What the teams said – Qualifying in Bahrain
They were on it all weekend, but Red Bull seemed to have just a fraction more pace. But in Q3 when it really mattered, both drivers stepped it up a notch. Sainz grabbed provisional pole on the first flying run, but his team mate nailed the second run to steal his second pole at this track. The Spaniard was beaten into third by an improving Verstappen, but was magnanimous in defeat, admitting he had at times been half a second off his team mate in practice. Whatever he changed, it certainly worked – but the real test will be tomorrow.
Charles Leclerc, 1st, 1:30.558
"We knew that it was just a matter of time before we were back in the mix and I’d like to thank our whole team for the hard work that everyone has done to put our car back where it belongs. We are all happy with today’s result, but at the same time we are aware that we can’t relax and have to keep pushing because our competitors are strong.
"We focused on short runs so far in the weekend in preparation for qualifying and did a lot of high fuel laps during testing, so we have gotten to know the car in different situations and it feels good.
"The trickiest part today was putting the tyres in the right window, but at the end I put it all together and it feels really good to be back on pole."
Carlos Sainz, 3rd, 1:30.687
"It’s not been an easy weekend for me up until Quali, but we managed to put together a very strong performance this afternoon. Fighting for pole until the very last attempt is good news. The gap at the top has been super narrow all session, so overall I cannot be too disappointed with this first qualifying of the year.
"Congrats to Charles for this result and to the entire team for giving us such a competitive car. It’s a promising start!
"Looking ahead to the race, I think there’s still a bit of work to do from what we saw during the long runs in practice, but we will definitely give our maximum. I can’t wait to race tomorrow."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"We are extremely pleased with today’s performance: we were convinced the potential was there to do well and the fact that both our drivers were in the fight for pole says a lot about the strength of our package – the car, the drivers and everyone who gives their all every day both at the track and back in Maranello.
"This pole position is a reward for all the hard work of the entire team and it’s even more important when one considers where we were two years ago.
"We have always said that to excel against such strong opponents we have to be perfect and I think, today, as a team we were very good. I know we have the best driver pairing and I feel that was shown to be the case today."
Verstappen picked up where he left off yesterday, topping FP3 and looking the favourite for pole. After sailing through Q1 and Q2 without any issues, the balance of the car got away from him slightly in Q3 and he wound up behind the Ferrari pair. He knew exactly what he had to do on his final flying run, but only had enough to pip Sainz after the tiniest of errors in the last corner. He starts second, the grid slot from where this one was won last season, with Perez a useful rear gunner in fourth.
Max Verstappen, 2nd, 1:30.681
“Overall, it’s not a bad position to be in, of course you always want more but this is a positive start to the season. I think we have a good race car which is important and with it being the start of the season, there are still a lot of things to learn. Q2 was good but Q3 was a bit more hit and miss with not really getting the right balance. There was some oversteer and understeer so you can’t really attack the corner which makes it quite difficult to put that lap together, so that’s something we’ll need to look into. The Ferraris are of course very close and it’s going to be a tough battle, they have two strong drivers so it’s going to be exciting. The weather is meant to be warmer tomorrow so it’ll be a bit tougher on the tyres. As a Team we just have to see how competitive we are in the race, it’s a long season and a lot can happen.”
Sergio Perez, 4th, 1:30.921
“I am optimistic about tomorrow and in the race anything can happen. I just didn’t manage to get one hundred percent out of the car today but we still have a good starting position and I hope we can make up some positions come race day. It is great to have other teams up there to make things more competitive, but it is a long road ahead and what matters is tomorrow. I think P3 was possible if we had put everything together and I was able to do that final corner again, I ran a bit too much curb through it. It would have been good to start on the clean side of the grid but a lot of overtaking can happen here and hopefully we are able to fight the Ferraris and have a good race for the fans. I am looking forward to it, I want a strong lap one and strong pace. My goal is to at least get on the podium and get a one, two for the Team. We are in a good position to fight the Ferraris.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“With a completely new car and new regulations, to be on the front row, we are very, very happy with where both cars have qualified. We put a lot of effort into last year, we were late coming onto this car, and I think the team have done a wonderful job. With such a clean sheet of regulations, everything is different, but the times are so close, so it’s going to be a great race. We don’t really know how strong the long-run pace of Ferrari is, we’ve also got more to find out about ourselves and it’s only going to be when the lights go out tomorrow that we’ll see what kind of shape we are in. It’s going to be interesting to see how the strategies unfold with these new cars and critically can we follow closer due to the new regulations?”
All the warnings were there that the Silver Arrows were off the pace and so it proved, Hamilton winding up nearly seven tenths of a second adrift of pole. At least he did find himself in the ‘best of the rest’ slot, which was more than could be said for Russell. The new Mercedes driver had been right on his team mate’s tail before a big mistake on his final flying lap in Q3 cost him nearly a second. He’ll have a tough evening from ninth on the grid.
Lewis Hamilton, 5th, 1:31.238
"The session was tough but I’m really proud of what we’ve managed to do, given the issues we’ve had the past week. Those guys ahead of us are on another level at the moment but there’s a lot to play for tomorrow at the start and with strategy so I hope I can at least stay with them and stay in the fight. We’re not quick enough to win but I told you that before the weekend. It was looking like we were further behind last week, we’ve made some improvements and we’re closer, so I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and where we’ve got to. I hope we’ll make another step next week and bit by bit, we’ll hunt those guys down. The improvements come from our collective efforts, we’re working as hard as we can and I know it’s a long, long way to go but I love a challenge."
George Russell, 9th, 1:32.216
"Today wasn’t ideal for me, I went one second slower in Q3 than I did in Q2; with only one set of fresh tyres for Q3, I tried something different on my out-lap and it didn’t work. I’m glad I tried something because we want to be fighting Ferrari and Red Bull. We had one shot, maybe it was too risky but we’re here to fight for podiums and victories, not to settle for P5 and P6. The pace of our car is definitely behind Ferrari and Red Bull, and ahead of the rest of the midfield, so my target for tomorrow is to get ahead of that group. We’re trying absolutely everything at the moment to solve our global issues with the car. We all knew with the regulation change that anything could happen, the only promising thing is we have major issues and we’re still the third-fastest team. If we were in this position and everything felt great, then we’d be a little bit puzzled. It race day tomorrow and I’ll be giving it my all."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"We have to be realistic about our performance level at the moment and that is the third quickest team on the grid. Lewis put the car there and for George, it was probably us misguiding him in his last outing because we advised him to push the outlap stronger and he had no edge anymore with the new tyre. It’s very difficult to make a judgement on PU performance at this stage – our data shows we are running more drag than anybody else, and you can see we are losing on the main straight but not so much on all the other areas of the track. So we need to make an assessment after the first couple of races to see if we are lacking power. Realistically, we are missing about half a second on a single lap. Let’s see tomorrow - whatever happens, we’re gathering valuable learning. We have been in difficult situations in the past against a very strong Ferrari Power Unit and last year we were four tenths off Max at the first race, so we just have to keep our heads down and find the performance."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"We were realistic with our expectations going into qualifying and anticipated a pretty difficult session, but considering the issues that we’re having to manage on the car at the moment we weren’t as far off as we might have feared. We only had a single Soft in the final session as we’ve biased our tyre selection towards the race, for Lewis it might have meant he found another tenth or two but probably wouldn’t have changed the order. For George, only having the one set in the final session was much more costly; the tyres weren’t ready and he lost seven or eight tenths, a second down on his Q2 time. We know we have to improve before thinking about fighting for the win so our focus is very much on damage limitation in the championships. We’ll see where our race pace is tomorrow, there may be some opportunity for Lewis if either of the Red Bulls or Ferraris are struggling but he should be well placed to race all the cars lining up behind him. With George we have a bit of ground to make up but it’s a track where that is possible."
Zhou did credibly on his first qualifying, the rookie making it out of Q1. He would have finished higher in Q2 as well, but had his quickest lap time deleted for track limit infringements. As for Bottas, he was a quiet star of qualifying. He had looked likely to make the top 10 after a strong showing in FP3, and he backed that up superbly. Sixth on the grid isn’t just a great return for the Finn at his new team, it places him alongside his former team mate Hamilton for the start tomorrow.
Valtteri Bottas, 6th, 1:31.560
“To be on the third row in our first qualifying together is a big achievement and we need to be satisfied – both me and the team. My session was really smooth and I improved a little bit in every run, which is what you set out to do in qualifying. It’s an important moment for us as it shows we can be up here. I am proud of the job everyone did, here and at the factory: we knew we had a chance to be in Q3 but it was good to actually do it when everyone turned up with everything they had. Now we focus on the race: our long run pace looked even better than on the single lap, so we can be in the fight. The top four are probably out of reach for everyone, but it would be nice to have a battle with Mercedes. In any case, this is the start of our journey and I want us to look forward and not back: the objective is to be up here at the flag and bring home good points.”
Zhou Guanyu, 15th, 1:33.543
“I am really happy with Q2 on my first race weekend. This was always my initial target and to clear this box in my first race is something that I really wanted after seeing how the car performed in the practice sessions. I was very relaxed this morning as I knew my preparation for tonight had been good, but there was still a bit of pressure as I knew we could have a good result: once I made it to Q2, the pressure was off and I could give everything in the laps I had. Unfortunately, my best attempt was deleted – I saw the replay and it was really close. We lost one place due to that, but we’re still in a good position: there are a lot of positives we can take ahead of tomorrow. I am pleased with the progress I have made from one session to the other this weekend: even during qualifying, there was a lot of evolution as the session progressed, so the learning never stops. I don’t have a set target for my first race – I want to move forward as I know we were good in race trim during testing, so we have an opportunity to make up places. I know everyone will be watching at home, it’s great to have so much support and I want to give everything for them and for the team.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Starting our season with a car in Q3 and one in Q2 is a really good outcome and it’s a big confidence boost for the whole team. Everyone here and in Hinwil worked really hard to get to tonight in the best possible conditions, but then it was a matter of delivering when it counted – and we did it. We looked strong in FP3, then Valtteri and Zhou produced a really good display in the heat of battle. Valtteri’s performance was of the first order and it shows his talent is all there; Zhou didn’t let the pressure of his first ever F1 qualifying get to him and cleared Q1 to book a place in the top 15. Still, there’s a lot of work ahead of us: there are no points on offer tonight and we need to do our job properly tomorrow to bring home the result we want. However, we can be pleased with our Saturday as it set us in a very good position to fight for the points.”
Another team who looked to have pace to burn compared to last year, Haas got both cars out of Q2 for the first time since Brazil 2019. Schumacher managed his best qualifying yet with 12th, but Magnussen went even better and made Q3 despite a hydraulics issue limiting him to just the one lap in the second part of quali. He was only able to run the once again in the top 10 shootout, nailing his lap to grab a brilliant seventh on the grid. But can he deliver the team their first points since 2020?
Mick Schumacher, 12th, 1:31.998
“Q3 was definitely possible today and I’m gutted that I didn’t get there. The good thing is that we know we have the potential and it’s just a matter of putting it together over the next 23 races. Points are realistic, we have a car to do that, it’s just a matter of putting everything together. We have a lot of races coming our way so I’m sure we’ll be in a position to do that.”
Kevin Magnussen, 7th, 1:31.808
“It’s crazy. This is all we ever could’ve hoped for – I’m speechless. The last couple of weeks have been insane. Getting here, learning about the car, seeing that it is maybe a pretty good one and being so anxious about this qualifying to really see how it is and then finding out it is really good. I got through to Q3 on one set of tyres and in Q2 I only ran one set – I think I was P4 or something after the first run and ended up P7. Then we had some issue that needed more time to fix so we only got that one run again Q3 and still managed to get P7. It’s just so cool and I can’t wait to get started.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was another exciting day for us again. We had a very good result, qualifying P7 and P12 is something we dreamt of at the end of last season and the beginning of this year. Now we’ve done it, but I think there is more to come from us this year.”
Ocon mistimed his last run in Q2 and wasn’t on a hot lap when the track was at its best, getting knocked out of the top 10 by a late charging Gasly. The further bad news for the Frenchman is that this season, P11 doesn’t carry the bonus of the first runner with free tyre choice, with the whole grid able to pick their starting rubber. Alonso did make the top 10, winding up eighth which looks about par for the team in pink.
Esteban Ocon, 11th, 1:31.782
“Firstly, it’s a great feeling to be back in qualifying mode and giving it my all under the thrill of proper racing conditions. Heading into the session today we knew it was going to be a tight one, especially to get into Q3. We were lacking a bit of pace on my side of the garage during the weekend, but we stepped it up today for qualifying and losing out on Q3 by such a small margin is of course frustrating but there are definitely positives to take. We still have a new set of tyres for tomorrow and we’re starting from the clean side of the grid, so that should lead to an exciting race and I already can’t wait to get back out there.”
Fernando Alonso, 8th, 1:32.195
“I’m happy with today’s qualifying, because after the winter you never know exactly where the team’s performance is going to be. Every new season you can have positive or negative surprises, so to see both cars fighting for the top ten, is a good start. The job done over the winter at Enstone and Viry-Chatillon has clearly been positive, and the car feels good. The development has been good and now we need to be fast off-track as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the new cars can fight tomorrow and it’s great to see a mixed-up grid. It seems easier to follow the cars ahead, whether it provides more action on track we shall soon see, and the first couple of laps will be interesting. Tyre degradation and the resulting race strategy are going to be critical considerations for tomorrow.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal
“It was a great qualifying performance from the team today. Esteban was slightly unlucky to just miss out on Q3. Unfortunately, he had to run the old spec sidepod, which is a loss in performance for him. That said, starting in eleventh puts him in the mix and points are only given out on a Sunday, so he has every means to be looking forward to the race. Fernando did a wonderful job, and he was close to being one or two places higher, such are the fine margins in a competitive field. This qualifying performance gives the team an excellent starting platform to push on and we must aim for a strong rate of development to push even closer towards the front. As we’ve seen between both of our cars today, every ounce of detail is going to make a huge difference but that’s an exciting challenge for us. Looking ahead to tomorrow, we can certainly have a strong race from eighth and eleventh on the grid and we have the potential to score points with both cars.”
Tsunoda missed FP3 after a hydraulics issue was detected, so it was no real surprise that the lack of running did for the Japanese driver, as he exited at the first time of asking. For a time it looked like Gasly was struggling for pace too, but he pulled out a mega lap to make the top 10. Once there, he was only able to run once, and had to settle for P10 on the grid.
Pierre Gasly, 10th, 1:32.338
“I’m really happy with today. We knew we’d struggle in Qualifying, which is why we started with three sets in Q1 but then I had a really strong lap in Q2 and made it through with just one new tyre, there’s no way heading into Quali that we would’ve believed that would happen. Obviously, we’d like to fight for more, but we know at the moment that we’ve got some work to do. Considering our performance in practice, particularly in these colder conditions, we should be really pleased with today. It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, as it’s the first race with these new cars, but I think there’s going to be some good racing from what I felt in practice. We’ll aim for some good points and hopefully we have a good one.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 16th, 1:32.750
“It’s been quite a difficult day. We knew that the car hadn’t been performing as well as we thought it might here in the colder conditions, then of course we missed FP3, but we’d still aimed to make it through to Q2 and sadly that didn’t happen today. We don’t know what other teams’ race pace will be like here tomorrow, the aim of course is to make it to the points, but I think it’s going to be hard.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“The first Saturday of the season has highlighted how close the midfield is this year, as well as showing us the importance of having clean sessions and maximising track time. After a difficult Friday for both sides of the garage, there was a lot of work required overnight to understand some of the balance issues. It’s fair to say that the steps taken for FP3 and Qualifying have resulted in some good improvements being made, however I don't feel we are yet extracting everything from the package we have. For sure there is lots of work ahead of us to improve our current performance, whilst also bringing updates to move us forward. Regarding the results today, Pierre has put in a very good Qualifying, getting the most out of the car to get into Q3, which is a fantastic result for everyone. Yuki unfortunately, through no fault of his own, did not run in FP3 due to a hydraulic issue, which meant he went into Qualifying with only limited running. We now look ahead to the race, where we will be focused on trying to get Yuki moving up the field, as well as seeing what opportunities we can generate for Pierre, to get him further into the points, in what we expect will be a very competitive battle tomorrow.”
Ricciardo missed more running in FP3 thanks to that water leak, so with so many obstacles to overcome, it wasn’t a great surprise that he dropped out of qualifying at the first time of asking. As for Norris, he at least saved the team’s blushes by making Q2, but could go no further on a chastening night for McLaren. They need to rediscover their Barcelona pace and fast if they are to climb back to the pointy end of the grid.
Daniel Ricciardo, 18th, 1:32.945
“It’s been a tough weekend so far, unfortunately. Last time I drove in Barcelona, we left pretty optimistic but, we’ve got new kinds of challenges here this weekend. With the lost time last week, trying to get up to speed, it proved trickier than I hoped. There’s a lot of work to do, and today we didn’t have a good result, but we’ll work on it and look at how we move forward tomorrow.”
Lando Norris, 13th, 1:32.008
“Mixed feelings from today. I think we did a good job with what we had, we’re simply just not quite as quick as we want to be. I feel like I did a good lap and we had a good plan. We did make some improvements but, of course, so does everyone else. We do need to find a lot of pace in the car but I think we maximised what we had today and we’ll try to gain a few more positions tomorrow in the first race of the season.
“We’re a little bit on the back foot comparing to other teams, so there’s many things for us to learn and find out in the race tomorrow. We’re always aiming for points, and that’s what we’ll be working on tonight and into the race tomorrow.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“P13 and P18 is a disappointing first qualifying session of the new era here in Bahrain. It was clear that we were starting this weekend on the back foot, following a challenging test that Daniel missed out on. At the same time, we also need to acknowledge that we are simply not delivering the level of performance we want.
“Back at the MTC, we’ll kick-off a detailed investigation and analysis of our performance here in Bahrain today, but here at the track it’s important to switch our focus to tomorrow’s race, put up a good fight, and score some points.
“Having said that, I still want to thank every single member of the team, here in Bahrain and back at the factory, together with our colleagues from Mercedes HPP for all the hard work everyone has put in. We keep going.”
Someone had to prop up the new look field, and in Bahrain that role fell to Latifi who never really got going out there. Albon at least made Q2, going out for just the one run midway through the segment. His mega watt smile said he was happy with P14, but it remains to be seen if there is much more to come from the FW44 at the moment.
Nicholas Latifi, 20th, 1:1:33.634
“It's definitely not what we expected from qualifying, there’s clearly been a lack of pace all weekend. Each session we’ve actually been learning quite a lot, but for some reason, it’s felt like we’ve been going backwards as the car felt the best in FP1, which is strange for a track like this especially. I know why I was so far off – the answer is clear – the question is why we couldn’t make the tyres work the way we need them to. It’s not ideal, but the race is tomorrow and we’ve got a lot to analyse before then to further our learning.”
Alex Albon, 14th, 1:32.664
“We put it all on the table today and the result was more than we expected, so it’s a pretty special one. The car gives me a lot of confidence, as do the team, which really enabled me to push and get the most out of qualifying. Coming into the session, I was expecting similar struggles to those we experienced in testing, but the car felt alive, quick and agile, so I’m going into Sunday feeling positive.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
“We have mixed feelings after qualifying today. We expected it to be difficult even though we have made some steady progress over the last couple of days. In Free Practice this morning we got a good understanding of what Alex is looking for from the tyres and we were able to apply that successfully in qualifying. Although we set out to achieve something similar with Nicholas, the difficulties of a busy track in Q1 made this difficult to achieve. We understand where the raw pace of the car is, and we know that we need to work on that quite quickly. However, we also have a good idea of how to make the most of what we have and today that allowed Alex to beat several faster cars. There are challenges to overcome, but we are looking forward to the race tomorrow knowing that there will likely be opportunities to outperform the car.”
In such a tight midfield, someone had to pay the price and in Bahrain it was Aston Martin, losing both cars in Q1. Hulkenberg did himself justice though, no mistakes and out-qualifying his team mate more than was expected from the super-sub. As for Stroll, he just couldn’t get going but will hope the car has better race pace than qualifying speed.
Nico Hulkenberg, 17th, 1:32.777
“Obviously we are not happy with P17 but, on a personal level, I am happy. Considering that I had very limited experience with the car, I was able to put together some clean laps without any errors. The field is very close this year so it was fine margins that stopped us from reaching Q2. The real challenge begins tomorrow for me: I have not raced a Formula One car in almost two years. You cannot really prepare for going wheel-to-wheel with other cars and having to do things like tyre management. However, I am looking forward to racing the AMR22 tomorrow and I intend to enjoy every lap in the car.”
Lance Stroll, 19th, 1:33.032
“We are disappointed with today’s result and it is not what we expected after a positive FP3. We made some changes to the car and perhaps they were in the wrong direction. In qualifying, we did not have the grip to extract the performance. We need to go over the data and understand it so we can learn from this. The early races are going to be a learning curve as we try to understand the car more. Tomorrow is a new day, so we will come back ready to try to make progress in the race.”
Mike Krack, Team Principal
“We are obviously disappointed by today’s qualifying performance, but we will work hard this evening to see what we can do to optimise our race pace and strategy for tomorrow. There is not a lot more to say at this stage, but we are racers and we will work as hard and as fast as possible to remedy the situation.”
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director
"In qualifying we finally saw the true pace of all the teams. With cool temperatures that were similar to FP2 and the hardest tyres in the range selected this weekend, tyre warm up was marginal, especially with track temperatures dropping as the evening went on. Another decisive factor in the qualifying strategy was the removal of the rule this year that obliged drivers to start the race on the tyres with which they set their best Q2 times. As a result, everyone begins the race tomorrow on an entirely level playing field and the focus tonight will shift towards the race strategy, and which tyres to start on. With a big performance gap between the compounds, this adds another level of complexity to what is already a tricky decision, as the new formula makes its race debut on Sunday. We’re expecting slightly warmer conditions compared to today and two pit stops; but there may be scope for some drivers to do something different."