The Monegasque topped a thrilling qualifying session under the Sakhir lights to outpace Red Bull’s Verstappen, with the reigning world champion ended up 0.123s adrift. 

Red Bull had appeared the favourites for pole going into qualifying after Verstappen topped two of the three practice sessions, but it was Ferrari who emerged as the early pacesetters in 2022 when the lap times tumbled during Q3. 

Carlos Sainz had set the fastest time after the first runs in Q3 but was denied a first career pole when Ferrari teammate Leclerc and Verstappen both displaced him with quicker final flying efforts, leaving the Spaniard just 0.006s off second place. 

Leclerc produced a 1m30.558s to score his 10th career pole, marking the first time he and Ferrari had been fastest in qualifying since last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. 

Sergio Perez was over three tenths off the pace in the second Red Bull, while Lewis Hamilton could only qualify fifth for Mercedes as he ended up 0.680s adrift of Leclerc’s benchmark. 

Hamilton’s former teammate Valtteri Bottas claimed a brilliant sixth for Alfa Romeo, ahead of fellow star performer Kevin Magnussen, with the Dane securing P7 in his first qualifying outing since returning to F1. 

Eight place went the way of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, while new Mercedes driver George Russell was only ninth after a lock up ruined his only run on fresh soft tyres. Pierre Gasly completed the top-10 order for AlphaTauri.

Esteban Ocon took 11th in the second Alpine, ahead of Haas’ Mick Schumacher and Lando Norris, who could only qualify 13th as the highest-placed McLaren driver. 

F1 returnee Alex Albon was the sole Williams to progress into the second segment on his way to setting a lap good enough for 14th, while China’s first ever grand prix driver Guanyu Zhou ended up 15th in his maiden F1 qualifying session. 

After failing to take part in final practice due to a technical problem, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda missed out on a spot in Q2 by just 0.024s as he finished 16th. 

Aston Martin stand-in Nico Hulkenberg qualified 17th on his F1 return having stepped in for Sebastian Vettel, who has been ruled out of the season-opener with a positive COVID-19 test.

Daniel Ricciardo endured a torrid qualifying and suffered a shock Q1 elimination in 18th, with the McLaren driver only able to manage a lap quicker than Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Nicholas Latifi, who will start the Bahrain Grand Prix last for Williams.