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Verstappen scares with pole, with Sainz and Alonso among the best


The Dutch surpasses the Mercedes in Sakhir, while Ferrari offers good feelings with Leclerc and the Spaniard, who only missed on his last attempt.

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Max Verstappen celebrates the well-known ‘pole’ in Bahrain.REUTERS
He had mastered the preseason tests and the three free sessions this weekend at Sakhir. In extreme heat and under the relief of the desert night. Max Verstappen He knew how to adapt to the variations of the wind and he demonstrated it with a perfect lap (1: 28.997), with which he captured the fourth pole of his sporting career. “It was a joy to drive this car,” admitted the Dutchman as soon as he got off the RB16B, with which he surpassed Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, as competitive as usual with Mercedes. The improvement of the Silver Arrows and the notes of the Ferrari SF21, with which Charles Leclerc reached the fourth place, were another of the conclusions of a very fun Saturday. It could still be better if Carlos Sainz he would not have failed on his last attempt. Madrid will start eighth, just ahead of Fernando Alonso.

Sainz’s error in the first sector (1: 30.215) lowered the expectations pointed out in Q2, where he had topped the table. The six-tenths lost in the key moment against Leclerc will sting in Carlos’ competitive mood, but the positives will weigh more heavily on the notebook. Mattia Binotto. “It was not a good lap. I have lacked that little bit of experience. I did not know what to expect at Turn 1 and I have sinned conservatism, but you learn from everything,” said Sainz.

Of course, the premiere with a new steering wheel is never easy, although that drink was far surpassed by Alonso, who knew how to exploit the package of improvements promised in his Alpine. His astonishing competitive level allowed him to climb to ninth place (1: 30.249), when his teammate had fallen in Q1. And, as had already been pointed out in the previous one, there was no truce on the scorching asphalt of Sakhir.

Sainz’s engine scare

It didn’t take long to highlight some unexpected actors, such as Yuki Tsunoda, which was allowed a hundredth of an advantage over Hamilton at the beginning. After that first attempt, only seven tenths separated Verstappen, with the best record (1: 30.499) of Bottas, sixth in the table (1: 31.200). He needed something more Sainz (1: 31.653) because the track improved exponentially and even more Alonso, who had to progress in all three sectors until salvation in seventh place (1: 30.863). A top of the unpredictable Nikita mazepin It had unleashed a certain chaos, although nothing comparable to the madrileo’s fright. “The engine has suddenly stopped. And I don’t know why,” exclaimed Carlos on the radio, seeing his attempt to improve the second sector aborted. He could barely reach boxes to assess the damage.

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It must have been some kind of vibration going through the pianos, something not too important, since the SF21 was carburetting ready for Q2. A serious matter now, resolved with a great time (1: 30.861), two tenths faster than Leclerc. Very similar, by the way, to Alonso’s 1: 30.931, which defends Alpine’s pride after the debacle of Esteban Ocon in Q1. Nobody hide anything. Not even Hamilton (1: 30.085), two tenths ahead of Verstappen. TO Sergio Prez and Daniel RicciardoMeanwhile, they erased their times for exceeding the limits in turn 4.

A terrible advance for the Mexican, who was left out of the upgrade, just like Tsunoda. By contrast, Ricciardo did react, as well as Lance Stroll saving Aston Martin’s tessitura, since Sebastian Vettel it had taken off in Q1. However, the sublime moment was colored by Ferrari with Sainz (1: 30.009) and Leclerc, only a thousandth behind. A red double in Q2, ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen, who were on intermediate tires. As icing on the cake, Alonso’s seventh place.

Alonso: “Better than expected”

With expectations met, the two-time world champion remained on the lookout for Q3, as did Leclerc and Stroll. Five minutes later he hit the asphalt elbow to elbow in front of Lando Norris in it pit-lane. Ahead had already appeared the favorites, with Verstappen (1: 29.526) just 23 thousandths ahead of Hamilton. The performance of the tires diminished Sainz (1: 30.536), who also could not improve in his last attempt. Alonso did pass Stroll for ninth place and hardly hid his satisfaction from the microphones.

“Everything went very well, better than expected, because we did not think to improve so much,” he commented, after acknowledging his low confidence in the rear of the A521 and his lack of understanding with the performance of the tires. “Tomorrow plays a race with many things for the first time: the start, the tire management, the pit-stops. They seem banal things, but I have not reacted to a tire in more than two years, “he concluded.

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