Verstappen thrilled with ‘unexpected’ pole in Bahrain but prepares for another ‘close’ race-day battle

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 01: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle

Max Verstappen described qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix as “a lot of fun” as he and Red Bull kicked on from their low-key start to the weekend to secure pole position for Saturday’s season-opening encounter.

Having led the way after the first Q3 runs, Verstappen produced an improved time of 1m 29.179s on his second attempt to finish two-tenths clear of Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc, and another tenth up on George Russell’s Mercedes.

READ MORE: Verstappen beats Leclerc and Russell to pole for season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

Asked for his reaction post-session, reigning world champion Verstappen said: “It was a lot of fun actually. The track had a lot of grip, but with the wind the last two days it’s been quite tricky to get the whole lap together. It was the same in qualifying.

2024 Bahrain GP Qualifying: Verstappen crosses the line to seal pole position for the season opener

“Q1, Q2, you naturally go a bit faster with the track ramping up, but then to really get everything out of it in Q3 was a little more difficult. But of course I’m very happy to be on pole. To be honest, it was little bit unexpected, but luckily in qualifying I think the car came to us and I felt a bit happier with the whole car.”

As for his race pace, and whether he’s worried about any of the cars behind, the Dutchman added: “I think in the race it’s going to be close as well. We do look good in the race and that’s of course the most important [thing], but we’ll see tomorrow. I’m confident that we can have a strong race.”

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Verstappen’s team mate, Sergio Perez, could only manage fifth on the grid, also losing out to the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, as he rued a lack of fresh tyres and a costly mistake during the decisive Q3 phase.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 01: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Nobody could stop Verstappen as he continued 2024 where he left off last year

“Everything’s so tight out there,” said the Mexican, who was almost half a second off pole. “I didn’t have a great Turn 1 and that means two or three places, you know, given how tight everything is.

“Unfortunately we lost a set [of tyres] going into Q2, we thought we were not safe and then we were. We ended up aborting but it was a scrubbed tyre anyway, so we only had one shot. But things are really close and I think tomorrow is a nice battle, it’s going to be a nice battle ahead.”

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Pushed on whether he’s been surprised at how close the field is, Perez continued: “Not really. It was already in testing, so I’m not surprised. I think things are super, super close out there so it’s going to be an interesting battle tomorrow.”



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