Watch the 2022 Bahrain F1 Grand Prix on Foxtel and Kayo, with live coverage starting at 00:30 AEDT!
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc secured pole position for the season-opening Grand Prix in Bahrain as world champion Max Verstappen had to settle for second in qualifying.
Leclerc was 0.123 seconds faster than Red Bull’s Verstappen while Carlos Sainz will start third on the grid in the second Ferrari.
Watch all practice, qualifying and races of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship™ live, starting with the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix from March 18. New to Kayo? Try free for 14 days >
RACE CENTER: Bahrain GP live timing, updates and more
“It feels good! The last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team,” said Leclerc, who claimed the 10th Formula 1 pole of his career.
“I think we worked extremely well as a team, very happy with today. I wasn’t completely happy with my driving but I managed to do that lap in Q3 and we’re starting from pole, so very happy.
‘NIGHTMARE TO DRIVE’: Hamilton’s qualifying hell as Ricciardo is third last in horror meltdown
QUALI TALKING PTS: Ferrari’s challenge after superb pole, McLaren’s terrible preparation revealed
‘COME IN AND DO IT’: Caption rejects Ricciardo’s ‘shitty’ apology
Sergio Perez qualified fourth in the second Red Bull ahead of Lewis Hamilton fifth. The seven-time world champion was 0.680s off the pace in his Mercedes.
Valtteri Bottas finished sixth in his first qualifying session for Alfa Romeo since leaving Mercedes at the end of last season.
Kevin Magnussen, returning to Haas after replacing Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, took seventh place ahead of Fernando Alonso in his Alpine car.
Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate George Russell was ninth fastest and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly completed the top 10.
“We were pretty sure Red Bull would be faster than us, especially in qualifying,” continued Leclerc.
“Such a pleasant surprise! I will be careful, the race is long and anything can happen.
The clash grid saw Sky Sports commentator David Croft proclaim that ‘anyone can score points this weekend’.
Verstappen topped the times in the second and third practice sessions, but the Dutchman was propelled to pole by Leclerc after a poor final sector.
“I think it was a bit hit or miss, Q2 looked good, Q3 was harder to find the balance,” Verstappen said.
“We have a good racing car, which is overall the most important thing. A few things to check and we will try to do better for next time.
“It was good, a close battle with Carlos and Charles – hopefully it will be a good race.”
BAHRAIN F1 GRAND PRIX STARTING GRID
Front row: Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull)
2nd row: Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari) Sergio Perez (MEX/Red Bull)
3rd row: Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari)
4th row: Kevin Magnussen (DEN / Haas-Ferrari) Fernando Alonso (ESP / Alpine-Renault)
5th row: George Russell (GBR / Mercedes) Pierre Gasly (FRA / AlphaTauri-Red Bull)
6th row: Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault) Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari)
7th row: Lando Norris (GBR / McLaren-Mercedes) Alexander Albon (THA / Williams-Mercedes)
8th row: Zhou Guanyu (CHN / Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) Yuki Tsunoda (JPN / AlphaTauri-Red Bull)
9th row: Nico Hulkenberg (GER / Aston Martin-Mercedes) Daniel Ricciardo (AUS / McLaren-Mercedes)
10th row: Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes)
Hamilton said his Mercedes had been “a bit of a nightmare to drive”. The team battled against ‘porpoising’, a bouncing sensation caused by the new cars’ unstable aerodynamic management.
“The guys in front of us are in another league. In general I’m happy with where we are, it’s not the front row but we’ll do our best to improve,” Hamilton told Sky Sports.
“These guys (Red Bull and Ferrari) will go forward, we’re not fighting with them, my battle is with the guys behind us. Their performance was a bit ahead of us.
Nico Hulkenberg could only manage 17th in his first outing since October 2020 as a replacement for Sebastian Vettel, the Aston Martin driver absent after testing positive for Covid-19.
Daniel Ricciardo struggled in his McLaren, qualifying 18th after missing pre-season testing last week for the same reason.
Formula One’s governing body said on Saturday that “human error” was responsible for the controversial end to last season’s finale in Abu Dhabi, which saw Verstappen crowned champion ahead of Hamilton.
But the FIA said in its report that race director Michael Masi acted in “good faith and to the best of his knowledge given the difficult circumstances”.
Masi has since been relieved of his duties and race control has been restructured. The FIA report deemed last year’s result “valid and final”, and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said it was time to “turn the page”.
Sunday’s Grand Prix is the first of a revised 22-race schedule, reduced by 23 events following the cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix, but likely to return to 23 potentially with a race in Qatar.
The sport’s most sweeping technical rule changes in 40 years, with new race management and all-new cars designed to create tighter races, could cause shocks this season.
They include the return of “ground effect” aerodynamics for the first time since 1983 with much bigger wheels and bigger tires, a freeze on powertrain development and a tighter budget cap, reduced to 140 million dollars (127.4 million euros) excluding driver salaries. .
Follow the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix in our live blog below!