Max Verstappen can start the first grand prize of 2021 this afternoon (5 pm Belgian time) from pole. In qualifying he didn’t let the competition stand a chance, world champion Lewis Hamilton followed at almost four tenths of a second.
“We had already completed a nice three-day test here in Bahrain, but of course it is always nice when you see that good feeling confirmed during the race weekend,” said a beaming Verstappen after qualifying. “However, it was not so easy to adjust the car completely, due to the strong and changeable wind that blew across the track today. After my quick lap in the first part of qualifying, I thought there was a bit more to it, and at the end everything fell into place. Perfect.”
It might have been even faster, if Verstappen had not suffered damage to the bottom plate early in the qualifying session. The result of docking a little too hard over the curbs. “I think it took him a tenth of a second per lap afterwards,” team boss Christian Horner analyzed off the cuff.
Being fast on one lap is one thing, winning a race is another. Still, Verstappen is not very concerned about the race. “During the free practice sessions I already noticed that our racing simulations were also quite competitive,” he explains. “That is not a one hundred percent guarantee of a good result, of course, but I am looking forward to the first race of the season.”
“There was really no more in it,” Lewis Hamilton readily admitted a little later. “Not at the moment. We have already taken a big step forward since the test days, because then the difference between Red Bull and us was even bigger. ”
“New rules to disadvantage us”
Hamilton, meanwhile, does not hide his opinion about the new aerodynamic rules. Although they are not so drastic, Mercedes appears to be most affected. “Sure, those new rules were introduced to disadvantage us,” Hamilton stated bluntly. “Last year, the regulators tried that too (by limiting the use of different engine settings, ed.). But don’t worry, we do like a challenge. Red Bull has worked well during the winter and produced a good car, it is now up to us to do better. ”
For now, however, only Max Verstappen seems to be reaping the benefits of the new Red Bull. Sergio Pérez choked in the second qualifying section, and will only start in eleventh place. Things got worse for Sebastian Vettel. The German will only start his first race for Aston Martin from eighteenth place, after having to hold back twice during his fast lap for drivers who had run into problems. “No need to panic,” said Vettel afterwards. “This was just bad luck. The car could be a lot better, I want to prove that in the race. ”