In an unusual time of the year — end of November instead of April — F1 was back at the circuit of Sakhir, a track renowned for its power sensitivity. Having topped the first two practice sessions of the weekend, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes looked favourites to take the pole position, ahead of the qualifying session. Max Verstappen however showed all was to play for, as he set the fastest lap of the last practice session Saturday afternoon.
George Russell went first on a set of softs tyres. Verstappen followed, and with the track all for himself, set the first mark of the session with a 1:28.885 time on soft tyres.
Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap of the session in 1:28.343, ahead of Lance Stroll 0.336 seconds behind, and Alexander Albon 0.336 seconds further in third. The Ferrari’s drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel qualified P9 and P10. Russell pulled a great lap to place his Williams in P14.
Eliminated: Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Magnussen, Grosjean, Latifi
All drivers but Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat — the Alpha Tauri drivers — started their session on the medium compound. Carlos Sainz spun at Turn 1 during his out lap, and caused a yellow flag that turned into a red flag. The session was stopped with 9 minutes left. The Spaniard reported on the radio : “the rear axle was blocked!”.
The session resumed and Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap in 1:27.586, with Verstappen separating him from his teammate by 0.439 seconds, with Bottas in third, 0.477 seconds off Hamilton’s mark. Ultimately, all drivers qualified on their sets of mediums, the ones they will start the Sunday race on.
Eliminated: Vettel, Leclerc, Stroll, Russell, Sainz
The drivers went for the final explanation on the soft rubber. Lewis Hamilton clocked a 1:27.677 to take the provisional pole, with Verstappen as the meat in a Mercedes sandwich, 0.146 seconds down. Bottas completed the provisional top-3, 0.244 seconds behind his teammate.
Ultimately, Hamilton went fastest, clocking 1:27.264, with Valtteri securing a front row lockout for Mercedes. Max Verstappen brought home his Red Bull in third.