Formula One world champion Max Verstappen seized pole position for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday with Sergio Perez completing a Red Bull front row sweep.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz turned out to be the closest challengers in third and fourth with Fernando Alonso, who made waves with his pace in practice, lining up fifth for Aston Martin.
Verstappen had looked unsettled in practice but the Dutch driver found the time when he needed it to deliver the perfect 51st birthday present for his father Jos with a career 21st pole.
“I hope he was watching, I’m pretty sure he was watching,” he said.
“It’s been a bit of a tough start to the weekend yesterday and today not really finding my rhythm, but luckily in qualifying we managed to put the best pieces together.
“I was actually positively surprised we were on pole after the struggles I had in practice,” he added. “Normally our race car is better, so let’s see.”
Mercedes qualified sixth and seventh with George Russell and seven times champion Lewis Hamilton.
Alonso’s Canadian team mate Lance Stroll, who broke his wrists in a cycling accident in Spain last month and missed testing, will start eighth.
Esteban Ocon qualified ninth for Renault-owned Alpine and Nico Hulkenberg 10th for Haas.
American Logan Sargeant was the highest qualifier among the three rookies, placing his Williams 16th on the grid with team mate Alex Albon 15th.
Australian Oscar Piastri will make his debut in 18th place for McLaren, who disappointed with Lando Norris 11th after being unable to get through the second phase.
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