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  • Maxime Baillieux

Bahrain GP

This article was written by Maxime Baillieux, Year 11


Quali

Q1

As the first qualifying session unfolds in relatively cool 18-degree air temperature, the question looms whether Max Verstappen will secure pole position. Carlos Sainz leads the grid onto the track, opting for the medium tires. Despite Pirelli's predictions against using mediums in the race, all drivers currently out are on this compound. Pierre Gasly faces an early setback with a deleted time. With 12 minutes remaining, Sainz took charge, leading the grid with a lap time of 1:31.208, just 0.052 seconds ahead of Charles Leclerc. Meanwhile, Verstappen makes a strategic choice by opting for soft tires. With 9 minutes left, Sargeant sets a sector 1 record.


Alexander Albon secured P2 with Nico Hulkenberg ahead, while Lewis Hamilton found himself in P9 and George Russell in P4. Verstappen claims P1. Sainz, on a set of softs, snatches back the lead. Sargeant voices dissatisfaction about Hamilton not yielding during fast laps. Two minutes before the end, Leclerc overtakes on pit exit. All drivers, except Sainz, are on track. Zhou improves to 11th place, and Hamilton moves up to 10th with Lance Stroll in P2. Unfortunately, both Alpine cars languish in P19 and P20. The grid is tightly packed, with a mere 1.039-second gap between P1 and P20, setting the stage for an intense qualifying session to come.



Q2

As the qualifying session unfolds, all drivers except the two Mercedes are on track, setting the stage for an exciting competition. Kevin Magnussen leads the way initially but encounters a setback when he goes wide on turn 4. Lando Norris takes advantage and claims the lead, establishing a six-tenths gap ahead of his teammate. Meanwhile, George Russell faces an investigation for failing to adhere to the max delta time. Max Verstappen eventually secures the top spot, with Sergio Perez following closely in P2. However, Verstappen unexpectedly returns to the track, even when unnecessary. Nico Hulkenberg finds himself in P2, and with 39 seconds remaining, both Mercedes drivers are on the verge of elimination. Carlos Sainz makes a strong comeback, reclaiming P2. Charles Leclerc then takes P1, surpassing Verstappen, while Hulkenberg settles in P6, shaping the grid for the upcoming race.


Q3


As the final qualifying session commences, Nico Hulkenberg takes the lead, leading the pack onto the track. George Russell encounters a slight issue as he goes wide on turn 4. Max Verstappen showcases his speed by securing the fastest time in sector 1. Lando Norris briefly holds provisional pole position but is swiftly surpassed by Russell. Verstappen then makes his move, claiming P1 and securing provisional pole. With seven minutes remaining, all drivers, except Alonso, set their laps. Fernando Alonso makes a notable climb to P3 after an intermediate run. Max Verstappen strategically benefits from the slipstream provided by Piastri, while Carlos Sainz gains an advantage from Hulkenberg's slipstream. Russell secures P3, while Lewis Hamilton finds himself in P8. Verstappen solidified his dominance, setting a remarkable 1:28.178 and claiming provisional pole position. Charles Leclerc follows closely in P2. As the session unfolds, Max Verstappen ultimately secures pole position, with Leclerc in P2 and Russell in P3, shaping the starting grid for the upcoming race.



Pre race

As the pre-race preparations unfold, all drivers take to the track on used soft tires. Max Verstappen leads the pack, flanked by Charles Leclerc and George Russell. The DRS (Drag Reduction System) will become operational after the completion of the first lap, introducing strategic opportunities for overtaking. The race strategy appears to favour a two-stop plan, with options including soft-hard-soft or soft-hard-hard. Notably, the soft-hard-soft strategy might be exclusive to the Red Bulls, as they are the only ones with new soft tires remaining.


In the starting grid, Russell holds a promising P3 position, while Lewis Hamilton sits in P9. Notably, Hamilton's setup is described as more race-oriented than Russell's, suggesting a potentially different approach to tire management and overall race strategy between the two teammates. As the drivers prepare for the race, these strategic nuances and the tire choices set the stage for an intriguing and strategic Grand Prix.



Race

The race unfolds with intense battles on the track as George Russell successfully defends against Sergio Perez's attacks. However, the excitement escalates with a major crash in turn 1, prompting the deployment of yellow flags. Nico Hulkenberg suffers front wing damage, relegating him to the last position after a pit stop.


As DRS is enabled, Sargeant makes a bold move, overtaking Daniel Ricciardo in turn 4 on lap 2. Lando Norris passes Fernando Alonso, while Russell impressively overtakes Charles Leclerc for P2 around the outside of turn 4. Leclerc, now with a warning for track limits, faces a challenge from Perez.


Max Verstappen quickly pulls away from Russell, establishing a 4-second lead by lap 5. Leclerc blames Russell for track limits, but Perez eventually passes Leclerc on turn 10 exit on lap 7. Despite his efforts, Perez struggles to catch up with Russell. On lap 9, Verstappen extended his lead to 6.5 seconds.


Lewis Hamilton, with a race-oriented setup, experiences challenges but manages to pass Alonso on lap 10. Sargeant goes straight on, but the race continues for him. A close battle ensues between Carlos Sainz and Leclerc, with Sainz eventually overtaking Leclerc in turns 1, 2, and 3.


Perez gains DRS on Russell, and a strategic pit stop on lap 12 sees both Russell and Leclerc dropping positions. Perez overtakes Russell on lap 14, who struggles with his hard tires. Alonso and Alex Albon moved up to P2 and P3.


Verstappen pits on lap 17, facing a 30-second gap behind him. Sainz easily passes Russell on turn 4 on lap 18. Ricciardo goes straight in turn 10, and Hulkenberg makes another pit stop on lap 21. Ricciardo overtakes Esteban Ocon.


Hamilton faces seat issues, and one of the Williams cars receives a 'car too hot' warning. Albon reports a broken dashboard. Despite the calm race, tire life exceeds expectations.


Zhou pits on lap 29 for new hards, and Valtteri Bottas endures a 52-second stop. Russell prevents Leclerc from undercutting him with a well-timed pit stop. Russell overtakes Alonso with DRS, while Leclerc sets the fastest lap. Perez pits for new softs, and Verstappen follows suit for new softs as well.


Alonso pits on lap 42 for new hards, and Hulkenberg makes his third pit stop. Sainz, with harder tires than Perez, aims to close the gap. Russell locks up in turn 10, allowing Leclerc to overtake him. Alonso passes Lance Stroll on lap 49.


Tsunoda is instructed to swap places with his teammate to chase Kevin Magnussen. Ricciardo, on soft tires, closes in on Magnussen on lap 55. Verstappen secured a dominant victory with a 20-second lead over Perez, who finished ahead of Sainz in a thrilling and eventful race.


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