verstappen pole psoition 2023 bahrain gp f1 pirelli isola

Verstappen: Positively surprised to be on pole

red bull verstappen pole psoition 2023 bahrain gp f1 pirelli isola

Max Verstappen started his Formula 1 season as he ended last year, with pole position – this time for the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix – the Red Bull driver surprised himself by topping a very close qualifying session on Saturday.

It was expected that Verstappen, who started from top spot for last year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi, would canter to pole but it was not as easy as was predicted, with the field much closer this year than in recent memory, the midfield, in particular, having narrowed the gap, with Aston Martin perhaps gatecrashing the sharp end.

But in the end it was a the Red Bulls that sparkled brightest under the Sakhir floodlights, one-two as Verstappen edged his teammate Sergio Perez by a tenth and a bit, closer than ever to his teammate, and enough to beat their closest challenger Charles Leclerc, the Ferrari driver just under three tenths down on Max’s benchmark lap time.


After a captivating session, in which the early pecking order finally emerged after a week of post-testing speculation, Verstappen said in parc ferme: “It has 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.”

The Dutch ace continued: “I am very happy to be on pole. For the whole team coming off last year and again having such a strong car with Checo up there as well. It is amazing and I am looking forward to tomorrow.

“The changes slowed down the car a bit but we are still going faster, which is great to see. “Throughout the year, you will see everyone increasing their performance again a lot and that is the beautiful thing about Formula 1.

“I was actually positively surprised to be on pole after the struggles I had in practice. Normally our race car is better, so let’s see,” added Verstappen, who thus begins his F1 title defense and his quest for a third in a row in the best manner possible.

Making matters worse to digest for their rivals is word that Red Bull ‘have ‘sacrificed’ one lap pace with the setup on both the RB19s with race pace in mind, suggesting that Verstappen and Perez have a very handy race car at their disposal on Sunday.

Perez: In the end, I wasn’t totally comfortable with the balance

perez verstappen bahrain 2023 f1 qualifying

The Mexican F1 veteran, starting his 13th season in the top flight, said of his evening at the office: “It was a really tight qualifying. I don’t remember such a tight qualifying battle from Q1, Q2. You can not leave anything on the table to maximise your grid position.

“In the end, I wasn’t totally comfortable with the balance. You can always improve a tenth on your lap but I think getting this start for the team is really special.

“We prepared much more to do the race. We have more of a Sunday race car underneath us. We knew we had to do some compromises for quali, which we ended up doing, which were not ideal but hopefully tomorrow we can have a very strong race car,” ventured Perez.

Ahead of today’s season opener, Red Bull start as favourites and really it is their race to lose, their title to lose for that matter as Verstappen’s confidence is soaring while Perez appears to have edged closer to his teammate’s blistering pace.

A front-row lockout for RBR augers may well be a good omen for the lengthy F1 season ahead, with Verstappen and Perez no doubt intent on keeping the F1 constructors title, which the pair won for the team last year for the first time since 2013, at Milton Keynes.

Stopping them from doing a one-two, again, in the race is going to be a tough ask for their rivals who will be chasing Blue cars, as they did most of last year, but this time from day one the season!

This Sunday, 25-year-old Verstappen will line up for his 164th Grand Prix start on Sunday in Bahrain, with Perez, 33, making his 236th start.