Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari came alive Saturday evening as the German recorded a brutalizing lap of 1:27:958 to take his first pole of the season for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Bahrain at the Bahrain International Circuit. His Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, finished second, locking out an all-Ferrari front row. Valtteri Bottas and his Mercedes took third.
“I think it’s surprising for us after Australia to be that competitive,” said the German. “We have good pace, the car is working. In Australia I think we struggled a little bit with the feel of the car. Here, it has been better and we improve a little bit.”
Vettel set his fastest time with just minutes left in the final session after it had seemed that Raikkonen, who had been dominant so far this week, had the pole position secured. Lewis Hamilton came within a few tenths of Vettel right after the German had set his best time, but Bottas was the only other driver to set a better time than Hamilton, with the exception of the two Ferrari drivers.
Raikkonen and Vettel themselves took the first two sessions, but the excitement started early in the opening session when Max Verstappen struck a curb and lost the rear end of his Red Bull, striking the barriers between turns two and three. The incident brought out the red flag, which delayed the session for no more than five minutes while marshals pulled out Verstappen’s car.
Daniel Ricciardo finished in fourth despite a very quiet session of qualifying. The big news of the evening was Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who with a rejuvenated Honda engine, placed his Toro Rosso in fifth position. It was the first time that Gasly, in only his second F1 race, made it to the final session.
Kevin Magnussen kept the American Haas F1 Team in the spotlight by taking sixth, while Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz were seventh and tenth, respectively, in their Renaults. Esteban Ocon was eighth in his Force India, while Hamilton, despite finishing fourth, was demoted to ninth because of a gearbox change earlier in the week.
For Vettel, the pole position was enjoyable, but the performance of the car was surprising.
“It’s getting better and today was quite nice, the car came alive.” He concluded.