Lewis Hamilton will start the Bahrain Grand Prix from pole position after edging out Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the final Q3 shootout on Saturday evening.
Hamilton produced a fastest lap of 1:29.493 – the quickest lap ever recorded around the Bahrain International Circuit – in the last stage of qualifying to take his 51st career pole position.
After being provisionally scrapped for Bahrain, the elimination qualifying format made its second appearance after the teams failed to agree on an alternative last week.
Much as it did in Australia, it proved effective early on in Q1 and Q2 as more cars were out on track putting in laps, yet it once again caused pole to be settled with three minutes remaining in Q3.
First blood in Q3 went to Rosberg, who edged out Vettel by one-tenth of a second for P1 with Raikkonen following in third. Hamilton ran wide at the final corner, costing him time to leave him seven-tenths adrift of Rosberg ahead of their final runs.
Sitting fourth, Hamilton had to get out early for his last bid for pole, but duly delivered to go half a second quicker than Rosberg and take provisional pole.
Rosberg could not respond with his final lap, falling 0.077 seconds short of his teammate in second place, while Vettel finished half a second back in third ahead of Raikkonen.
Daniel Ricciardo led Red Bull’s charge in fifth ahead of the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, with Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top eight for Force India.
Following his charge to sixth place on Haas F1 Team’s debut in Australia, Romain Grosjean continue his strong start to the season by scoring the American team’s first top-10 start by qualifying ninth, narrowly missing out on a place in Q3.
Toro Rosso’s patchy record in Bahrain continued as Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. qualified 10th and 11th, while Stoffel Vandoorne impressed in his maiden F1 qualifying session to finish 12th, beating teammate Jenson Button in 14th.
Esteban Gutierrez split the McLarens in the second Haas, while Daniil Kvyat struggled once again in qualifying, finishing two seconds off the pace of leader Hamilton in Q2 in P15.
Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein was arguably the unsung hero of qualifying, producing a quick lap early on before improving to hoist himself out of immediate danger to qualify 16th ahead of Marcus Ericsson and Sergio Perez.
Renault struggled for pace as Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer could only finish 19th and 20th respectively, the latter being knocked out after Vandoorne improved his lap with just a handful of seconds. Magnussen will start Sunday’s race from the pit lane after receiving a penalty in practice.
Rio Haryanto struggled to emulate teammate Wehrlein, finishing 21st, while Felipe Nasr was the first casualty of Q1 in 22nd.
The Bahrain Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 10:30am ET on Sunday.