Max Verstappen translated Red Bull’s strong start to the 2021 Formula 1 season to claim pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix, outpacing reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen, who has topped every session of the opening race weekend in Bahrain, beat Hamilton to the first pole of the year in an enthralling qualifying shootout by 0.388s to set up a mouth-watering battle for victory on Sunday.

The Dutchman’s effort marks the fourth pole position of his F1 career and is the first time that Mercedes has not been on pole at the opening race of the season in the V6 hybrid era.

Valtteri Bottas struggled to match the pace of his Mercedes teammate as he finished third-quickest, over half a second down on Verstappen’s pole time.

Charles Leclerc turned in an impressive lap in his Ferrari to place himself fourth on the grid, two-tenths ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly who completed the top five.

New McLaren recruit Daniel Ricciardo out qualified teammate Lando Norris by just 0.047s to claim the intra-team bragging rights at the first race of the season.

Carlos Sainz was eighth-fastest on his qualifying debut for Ferrari, ahead of returning two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in 10th.

Sergio Perez was the shock elimination of Q2 after the new Red Bull driver was forced to complete two runs on the Medium compound after seeing his first lap time deleted for track limits at Turn 4.

The gamble to stay on Mediums failed to pay off when Perez was unable to find improvement on his final flying lap of the session, putting him out of qualifying.

The Mexican was joined by Alfa Romeo duo Antonio Giovinazzi (12th) and Kimi Raikkonen (14th) in the Q2 drop zone, as well as AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda, who failed to progress into Q3 on Medium tyres despite starring with the second-fastest time in Q1.

After continuing his brilliant qualifying form into 2021, Williams driver George Russell ended up 15th and slowest of the Q2 runners.

Esteban Ocon was a disappointing 16th with the Alpine driver knocked out of qualifying in the first session, two-tenths clear of Nicholas Latifi who was unable to join his Williams teammate in Q2.

It was a poor beginning to life at Aston Martin for Sebastian Vettel who qualified 18th on his debut for the rebranded squad after the four-time world champion was caught out by a yellow flag caused by Nikita Mazepin’s spinning Haas at Turn 1.

As expected, the two Haas cars were slowest of all, with reigning Formula 2 champion Mick Schumacher outpacing teammate Mazepin - who spun twice in Q1 - in their first qualifying session of their F1 careers.

FULL QUALIFYING RESULTS FOR THE 2021 F1 BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX.

 

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