Mercedes’ temporary driver George Russell and Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc grabbed the headlines in today’s qualifying session for the Sakhir Grand Prix.
After stepping in for Lewis Hamilton, the Briton only missed the pole position by 26 thousands of a second despite the lack of previous experience with Mercedes’ 2020 car, the W11. Ferrari’s two-time race winner also delivered a star drive under the lights of the Outer Loop Bahrain Circuit, taking P4 on the grid, just 0.236s adrift of pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas.
This weekend’s two debutants, Pietro Fittipaldi and Jack Aitken also put in an impressive performance, making no mistakes and getting close to their team mates despite the lack of running with their cars.
MercedesValtteri Bottas, 1st, 53.377
"It's great to be on pole, I'm happy with that, but this wasn't my best qualifying. My second run in Q3 was decent, but I think there was still a bit of time missing in Turn 7 and 8. I was the first car out on track on the final run, so I didn't have a tow and ultimately couldn't improve. It was fairly close in the end, so I'm pleased it was enough for pole position. It's great to see George in P2 and that we managed to lock out the front row for the team. I'm not really surprised to see him up there, he kept improving throughout the weekend and particularly through qualifying.
"We're starting on the Medium tyre tomorrow, which should put us in a good position in terms of strategy. Max is going to have an advantage for the race start itself with the softer tyre, but we think for the race overall we're on the better tyre. The track is quite bumpy and it's actually fairly easy to follow other cars thanks to the tow, but we're in the best possible position for tomorrow and are looking forward to a fun race."George Russell, 2nd, 53.403
"Valtteri has pushed Lewis a huge amount in qualifying over the years, so I'm really pleased to have finished Q3 just behind him and to be on the front row for tomorrow. It's been incredibly intense with so much to learn and such a different way of driving in this car. I tried a lot of things in FP3, which didn't go well at all. After final practice, I'd have been happy to just get through to Q3, so I was a bit nervous heading into qualifying.
"But I managed to get in the groove and was getting better and better every lap. Obviously, I'm a bit gutted to miss out on pole by 20 milliseconds, but if you'd told me last week that I'd be qualifying P2 on the grid, I wouldn't have believed you. I've got nobody in front of me tomorrow, which I've not experienced for a long time. It's going to be a really tricky race on such a short track layout, but we're in a good position starting on the Mediums. I'll give it my all and see what I can do."
Red BullMax Verstappen, 3rd, 53.433
“Close, but not quite close enough. We can be happy about qualifying, and although we always want more, for us to be P3 on a track like this is pretty good. The gap is very close and it is a bit of a shame to miss out by so little. On such a short lap it was always going to be very tight but I think I got the most out of the lap. For sure both of the Mercedes cars will be quick tomorrow. George is a good driver so we need to take care of both cars to try and win. We are starting on a different tyre to them so it will be interesting to see how it’s going to play out and the start will be very important. Like I’ve said before, we’ve got nothing to lose so it’s better to have a bit of fun tomorrow and see what we can do. I’m looking forward to it.”Alex Albon, 12th, 54.026
"I’m surprised with today’s qualifying because after FP3 I was happy with the car and it felt like we were on for a good result so to come 12th is frustrating and we need to understand where it went wrong. We decided to only run the medium tyre in practice today to save the softs for qualifying and the car just felt very different between the two sessions so maybe that hurt us. Tomorrow it’s all to play for though and we know overtaking is possible here plus we’re running slightly more downforce than the others so hopefully we’re better on our tyres. Our race pace looked pretty strong on Friday and we also have a free tyre choice so we’ll have a long look at that tonight and see what we can do. We just need to keep out of trouble at the start and then the plan is to fight through the field.”
Racing PointSergio Perez, 5th, 53.790
“I’m happy with qualifying today; I think it was a strong result. I don’t think P4 was possible because it was a good lap from Charles [Leclerc] and it would have been difficult to match that. It’s not been an easy challenge finding the perfect set-up for the car at such a different and challenging track, but I think we found a rhythm in qualifying and that was a big positive. We made good choices in qualifying by running just the one set of softs in Q1 and saving two sets for Q3 because that helped us get P5 on the grid. Overtaking might be a challenge here, we’ll find out tomorrow, but the strategy will be very important because even in qualifying we could see that tyre degradation was a factor. The key could be making the soft tyre last longer in the first stint and, hopefully, that will open up some opportunities through strategy. I think we’re capable of making that work and the race could come to us, but we need to focus on putting everything together until the final lap and making sure we score good points.”Lance Stroll, 10th, 54.200
“I’m a bit frustrated with qualifying today. I think it was clear that we had good pace, but on my second run in Q2, I picked up damage to my floor on the kerbs at Turn 8. We’ve seen this weekend that Turn 8 is a really crucial corner and that the middle sector can be punishing on the cars. But thankfully, we’d already secured a time good enough for Q3, but it cost us any chance of starting higher than P10. We need to look at the floor in greater detail because it wasn’t a hard hit – and I’m surprised it was damaged. It meant that we lost a lot of load on the rear of the car, which was costing us significant lap time as a result. The positive is that the traffic wasn’t too bad out there, so if we get a strong start to the race and settle into a good pace, we can fight for a good amount of points tomorrow. We know the pace is there, so we’ll go away and review today’s work and come back stronger in the race.”
“I’m a little bit frustrated with the result because I definitely felt the car could have finished inside the top five. We had a good final practice session this afternoon and then come qualifying we got through to Q2 with both cars looking strong. But my lap in Q2 wasn’t great as I hit the kerb in the last corner and my two laps in Q3 weren’t that strong either. We’ll take a look at it tonight to see what happened. Despite the frustrations, I do think we can make some moves tomorrow and get some decent points from both cars.”Esteban Ocon, 11th, 53.995
“It was very tight in qualifying and I’m a bit disappointed with the result given how well we’ve been performing at times this weekend. The car was good yesterday, but there has been less performance at some moments, and we have a few things to understand there. The positive is we have a free choice of tyres for tomorrow and, in a race where strategy will be difficult, that could be interesting. It’s not about where you start, but about where you finish, so we’ll give our all tomorrow. It’ll be a long race like last weekend, so we have a bit of hope for a good result.”
AlphaTauriPierre Gasly, 9th, 54.154
“It was a difficult quali for us today. In Q1 we damaged the floor and from then it was just a messy session. We only just made it into Q3, but it was very difficult because I struggled with the front and had a lot of understeer everywhere. After what we showed in FP3, it’s a bit disappointing to only be P9 in the end. We showed strong pace all weekend but considering all the damages to the car, I don’t think there was much more we could do today. Overall, I think we have a good package, I’m a bit more worried about not breaking other parts on the car tomorrow as the track is quite aggressive, but as for the rest I’m quite confident that we can have a strong race.”Daniil Kvyat, 6th, 53.906
"I’m very happy with today as it was a great session, I would say it’s my best qualifying of the year. It was very tricky out there with the traffic in the beginning. In Q3 I put in a very tidy lap, kept it clean and cool, and I’m quite proud of myself and how I drove today. As a result, we're starting from a competitive position tomorrow. We have been strong all weekend here, Friday was also very good, and while this morning I wasn’t too happy with the car, we changed back to what we knew and it was strong again in qualifying. It will be important to have a solid race, the traffic and tyre management will be interesting, so we’ll do our best dealing with that. Our race pace looks competitive, so hopefully, we can carry the momentum into tomorrow.”
McLarenCarlos Sainz, 8th, 54.010
“A very difficult day for us but I think we managed to save qualifying with very good execution and a very good performance. It hasn’t been an easy weekend for us, but we’ve taken steps in the right direction since yesterday, and today we managed to out-qualify a few cars that have been quicker all weekend, so we can be proud of that. We took good strategic decisions and put some very decent laps together. Tomorrow we expect a tough race, but we’ll fight hard to keep position and take advantage of any opportunity as every single point is key for the championship.”Lando Norris, 15th, 54.693
“A bad quali in lots of ways and we need to work out what went wrong. In Q2 the first run was okay, but the second one was a combination of not doing a great lap and also not going out at the right time. We had to do a very slow out-lap to not catch any traffic, but while doing so the tyres got too cold and then it just got a bit messy from there. I couldn’t put the lap together with one lap of fuel. On the track, I needed to simplify it a little bit. We just made a small mistake and it cost us today. It’s going to make our life a bit more difficult tomorrow, but we’ll give it everything to score some points.”
FerrariSebastian Vettel, 13th, 54.175
"I generally had a good feeling driving the car today so I don’t really know what went wrong. Maybe on the straights I was losing a bit as well as in the middle sector. I was confident after Q1 but then we didn’t make it. I don’t know if this could be related to the power unit change. For sure my mechanics did everything well as the car was fine to drive.
"Taking care of the tyres will be difficult tomorrow but it could be the key to a good race. We will have a free choice of tyre for the start and we will see what we can do."Charles Leclerc, 4th, 53.613
"I am so happy with fourth place. We took a chance by going out at the beginning of the session in Q3. We could have waited, but because of the risk of traffic and because I had a clear idea of what to do, I chose to go out immediately and I managed to put together a good lap. After that, I got out of the car because I had no more new tyres and I knew that realistically I could not beat the time I’d just set.
"Going into the race, I have to say it’s a bit of a step into the unknown, having lost most of FP2’s track time which means I haven’t done a race simulation. All the same, I think I got good pace today and I hope that will be the case in the race also. I don’t think we have the third fastest car here, but I plan to make the most of my start position in this race."
Alfa RomeoKimi Raikkonen, 19th, 54.963
“It’s not the result we were expecting after looking not too bad in FP3. We were just struggling in a few places and ended up being too slow to make the cut. It’s going to be a challenge tomorrow, it’s not easy to overtake around there, so let’s see what we can do when the race starts.”Antonio Giovinazzi, 14th, 54.377
“I was confident we could fight for a place in Q2 after last weekend. We knew it was not going to be easy with a slippery track and the traffic, but in the end we managed to get in the top 15 and put in a good lap in Q2 as well. I have to say thank you to the team, we have been in the right place at the right time, so it was a really good qualifying session. Now the focus is on tomorrow: the race will be messy, overtaking will be difficult and the blue flags will slow a lot of people down, so we need to play our strategy right. We can fight for a good result.”
HaasPietro Fittipaldi, 20th, 55.426
“It was my first qualifying session in Formula 1, obviously I was really looking forward to it. I’ve always loved qualifying, that’s when the car is at its best with new tyres – you can really push. Knowing that I’d have the grid penalty for tomorrow the team thought it was the best strategy to help Kevin (Magnussen) on the second and third outings by giving him a tow on the main straight, so we did that. Obviously I had to put my lap together after that, so it was a bit of a struggle – but in the end it was the best thing for the team. I’ve experienced my first qualifying and now I’m focused on the race.”Kevin Magnussen, 16th, 54.705
“We were close to getting into Q2, I think we were just behind a Red Bull – that’s the first time this year we’ve qualified right behind one of those cars. Obviously, they made it further up, but we gave it our best and P16 is actually the best we’ve been for quite a few races I think. We’ll see what we can do from there tomorrow. There’s a good chance it could be a crazy race with a lot of blue flags to manage. If overtaking proves to be easy, lots of things could happen. We’ll be ready as always. It’ll be key to stay out of trouble and not get penalties for blue flags – there’s going to be so many as the lap is so short. Some people might also be on a three-stop race, that could make it an exciting race.”
"The aim for me has been to make a step every time I get in the car, and I have achieved that. I am a little bit gutted that the last run didn’t go as well as I had wanted it to, but I can’t complain. I think tyre management is going to play a bigger factor than we originally thought coming into the weekend. With it being such a short lap, how you play the blue flags and how that affects how many stops you make will be quite interesting. I am going to be trying my hardest every lap, so let’s see how tomorrow goes."Nicholas Latifi, 17th, 54.796
"I was pretty pleased with the majority of my final effort as it was looking like quite a strong lap. I said to myself that I wasn’t going to leave any margin and I was going to go for it, but sadly I made a big mistake in the last corner. We made some changes to the car from yesterday to try and improve other areas and I just couldn’t get the right rhythm through that last corner all day today. I am disappointed I didn’t put my own lap together as there was definitely more in there.
"The race tomorrow is going into the unknown with nobody really knowing what to expect. I hope the field doesn’t stretch out too much and we can still be competitive and in the fight. Hopefully we can get a good start, get through the first few corners unscathed and capitalise on any opportunities."