What the teams said – Qualifying in Bahrain
After topping FP3, it really did seem Verstappen’s qualifying to lose and so it proved, the Dutchman laying down a mighty final lap to grab his fourth career pole by a huge four tenths of a second. He’s done everything asked of him so far this weekend, and now just needs to deliver on race day. As for Perez, he had a much trickier evening. After seeing his first lap time deleted in Q2 for exceeding track limits, the pressure was on and the Mexican opted to remain on the slower medium tyre for his next run. The track ramped up, the soft-shod runners swept ahead and that left Perez tumbling down the order and out of the top 10 on his qualifying debut for Red Bull. He has it all to do tomorrow.
Max Verstappen, 1st, 1:28.997
“It’s a great feeling to be on pole and I haven’t experienced a season start like this. After the victory in Abu Dhabi the whole Team has been pushing really hard and even more motivated. There is still no guarantee for the rest of the year but everyone here and back at the factory have done a great job to give me a car like this and they should be very proud. Honda have also been working very hard this winter, just like every year. They are flat out all of the time and like us they just want to win. It is really enjoyable working with them and they are very passionate which I like, so a big credit to Honda for the result today as they have had a great winter. After testing it is always difficult to know where you are and we really didn’t know how it would be in qualifying but when you have a lap like that in Q3 and such a good feeling in the car you can be happy. We have to finish it off tomorrow but if I can have a good start I’m confident we can do a good job.”
Sergio Perez, 11th, 1:30.659
“Congratulations to Max and the Team on pole position as that’s the perfect way to start the season. On my side I wasn’t expecting to qualify in eleventh and obviously it’s not an ideal start but we are making progress and I made a good step between FP3 and qualifying, it just wasn’t enough. We were absolutely right to use the medium tyres in Q2 but unfortunately it just didn’t pay off and I didn’t deliver the lap I should have. I went wide at Turn 13 and lost a couple of tenths and the field is so tight that it knocked me out of Q3. It’s a shame as the extra kilometres and comparison to Max would have helped me to progress but tomorrow is a new day and anything can happen around this track so hopefully we can make a good recovery.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It’s fantastic to start the season this way, our first pole at the opening round since 2013 and Honda’s first since Senna in 1991. You never really know where you are at the first race of the year when the fuel comes out and the engine modes are turned up. It was nip and tuck in Q2 and it looked like Mercedes had a small advantage on the medium tyre but then Max came back on the softs. Sergio was unfortunate to just miss out on making it through to Q3. He’s got a huge amount of maturity and experience and he’s adapting well. He’s only had 1.5 days of testing and everything is very new for him in terms of how the car feels, but he will be competitive in the race tomorrow and should not be counted out. The whole Team worked tremendously hard over the winter to put us in this position and Honda and ExxonMobil have also done a stellar job for us. Tomorrow is going to be very tight and Mercedes have turned it up, everyone wrote them off two weeks ago and they’re right up there as we expected. It will be a massive challenge for us to beat them but we’re starting from the best possible place.”
The Silver Arrows looked off the pace of Red Bull yesterday, and ultimately wound up four-tenths adrift under the lights in Sakhir. But there were some glimmers of hope in there, with Hamilton actually getting the beating of Verstappen on the medium compound tyre in Q2, and the fact that they have two drivers up at the sharp end ready to pressurise the Dutchman. Add in that on race pace they look much closer to their rivals, and all is not lost ahead of the first race of the season.
Lewis Hamilton, 2nd, 1:29.385
"Max did a great lap, nearly 0.4 is a big gap so we have some work to do! The car was feeling good in Q1 and Q2, we took until the last minute trying to find the right set-up and it felt sweet. Just at the end I couldn't get any more from it but still, it was exciting. I'm immensely proud of everyone. We've worked very hard over the last week to try and understand the package that we have. We made some steps forward but we couldn't compete with that last lap Max did. P2 puts us in a position to cause Red Bull trouble tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas, 3rd, 1:29.586
"Today was a lot better than testing. Throughout qualifying I was feeling more and more comfortable. At least we are closer to Red Bull than we were in testing. We have two cars to battle against one Red Bull tomorrow. I had to use two sets of tyres in Q1 so I only had one new set for Q3 which put me at a disadvantage. But starting from third at this track isn't bad so I'm looking forward to it. Red Bull seem to have more stability, particularly in the wind. We have two cars in the top three so we can definitely still fight for the win."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"We are very excited to have a real fight on our hands. Six different teams in the top 10 today and it's clear that simply being "good" will not be good enough this year. But in the final year of these regulations you need to push the needle further to not only beat Red Bull but also some of the other teams. It's just what the doctor ordered!"
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It's disappointing at the first race to be looking at a 0.4s gap to pole but at least we know the performance we need to find going forward. It's also no secret that we've been struggling with the car around this circuit; it's nowhere near as easy to work with as the W11 but everyone in Brackley and Brixworth has been working hard since the test and we've learnt a lot about the W12 and found a more predicable balance, even if we're lacking overall pace. We'd wanted to get both cars onto the medium tyre to start the race which we managed to quite safely. Valtteri was a bit compromised in the final session by having used an extra soft in the first session but overall, it was good effort by the team and drivers, and should put us in a strong position for tomorrow. It's hard to read where we are on race pace from the Friday long runs as we didn't land the car in the right window but we're fairly confident we've improved the rear grip so it will be less of a handful in the race. We might not be on pole but we have two cars at the front and an extra set of the hard tyres, so hopefully we can create some opportunities from that."
Two Ferrari cars in the top 10 in qualifying was a sight for sore eyes, the Scuderia last having managed that feat at Silverstone last season. But more was to come, with Leclerc nailing his one flying lap in Q3 to steal that coveted ‘best of the rest’ P4 grid slot. Sainz suffered engine issues in Q1 but recovered well to follow his team mate into the top 10 shootout, coming home a credible eight in his first qualifying for his new team.
Charles Leclerc, 4th, 1:29.678
"We know now where we are in terms of qualy pace and it’s a pleasant surprise, as we didn’t expect to be here, but today we need to keep our feet on the ground. It’s only the first qualy of the year and it’s run in very strange conditions. I think we should be satisfied as a team with the step we made since last year, so to be so far forward on the grid feels great. I have been struggling in FP2 and FP3 as I could not find the feeling with the car but I worked quite a lot on the driving and in qualy I was actually quite confident I would be able to do the lap I wanted.
"I feel confident for tomorrow but it’s going to be difficult as other cars around us seem to be very strong in terms of race pace and are starting on mediums, so it’s going to be tricky to keep them behind. Also, it’s not going to be easy because of the wind, but that’s the same for everyone."
Carlos Sainz, 8th, 1:30.215
"A very positive day for the team. I think we can be happy with where we are. We had that very big shock in Q1, with the car turning off, but thankfully I could start it again and made it to the pits. It’s not always easy to recover from that, but we managed to have a very strong Q2. I’m obviously not happy with my last attempt in Q3. I went for it, but I’m probably lacking a bit more knowledge on the car and I couldn’t put together a clean lap. It is what it is. In general, though, I’m happy. I’ve been improving throughout the sessions, with good pace and very few mistakes so I want to keep gaining experience with the car and building confidence on a one-timed lap.
"There will be time to analyse qualifying in depth next week, but now I want to switch my full focus to tomorrow’s race. I’m looking forward to my first ever race with the team and we’ll give our best to gain positions and finish as high as possible."
Laurent Mekies, Racing Director
"A good qualifying session, with both drivers getting through to the final part: something we have not seen since Silverstone last year. Charles, Carlos and the whole team have tackled the start of the season working methodically and with determination, going into the smallest detail to get all the potential out of the package. Today, we saw the first fruits of this work and we hope to see more tomorrow, when the points are given out. We know there’s still a lot of work to be done, but we cannot deny that the first real comparison with our opponents proves that our efforts seem to be going in the right direction, although a clearer picture of the hierarchy will only emerge after three or four races. Now we have to focus on preparing for what will be a long and difficult race, run in conditions that could be very different to those we have seen so far this weekend.”
After Tsunoda lit up the timing screens in FP3, it was all eyes on AlphaTauri as qualifying began. Both drivers looked good in Q1, but found themselves on the cusp of the top 10 in Q2 after opting to boldly run the medium compound tyres. Coming out for their final laps, the team made the even braver decision to go again on the mediums. It paid off for Gasly who made the top 10, but not the rookie. Tsunoda couldn’t find the grip when it mattered and was a surprise Q2 faller.
Pierre Gasly, 5th, 1:29.809
“I’m really pleased with my performance today, it’s one of my best qualifying positions I’ve had with the team. For the first race of the year it’s important for us to show some good potential for the season ahead and I think we’ve managed to do that today. Only using the medium tyre in Q2 was a huge risk, but we managed to make it work, and hopefully we can use this to our advantage tomorrow in the race. I’ll try to make the most of the position we’re starting from on the grid– I think there’s clearly an opportunity for us and I will do everything possible to get as many points as I can for the team.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 13th, 1:31.203
“I’m a bit disappointed if I’m honest, I showed I had the pace on the medium tyre in Q1 and I felt confident with our strategy going into Q2, but I just didn’t have the grip during those final laps. It’s a shame to not be starting the race further up the grid but we know the race pace is there, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow. I’ll analyse the data tonight with my engineers, ahead of the race tomorrow, as I am continuing to learn from every lap that I complete. There are still lots of positives to take-away from today – it was my first Formula 1 qualifying session and I’m feeling confident in the car. I think we’re still in a reasonable position and have the potential to make our way forward during the race.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“We were fairly happy with the performance of both car’s this morning – having dealt with the problem on Yuki’s car overnight – and both drivers seemed happy with their cars during FP3. Qualifying takes place during cooler track conditions here in Bahrain, but both cars performed well in Q1. Yuki and Pierre completed strong laps on the soft tyre, so we decided to optimise the race-start sets, by having both cars on to the medium compound for Q2. Pierre made that work – he was one of four drivers to get through to Q3 on the mediums – however, Yuki wasn’t able to extract the best from the tyre in the second session. He’s put in a really good performance already this weekend, so I’m really pleased with that. Pierre had two strong runs on the soft tyre in Q3 and is starting in a good place tomorrow to pick up some great points. I’m really looking forward to the race now.”
After a lacklustre FP3 which saw both drivers down the order, qualifying was a much better show from the Woking-based team. Two cars into the top 10, and it was the new boy Ricciardo who ended up pipping his team mate by just 0.047s to sixth on the grid. Dropping behind a Ferrari and an AlphaTauri wasn’t part of the plan, but it is a solid enough opening for the team as they seek a good start to their defence of third in the constructors’ championship tomorrow.
Daniel Ricciardo, 6th, 1:29.927
“It’s a pleasant relief to get the first quali out of the way and get a decent result. I think, after the test, I was fairly comfortable in the car but probably more so on long runs. I still felt that, if anything, my Saturdays were going to need improving – and I think they still do – but I certainly made a nice step from a couple of weeks ago and I’m happy. We've got a good platform to build on now, I’m really happy with how we approached it as a team, not putting too much pressure on me. We were a bit off the pace yesterday, but they could see I was just trying to figure it out.
"I don’t want to do somersaults or backflips just yet, but it’s certainly a nice start for the campaign and I think we’ll do alright tomorrow. There’s a mix of cars around us, so I’m looking forward to that, and with Lando alongside hopefully we can get some big points for the team and start the year right.”
Lando Norris, 7th, 1:29.974
“Tricky qualifying, just because it’s very close between everyone. First one of the season, so I think we’re pretty happy with sixth and seventh for the team and getting to see where the car is – it’s a good position for tomorrow. It’s probably a bit more of a race track than a qualifying track, so hopefully, after focusing a little bit on that throughout the weekend, we can be strong tomorrow.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“We’ve got off to a good start in our first qualifying session of the year. Great work from the whole team, along with our colleagues from Mercedes, which allowed us to execute three very good qualifying sessions. Both drivers put in excellent laps to get us into Q3 and then to P6 and P7 on the grid. We saw the expected close battle between ourselves and several other teams – and that makes for an exciting race tomorrow. Our long runs have been good so far, both in testing and free practice, so we’re going into the race confident in our ability to compete for good points.”
It was a mixed bag from Alpine, who still haven’t quite performed as their testing pace suggested. Ocon was another driver to be caught out by yellow flags and traffic in Q1, and will be disappointed with P16 on the grid. Alonso used all his experience to steer his A521 into Q3, but once there could only get on the pace of the Aston Martin. Alpine look to have dropped behind arch-rivals McLaren for the time being, but it is early days in the 2021 season…
Fernando Alonso, 9th, 1:30.249
“We have to be pleased with our qualifying session today. I wasn’t totally confident with the car balance in any of the practice sessions this weekend. In qualifying, though, the temperature was a lot cooler and I was able to attack and feel the car a little bit better. It was really exciting to drive these cars again with low fuel and peak performance from the tyres. Qualifying is always amazing to experience in Formula 1 and I have missed that feeling! The plan for tomorrow is to attack and score points. We’ll try to make up some positions from our starting spot but we have to be wary of the cars around us as some of our competitors are starting on the medium tyres so it will be a close race.”
Esteban Ocon, 16th, 1:31.724
“It was a very disappointing qualifying on our side of the garage. Unfortunately, the yellow flag meant I had to lift off through sector two and I lost quite a lot of lap time as a result. It’s unfortunate as there was pace for a lot more today. I think as a team we’ve worked well all weekend during the practice sessions and had a good set up on the car for qualifying, so it’s disappointing not to show our potential. Tomorrow, we still target points. Anything can happen and we’ll push hard to make up some places and comeback. The weekend is not over.”
Davide Brivio, Racing Director
“We have mixed emotions after today’s qualifying with Fernando in ninth and Esteban in 16th. On a positive side, it was nice to see Fernando going into Q3 and that’s a good start to the season for him. However, it was bad luck for Esteban to not make it further than Q1 with a yellow flag hindering his second run. The potential was there for a solid team result. Tomorrow is race day and we’ll try to push even more. We’ve made gains in each session so far this weekend, so let’s see what happens when the lights go out.”
Aston Martin hadn’t shown their full hand at all in Sakhir, so qualifying was a step into the unknown. Sadly, the form of their new driver remains just that, Vettel’s flying lap in Q1 ruined by yellow flags. That meant the German departed at the first time of asking, but Stroll at last saved the team’s blushes by making Q3. Starting on old soft tyres though, he’s going to have a tough time of it tomorrow to keep the Red Bull of Perez behind from the off.
Sebastian Vettel, 18th, 1:32.056
"I think it is fair to say the result today is disappointing and not what we wanted. My first lap in Q1 had quite a bit of margin for improvement, but on my second run there were two yellow flags, which made it impossible to progress to Q2. There was a yellow flag at turn one and one later in the lap too. I was just unlucky with my position on the track. On a positive note, the car felt better in qualifying and all the work we have done since testing is taking us in a good direction, so we have the potential to be faster. Even though we are not starting where we want to be, it is tomorrow that counts. Our job is to maximise all the opportunities and see what happens.”
Lance Stroll, 10th, 1:30.601
“It was a good fight out there today and it is clear that the midfield has become even closer this year because a lost tenth or two will put you in Q2. The AMR21 felt good, but we have got plenty of work ahead to keep improving and to try and push back towards the top end of Q3. I am really excited to get going for tomorrow’s race because the first race is always a little bit unpredictable and exciting. We are starting inside the top 10 and with a good start, strong tyre management and well executed strategy, we can target some good points tomorrow. We just need to go away tonight, get our heads down, and keep on improving our understanding of the car.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Lance performed well and did a good job to make it into Q3 today, while Sebastian’s result was out of his hands to a large extent. In Q3, our tyre strategy meant Lance was only able to run once, but 10th on the grid leaves him well placed for tomorrow and he will be in the hunt for points. Sebastian was unfortunate to come across two yellow flags on his final push lap, which ultimately cost him a place in Q2. Overtaking is possible here so we will try our best to use strategy to help Sebastian fight his way through the field tomorrow.”
Alfa Romeo seem to have a made a step up since the off season, helped by a more powerful Ferrari PU. Both drivers made Q2 with ease and while they couldn’t go any further, P12 and free tyre choice is a very decent start to the season for Giovinazzi. With Raikkonen just behind, those two could still mount a challenge for the points tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen, 14th, 1:31.238
“Not a bad result for the first qualifying of the year: of course, it could have been a bit better, as I made a couple of small mistakes here and there in my laps, but it could have been a lot worse. We made a few changes to the car after the morning to anticipate the conditions and perhaps they didn’t work as well as we expected, but we are still in a good position for the race. We’ll need to see how the weather is tomorrow, do our best and see what we can get out of the race. We are confident our package is better and we can fight for a good result.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 12th, 1:30.708
“We can be really happy with this result as tomorrow we will start just outside the top 10 and with a free choice of tyres. We have a very good opportunity to achieve a good result as we saw how our performance was close to the cars ahead of us. Today helps us confirm the positive feeling we had after testing: we have improved compared to last year and we feel we can have a lot more fun this season. Our focus is now all on tomorrow: it will be tricky, especially with the wind, but we can bring home a good result. We need to put everything together – strategy, start, pit stops – and get the maximum out of our cars, but we can definitely aim for the points.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Our target was to put both cars in Q2 and we did it. We even got really close to the top 10 and to miss out on Q3 for less than a tenth really shows the progress we have made compared to last year. It’s a good reward for the team after the good work put in over the winter. We have proven that our optimism after testing was well-founded and that we can be a lot more competitive this season. There’s still a lot of work to be done, however. We need to keep fine tuning our package to be able to be consistently in the top ten and regularly fight for points, but we have definitely made some big moves in the right direction.”
Mr Saturday was at it again, Russell not just out-qualifying his team mate once again but also making it to Q2. Once there, he only ran once and couldn’t quite get on the pace of the Alfa Romeo but it is still a decent start. Latifi managed to beat the Haas pair but could have a long afternoon of it towards the back of the field.
George Russell, 15th, 1:33.430
"That performance was the absolute maximum today and I am really happy. Even though we have made a step closer to the front of the field, the Alfa has made an even greater step, so I wasn’t expecting to get into Q2 today. I am really pleased we managed to put a clean lap together, get the most out of it and sneak into Q2. It’s going to be a tough, long race but we need to capitalise where we can and not make any mistakes."
Nicholas Latifi, 17th, 1:31.936
"It was tough today and I am not completely satisfied. We have been struggling all weekend to find the right balance of the car, as well as get some consistency and driveability. However, the qualifying session for me was the best the car has felt so far this weekend. The wind switched around 180 degrees and the car handled completely differently, but I still struggled out there. It will be a long and exciting race tomorrow though and we will see what we can do."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"Following a solid practice session in the heat of the afternoon, both drivers were reasonably happy with their cars and ready for the qualifying session. We knew that the tyres would behave differently in the cooler conditions of the evening and we were also conscious of the big change in wind direction. To get the most out of the Q1 session we opted to complete three runs so that each driver could get a feel for the different conditions before they attacked the final run hard and with confidence. We had mixed fortunes with the yellow flags at the end of Q1 with Nicholas being unable to use DRS on the final straight as a result, but George largely unaffected.
"George completed an excellent lap and, with some drivers missing out due to the yellows, he set a time quick enough for a place in Q2. Our decision to run three times in Q1 meant that we had no new Soft tyres left, but nonetheless, making Q2 was an excellent result and we can now plan to race with the Alfa Romeos and possibly with Tsunoda. Nicky couldn’t quite extract the same performance as George on this occasion, but he will start only two places back, and given his strong high fuel pace, he has an excellent chance to race with George.
"The last couple of weeks in Bahrain have been intense and busy, but the team have worked very hard and as a result achieved a creditable result today, outpacing some fundamentally quicker cars. The dedication of all those who have been in Bahrain since the test, as well as all those who have supported from the UK, is outstanding and testament to a great team spirit."
Mazepin had a tricky start to his F1 qualifying career, spinning twice in Q1 and even bringing out the yellows as the chequered flag fell which foiled a few flying laps from his rivals. Schumacher had a more composed session but couldn’t get on the pace of Williams, but at least had the consolation of winning the intra-team battle.
Mick Schumacher, 19th, 1:32.449
“I enjoyed the experience a lot. In general, I was happy with my performance today, I’d say I was about 95 percent happy with my lap. I had one little moment with it where I felt I could have done better. To be honest, after having had a disruptive run, it was kind of okay. The car had felt good coming from FP3 and the communication with the team was really good. There’s definitely room for improvement on my side, so I’m just looking forward to being able to get into another qualifying soon. The race is going to be interesting as we see how the cars are going to behave in windier conditions. My main focus is to learn and to gain experience and build on that for the future.”
Nikita Mazepin, 20th, 1:33.273
“The conditions in qualifying were very tricky, they’d changed a lot from FP3. Obviously, the temperature had dropped down and the wind had turned around, and these Formula 1 cars are very wind-affected. I had an issue with my brake-by-wire and I locked-up on the rears at Turn 1. The pedal just went long, it’s something we need to look into. It wasn’t something I expected, and I hadn’t had it happen before driving in the test here or in practice. Hopefully that won’t happen tomorrow. There’s still plenty to look for but this was always going to be difficult coming into qualifying.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“We were pretty happy with our performance earlier in FP3. We got everything done that we wanted to do – it was difficult circumstances with the heat, but the guys did a good job. Then in qualifying, maybe not everybody saw, but we had both cars stopped on the FIA weighbridge. We wanted to do three runs each with both cars, but the time gets very short to do them – we couldn’t do all that. With Nikita, with rushing, something went wrong with his brake-by-wire setting. That’s when on his third attempt he spun – his rear brakes locked up. All-in-all the result doesn’t look great, but the guys now have their first qualifying under their belt. They experienced about all the issues you can have in qualifying – not least both of them getting stopped on the weighbridge, that was a new one for us. At least they know how do to that now.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
“Once more there was a big difference between the day and night sessions, which made the strategy and set-up calculations more complicated. There are a number of possible race strategies, depending also on the tyres each driver has available. Nonetheless, there were several teams that felt the medium tyre was the best option to start the race on tomorrow: four of the top 10 will start the race on the yellow medium C3 compound, including the top three, and this will give them more strategic options. However, there are a number of options and the cooler temperatures expected tomorrow might mix up the strategies even more. The new Formula 2 format, with two races today, were also interesting. There were some impressive runs on the soft tyre in the second race especially, as part of an alternative strategy that helped some drivers make big gains from the back of the field – influenced also by the safety car.”