Hamilton rallies from Q3 error to take Bahrain GP pole

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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.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.