Bahrain, Nov 28 (IANS) Even as newly-crowned seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix with a superb record-breaking lap on Saturday, Max Verstappen hinted he could be a thorn in the side of Mercedes in Bahrain in final practice. But when it mattered the Silver Arrows came to the fore, with Hamilton dominating every segment of qualifying to take a stunning pole position.
The Mercedes driver was pegged to just 0.146 sec by Verstappen after the first runs in Q3, suggesting there could be a tight battle. But Hamilton improved by another quarter of a second on his final run, pushing pole out of reach of his rivals to take his 98th career P1 start.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas popped up into second, the Finn at a loss to explain why he simply wasn’t a threat to Hamilton throughout the session. But he did at least ensure Mercedes lock out the front row for the fifth consecutive season in Bahrain and 75th time in the team’s history.
Verstappen was forced to settle for third, though he can take comfort from starting on the cleaner side of the grid, the Dutchman suggesting the team’s greater focus in setting the car up was on the race, with tyre degradation expected to be crucial on Sunday evening.
He was backed up by Red Bull team mate Alex Albon, who equalled his best-ever start, in fourth, albeit six tenths of a second off the pace of his team mate, with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez popping up into fifth, having reached Q3 for the first time since 2014.
Daniel Ricciardo was slowest of all after the first runs, but he protected his tyres on a slow out lap before pumping in the sixth fastest time, qualifying in the top six for the fifth time in the last six Grands Prix, and out-qualifying his team mate Esteban Ocon — who ended up seventh — for the 13th straight race, albeit this time by only 0.002s.