What the teams said - Qualifying in Bahrain

BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Sparks fly from the rear of Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa

The drivers and teams report back on all the action from final practice and qualifying at the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2019...


The dawn of a new era? That might be an overstatement, but what was not was the performance put in today by Leclerc in just his second season in F1. He disappointed last time out in qualifying in Melbourne, and was out to prove a point today. He didn’t put a foot wrong in grabbing a maiden pole position, ahead of his team mate. Vettel was slightly unlucky – he was forced into using two sets of tyres in Q2 due to traffic and thus only had one run in Q3, but still couldn’t lay down the perfect lap when it mattered.

Sebastian Vettel, 2nd, 1:28.160

“Today we were in the fight. The main thing is we are back where we want to be. It’s tomorrow that counts, but for today we can certainly be very happy as we are in a much better place than two weeks ago. Today it’s about Ferrari and about Charles who did a very very good job and nailed his laps in Q3 and he deserved to be on pole. He’s a good kid, actually, a good man, because once you get a pole in Formula 1 you are a man! It’s a big achievement and I am happy for him. Chapeau! Our one lap pace was there the whole weekend and we were able to confirm this in qualifying. I’m a lot happier today and it’s good to see that we are back on the right track.”

Charles Leclerc, 1st, 1:27.866

“This first pole position brings me a lot of emotions, even if I’m trying to stay as cool as possible, as there are no points for pole position and the race is tomorrow. It has been a great day and a great weekend overall for the team so far, so I hope it will continue tomorrow. I said it was a question of putting everything together for qualifying and it seems I did it, unlike what happened in the first race. It’s an amazing feeling but now we have to focus on the race and try to bring home the best possible result tomorrow. I feel more comfortable in the car lap after lap so I’m satisfied. Before the race we will talk with the team to find the perfect strategy in order to give the Scuderia the best possible result. The start will probably be the key as the track is dirty and it’s easy to have wheelspin.”

Mattia Binotto, Team Principal

“We are all very pleased for Ferrari, for Charles’ very first pole, for having locked down the first row and for our comeback after Australia. The team reacted strongly and worked well, united and focused. It’s a great team, a very good team. There’s also an excellent spirit of cooperation between our drivers and Charles is indeed a good kid. Our qualifying pace was good but it was a tough one and it’s tomorrow that really counts. It’s a very long way to the chequered flag and reliability will be important. We need to stay calm and concentrated, as our rivals will be trying to make our life difficult tomorrow. It’s a long season, so let’s take it step by step.”

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Charles Leclerc, Ferrari celebrates pole position in Parc Ferme during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Steven Tee / LAT Images)


They closed the gate, but the Prancing horse had well and truly bolted. Mercedes always looked to be fighting it out for the second row of the grid, and so it proved with Hamilton managing to pip his team mate by 0.066s. For Bottas, it was a first defeat in qualifying here by a team mate, but of far more importance is the pace gap to Ferrari. Can Mercedes redress this in the race, given there is an extra DRS zone in which to attack?

Lewis Hamilton, 3rd, 1:28.190

"I really enjoyed qualifying and it was great to see the progression for us over the weekend. Congratulations to Charles, he did a great job and deserved to get his first pole today. We've seen strong pace from the Ferraris all weekend long. We've worked very hard to narrow that gap, but they were really fast on the straights and that's ultimately where we lost a lot of the time today. Our car felt okay today; I think this track has never particularly suited our car in the past for whatever reason, but I think we got it into a quite good place today, so hopefully it feels good tomorrow as well. It will be a very hard race, physically challenging and tough on the tyres, but our race pace was good last year, so I'm hopeful it will be good again this year. I love that it's a close and exciting battle, that's really how it should be."

Valtteri Bottas, 4th, 1:28.256

"P4 is not a very satisfying result, but it's not a disaster either. I was only a few hundreds off of Lewis and I think Ferrari was just quicker today, so Pole was probably out of reach for us today. Ferrari showed strong pace throughout the weekend, but it didn't really come as a surprise; they clearly found the solution to the issues they had in Melbourne. We made some good steps forward over the weekend, but they kept the upper hand. However, it's the race that matters. Our race pace looked quite strong and I think we're there or thereabout when it comes to the tyres, so the race should be exciting - I think we're going to be in the fight tomorrow."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"P3 and P4 is a bit disappointing, but not surprising after the Free Practice sessions this weekend; we were not fast enough to fight for pole today. Ferrari have been quick all weekend so we knew it was not going to be easy and that was how it turned out. We are lacking in straight-line speed compared to them at this circuit, so we have to dig deep and analyse the cause. We start tomorrow's race from the second row and we think it will be a close fight; our long-run pace looked reasonable yesterday and the tyre management will be key to tomorrow's result."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"The morning was quite difficult, the overnight change of wind direction had affected the balance on the car and it took a bit of time for the drivers to get used to that. The cooler track in qualifying helped things a bit but the wind was still strong so it wasn't easy for the drivers to put together a perfect lap. The session wasn't very comfortably at any stage, the whole grid seemed very tight and with the track ramp in the first part of qualifying, we were close to having to run for a second time with Valtteri. We saw a good step in grip going into second qualifying and although our first laps eventually put us safe with both cars, we sent Valtteri back out on track as a precaution just in case we had to go for another lap right at the end of the session.

"It was disappointing in the final session that we couldn't really challenge for pole, despite being one of the few cars with two new sets of tyres left, but both drivers had a decent go at it. Lewis came very close to knocking Vettel off the front row but that would have been the best we could have achieved today. The race tomorrow will be more about degradation and tyre lives than ultimate pace and we were quite happy with our race work from yesterday. We're expecting it to be a tough battle but there are a number of strategy options available to us and we will hopefully be able to improve on third and fourth."

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W10 during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images)

Red Bull

Gasly has struggled to match his team mate this weekend, and exited in Q2 after complaining of issues with the throttle of his RB15. Verstappen did make the top-10 shoot out and did well to grab P5 in a car that was struggling to fully utilise the soft tyres. The Dutchman can be optimistic, though, as on race pace the RB15 looked much more competitive...

Max Verstappen, 5th, 1:28.752

“We have been struggling with the balance of the car this weekend, especially with switching on the softest tyre. In qualifying I had a lot of oversteer and the car was sliding when I put the power down, which made it difficult to anticipate what to do in terms of balance and how to approach the corners. My single lap in Q3 was an all or nothing lap and I don’t think I left anything on the table. I am of course not happy to be behind Ferrari and Mercedes, but I’m almost pleased to be fifth, because after Q1 and Q2 it looked like we may not be fighting for that. It will be interesting tomorrow and in the race we should be more competitive as our longer runs on the medium tyre have shown good performance so far this weekend.”

Pierre Gasly, 13th, 1:29.526

“For sure it was not an ideal qualifying and since the beginning of the weekend we have struggled, especially with the rear of the car. We already tried to improve it, but I haven’t had a good feeling with it, and when it’s as tight as today I think we missed out by about six hundredths. It is really important to put everything together but it just didn’t happen today. The car has potential so we just need to find the direction to get the best out of it and this is a track where we can recover. We will push tomorrow massively, we want to score points and clearly get a better result than this. I saw that Charles achieved his first pole position today, he deserves this as he was fast all weekend, so congratulations to him.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“It was a very difficult qualifying for us. We have struggled on the C3 tyre all weekend which both drivers found tough to manage in qualifying. Pierre was unable to progress past Q2 and will start the race form 13th tomorrow. Max managed to extract every ounce of performance from the car on his single run in Q3 to qualify in fifth. We have shown much better pace on the medium compound tyre and hopefully we will be able to make good use of that tomorrow at a track you can certainly overtake on.”

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15 during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Zak Mauger / LAT Images)


Renault once again were mixing it with the big boys in practice, with Hulkenberg having firmly nailed down the ‘best of the rest’ tag and looking to be pushing the Red Bulls hard. But come qualifying, the German was the surprise early faller, after failing to significantly improve on his final run in Q1. Ricciardo did at least make Q2 to restore some pride, both personal and in the team, but couldn’t reach Q3. Nonetheless, with free tyre choice and a car that looks stronger in the races, the Aussie could still open his points tally tomorrow.

Nico Hulkenberg, 17th, 1:30.034

“We unfortunately suffered a couple of issues with the car at the worst possible time during qualifying. We lost performance and there was no chance of fixing anything in a short amount of time. We need to understand and fix these problems so they don’t happen again. I’ve felt good in the car all weekend, so it’s a shame to miss out on a top ten grid slot for the race. Hopefully we can make something out of tomorrow, it’s going to be tough from so far back, but we’ll be giving it our best.”

Daniel Ricciardo, 11th, 1:29.488

“Qualifying wasn’t perfect for us by any means, but it’s an improvement from where we’ve been so far this weekend. In the end we were closer to Q3 than we expected at the end of Friday. We’re there or thereabouts and we know we have things to work on. I’m still learning to master this car, but I’m getting there each time I step into it. We have a free choice of tyres for tomorrow’s race, which gives us some things to assess overnight on strategy. I’ll be aiming to get the most out of it, and taking a handful of points is certainly a possibility.”

Alan Permane, Sporting Director

“It has been a difficult qualifying session for the team today. We faced a number of issues that cost significant performance, the most expensive one being an engine mapping issue generating an engine safe mode almost the entire lap. It is disappointing but we will aim to make progress up the grid in tomorrow’s race.”

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Nico Hulkenberg, Renault R.S. 19 during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Jerry Andre / Sutton Images)


McLaren looked promising in Australia and backed that up in Bahrain. They were one of only two midfield teams to get both cars into Q3, with Sainz managing an impressive seventh, ahead of Norris in P10. They will be looking to open up their points tally tomorrow, despite having a car that looks stronger on one-lap pace than it does over the longer runs.

Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:28.813

“That was a good quali. I’m happy with how the session went and it’s a pity we missed out on P6 at the end. Nonetheless, I think we extracted everything from the car and P7 is a good starting position for the race.

"I really want to congratulate the whole team, here and back at the factory. Getting both cars in to Q3 shows their hard work over the winter is paying off. Everyone should be proud. The job is not finished though, I want my first points of the season, so now it’s time to focus on the race. I think from P7 we have a good chance, so let's go for it.”

Lando Norris, 10th, 1:29.043

“Overall I thought [qualifying] was pretty good. My runs were okay in general although I made a couple of mistakes and don’t feel I did as good a job as in Australia. I know the track here more and it’s not as technical but it’s easier to make smaller mistakes. I had a little under-rotation into Turn 10, not even a lock-up, but lost a little time.

“It would have been nice to be alongside Carlos and it was close. I think he was only just over a tenth ahead, so I’m reasonably happy. It’s obviously going to be difficult from P10. I don’t think these tyres are too bad but the guys behind have more choice to start on, so we’ll just have to see how it goes!”

Gil De Ferran, Sporting Director

“This classifies as a good day at the office. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank our engineers and all of the team back at the factory in Woking for the tremendous effort that went behind today’s performance. We have brought several upgrades this weekend which have delivered that little bit extra performance that we needed and getting both cars into Q3 was a good reward. Our engine partner Renault also deserves credit for putting us in this position.

“Obviously Carlos and Lando performed impeccably today and gave our team the best qualifying result that we have achieved for quite some time. We are obviously very happy and excited to have put up such a good qualifying session in front of our ‘home crowd’ here in Bahrain. However, this is still just qualifying and we must keep our heads down and execute a good race tomorrow. A lot of work ahead, but a good first step.”

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Carlos Sainz, McLaren MCL34 during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Jerry Andre / Sutton Images)


Haas are reaping the benefits of keeping the same driver line-up. With no new faces to get up to speed, they can focus on being quick and whatever they are doing is working. Sixth and seventh in Australian qualifying, sixth and eighth here. The only cloud on the horizon was a three-place grid drop for Grosjean, who was penalised by the stewards for impeding Norris in Q1 and will start 11th on Sunday.

Romain Grosjean, 8th, 1:29.015

“I think we can be happy with qualifying both cars in the top 10, it’s very encouraging. It looks like we’re the most stable, in terms of performance, in the top 10, which is good. You always hope for a bit more, but I was happy to take eighth. It should be a fun race tomorrow. It’s going to be long, it’s going to be hot, there’s going to be a lot of tire degradation. I think it’s a cool track for racing, hopefully we’ll bring some good points back home.”

Kevin Magnussen, 6th, 1:28.757

“I’m happy and proud of the team today for delivering the car that I had in qualifying. To be sixth, and only a few thousands of a second from the fastest Red Bull is pretty good, and maybe a little unexpected. We were on par with them, and I hope we can give them a hard time in the race. I’m in a good starting position, so that’s the first box ticked, we’ll take it from there. Our race runs weren’t as good as our qualifying runs on Friday in practice, but I hope we can change that tomorrow and have a good race.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“On the positive side, qualifying so close to a Red Bull, for us is fantastic. We showed that as a team we work together pretty well. We had one issue with Romain (Grosjean), he’s been penalized three grid positions and one point. If you want to discuss the grid position, that’s one thing, but the point on his license is unacceptable. He had nothing to do with this, it was a clear misunderstanding with his crew. So, we start sixth and 11th, and we’ll try to do our best in tomorrow’s race and make up the positions lost due to the stewards.”

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Simon Galloway / Sutton Images)

Alfa Romeo

Giovinazzi is taking slightly longer to get to grips with the C38 than his team mate, exiting in Q1. Raikkonen used all his experience to make it to the top-10 shoot out for a second straight race, despite missing plenty of track time with technical issues. If Alfa can resolve their reliability, they could be right in the thick of the midfield fight.

Kimi Raikkonen, 9th, 1:29.022

“We got the maximum out of our car today, and we are doing a good job. The car feels good, but we can’t predict how the race will be tomorrow because we missed our second practice session yesterday and didn’t do any long runs. The weather could take on a leading role in the race – I heard it will get windy, so we will see how that plays out.”

Antonio Giovinazzi, 16th, 1:30.026

“It has not been an easy weekend until now. The second session would have been very important for us yesterday to see where we will stand in qualifying and the race. We don’t really know what to expect from the race tomorrow. The conditions will be quite different to what we experienced in FP1 and FP3, so we will do our best to have a good race and fight our way forward in this tight midfield.”

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal

“So far, it has been a tricky weekend for us. We had an issue on both cars yesterday and could not run in the second practice session. We are lacking some data on our qualifying and long run performance but given the circumstances we had quite a solid result today. Our pace is good and both drivers feel comfortable in the cars. Kimi will be starting in the top 10, and Antonio will have the challenge to fight his way forward in a very tight midfield. We will push hard and aim to finish the race with both cars in the points here in Bahrain.”

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Joe Portlock / LAT Images)

Racing Point

Perez lost some running in final practice after suffering a slow puncture, but the team still managed to gather plenty of data ahead of qualifying. What they couldn’t find was the answer to their missing pace, with Stroll exiting in Q1 and Perez managing 14th in Q2. The Mexican has an outside chance of points if Racing Point can give him a good strategy, while the Canadian will surely have his work cut out from that far back on the grid.

Sergio Perez, 14th, 1:29.756

“A disappointing result tonight, but that’s where we are at the moment. We took a few steps forward after practice, but it seems everybody else did as well. I had some issues with my car in Q2 because I lost bits of my bodywork – around the barge board, which didn’t help. I hope we can recover some performance once we fix it. Even though we are not happy with our speed today, we can’t allow ourselves to drop our heads. It’s a long race tomorrow and a lot can happen. With a good start and the right strategy, I believe we could come away with some points.”

Lance Stroll, 18th, 1:30.217

“It was a tough one today: we struggled with grip but in all honesty I didn’t deliver the best lap in Q1. So there was the potential to reach Q2 and be a bit higher up the grid. I made a couple of errors – running wide through turn seven, which hurt me through turn eight as well. Those two or three tenths lost cost me the chance to progress to Q2. Looking ahead to the race, I’m staying positive and focussing on the good race pace we showed in Melbourne. It’s tomorrow that really counts so let’s see what happens and try and make the most of the strategy to bring ourselves into play for the points.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO

“We haven’t found the sweet spot with the car balance here in Bahrain and that showed in our qualifying results today. We made various changes overnight to improve the car, which took us in the right direction, but we didn’t have the pace to challenge for Q3. Lance wasn’t happy with his lap and Sergio picked up some bodywork damage in Q2, so we definitely didn’t maximise things tonight. Obviously Sunday is what matters and I still think we can race intelligently and target points.”

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Sergio Perez, Racing Point during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images)

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso did well to get both cars into Q2. From there it was always a tough ask, and Kvyat ran up an early white flag by not coming back out of the pits for a second run, sealing his fate. Albon did emerge but couldn’t improve sufficiently to challenge. But from P12, the rookie has an excellent chance of getting in the mix given he has free tyre choice to start.

Daniil Kvyat, 15th, 1:29.854

“It wasn’t the best qualifying for us today, we didn’t do the final run in Q2 so it’s hard to judge how we would have gone, but I think we had a chance for Q3. Something was missing in the car, so we will review what that was. We had a clear idea of what we wanted to do in the last run of Q2, so it’s just unfortunate we didn’t get the chance to do it. Now we turn our focus to the race tomorrow, we’ll have to fight harder but I think we will be competitive.”

Alex Albon, 12th, 1:29.513

“After FP3 I went into qualifying a bit on the back foot, so we decided to do three runs in Q1 to get me through to Q2. I only had one lap in Q2, which was a bit scruffy - I made a mistake and went wide in the last corner. I don’t know how close I was to Raikkonen but I think we missed out on Q3 because I ran wide, so I’m a bit disappointed with that. However, looking at how the weekend went beforehand, I was happy with how we got everything together for qualifying. In FP2 we looked pretty strong in our race simulations, and there’s even a few things we learnt today that we can take into tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to racing here, especially because this is a track you can overtake on!”

Jody Egginton, Deputy Technical Director

"Today's sessions have again highlighted how very tight the midfield pack is, with small differences in lap time having quite big effects on final positions. FP3 validated the setup changes we made overnight but, on the flip side, we did not manage to extract everything from the option tyre, meaning we went into qualifying with a few more questions than is ideal at this point in the weekend. Qualifying itself, similar to Australia, showed some promise but was ultimately frustrating in that we again missed out on qualifying 3. Alex went wide at the final corner, dropping some time on what was up to that point a lap sufficiently quick enough for Q3. Dany's qualifying also didn’t deliver on the promise shown earlier in the weekend because of an operational issue, which prevented him carrying out his planned second run. We now switch our focus to the race and, with our long run pace during Friday appearing quite reasonable, we will be working hard to have both cars ready to take any opportunity which may present itself."

Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director

“A tough qualifying session with neither Toro Rosso getting further than Q2. However, there were some positive aspects and Albon’s 12th place is not bad for a rookie in his second Grand Prix. It’s a long race and points are still possible tomorrow. We will now ensure we are well prepared for the first night race of the year.”

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: Sparks fly from the car of Alexander Albon, Toro Rosso STR14 during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Andy Hone / LAT Images)


Williams remain firmly off the pace of even P18, and there can be few positives to draw from being so far back. However, Russell continues to impress in his rookie year, out-qualifying his more experienced team mate for the second race running. There was very little in it – just the 0.040s – which should give Kubica some hope of gaining revenge in the race itself.

Robert Kubica, 20th, 1:31.799

"It was a reasonable session. It is a difficult situation and we have a few things to check as again, we could have bettered some things. For sure, the lost camera from the nose on the last flying lap didn’t help but it would have only changed one position. It is currently more about understanding the things we need to do in order to improve, and to be ready when the car improves so in the future we can extract the maximum from it."

George Russell, 19th, 1:31.759

"It was a very difficult session, for whatever reason the car wasn’t handling anywhere near as great as it was yesterday in FP2. My laps were really messy and far from the potential of the car, which is a shame. We know we are not fighting in the mid-pack but we still need to optimise what we have, and today we didn’t do that."

Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer

"Unusually for this time of the year in Bahrain we had quite a lot of overnight rain which made FP3 even more difficult than we thought it would be. It was very hot, similar to FP1 on Friday, but we were able to undertake a few tests in these relatively poor track conditions which were quite positive. Moving onto qualifying we were able to use the work we did in FP2 yesterday in order to set the car up for the session this evening. The two drivers drove well and although the car is still a little way of the pace they are pushing as best they can, with the two cars setting very similar laptimes."

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BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - MARCH 30: George Russell, Williams Racing FW42 during the Bahrain GP at Bahrain International Circuit on March 30, 2019 in Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Sutton / Sutton Images)


Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

“As usual, the drivers had to extract the most out of a circuit that was constantly changing with track temperatures dropping throughout qualifying. So the timing of the laps was critical. We saw only the soft tyre used throughout qualifying, which means that the top 10 on the grid will all start on this compound, but a number of different strategies are viable options for the race – with all three compounds. So this means that we can look forward to some intriguing action tomorrow. Congratulations to Charles Leclerc for his first pole position, having been quickest in every session throughout qualifying.”



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