the most out of the circumstances to put one car or two in the points at the end of the day.”
Not to be for the American outfit today, at a track that seems to highlight their weaknesses. Neither driver looked likely to make it out of Q1, with Magnussen just taking the intra-team spoils. Their fight tomorrow will be against the likes of Alfa Romeo starting just ahead, but Bahrain does seem to have the makings of a long race for the two outgoing drivers.
Romain Grosjean, 19th, 1:30.138
“We tried as hard as we could, but you cannot be happy when you’re P19. When you’re a competitor you want to fight for good positions. My last lap was actually quite good through the first two sectors. The last one I tried to push a bit more – go the way I enjoy driving the car and have done in the past. The car couldn’t quite take it, so I lost a bit of time. It wouldn’t have changed the world but I’m just trying to enjoy these last three races.”
Kevin Magnussen, 18th, 1:30.111
“It’s not been an unusual Saturday. Unfortunately, this is where we are - I don’t think we had a bad qualifying in terms of considering the car we have, we got the most out of it. It was a normal Saturday for us. There are at least always opportunities in the race, we just have to hope for that again tomorrow. We have to try and capitalise on situations if they come our way – something like a Safety Car. Fingers crossed that one of those things that we need happens tomorrow in the race.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Not the positions we wanted to start tomorrow’s race from. It’s tough going at the moment, but like always, we’ll try to get the best out of Sunday. We always remain positive about it – we know we are a little bit behind this year. We’ll just aim for a good race tomorrow and you never know what might happen.”
Russell had another one of his super Saturdays, laying down a storming lap as the chequered flag fell to get into Q2 once again. Latifi couldn’t follow him though, despite having a decent record at this track in the junior categories. Once into Q2 Russell ran just the once but with no fresh tyres wound up 14th. The question is, can he stay there tomorrow or even move forward towards that elusive first Formula 1 point?
George Russell, 14th, 1:31.218
"It was a very good session and I am happy to have qualified P14. It was amazing to do a good lap and get into Q2, particularly having missed FP1 and then had tricky sessions in FP2 and FP3. That was all we could hope for as the midfield is too far ahead but to outqualify the Haas and the Alfa, and to capitalise on the issue Carlos [Sainz] had was great. I was on a used tyre for Q2, as we wanted to retain two fresh sets of the medium tyre for tomorrow. The race will be difficult, but we will try our best and do everything we can."
Nicholas Latifi, 20th, 1:30.182
"I was pretty pleased with my lap, but there was a big gap to George so it shows that the potential of the car is there. There are a few set-up differences between us as we went in slightly different directions, so that could account for some of the time difference. We need to look into it and see what we could have done better. Ultimately in the race tomorrow the tyre degradation is going to play the biggest factor in the result. We will try and get on top of that, manage that well and have a good strategy."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"George drove very well and made good use of his three new tyres in Q1 to put in a great lap at the end of the session. The car was behaving well in the cooler conditions of the evening session and we were able to get the tyres into their window on the outlap. Unfortunately, Nicholas wasn’t quite able to extract as much from the car today, which is a shame as he was very close to beating both Haas cars.
"Tomorrow will be a very different prospect with tyre management being key. Hopefully the changes that we made to the car since Friday will help us and we can have a strong race with both cars."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"The strategy for this race really began in Q2, with nearly all the drivers coming out on medium tyres, before a red flag stoppage with nine minutes remaining meant that there was only one run left to make it count. With the top 10 all starting on the Yellow medium tyre tomorrow, they have some options as to which compound to run during the second stint. We saw in qualifying that the pace of the soft and the medium is closely matched, however the medium is easier to manage in terms of rear overheating, which is why it was selected in Q2. We also saw that Hamilton was able to break the track record not once but twice, on two different compounds, which confirms the ever-increasing speed of the current Formula 1 cars. In Formula 2 earlier, there was another strategic race with plenty of overtaking that keeps the title battle well and truly alive."