Charles Leclerc has flipped the script on reigning champion Max Verstappen to snatch pole from the Dutchman at the death in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Verstappen had been in a commanding position throughout the weekend, including the early stages of qualifying, but Ferrari had a little extra in hand for Q3, with Carlos Sainz leading Leclerc to a provisional front-row lockout.

Leclerc found time with his second lap, but Sainz couldn’t squeeze any more from a fresh set of tires, gifting his teammate top spot.

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Max Verstappen topped final practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of Charles Leclerc in a difficult-to-read session.

The Dutchman was just 0.096s quicker than Leclerc, though both drivers dropped time on their final soft-tire runs. Verstappen locked up at the first turn and opted to abandon the lap for a second attempt, while Leclerc said he was missing performance in the final sector.

Leclerc appeared to be closer to the limit in his Ferrari generally, having spun off the track at turn 11 as he tried to power over the curbs. The gravel trap saved him from a crash with the barriers by feet.

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he first day of official timed action at the Bahrain Grand Prix is in the books, and Formula 1 is finally getting some answers about the real competitive picture for the season ahead.

The answers are good for Max Verstappen and in particular Ferrari. The reigning champion led the way at the end of the all-important second practice session, the only representative hour of running before qualifying, but there almost nothing to split him from the pursuing Ferrari drivers.

The answers were undoubtedly bad for Mercedes. The team must be sick of saying, ‘I told you so’ this week, but it really did tell us not to expect much from the car in Bahrain, and not much is exactly what it delivered.

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Max Verstappen has lit up second practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix, putting Red Bull Racing at the top of the time sheet ahead of both Ferraris.

Verstappen, who was quickest at this track at the end of preseason testing, lowered the benchmark from earlier in the day to 1m31:936s. But he was pursued closely by Charles Leclerc, whose Ferrari was just 0.087s slower.

Leclerc’s best time was set on five-lap old tires and the fifth lap of a qualifying simulation run, suggesting that the C3 compound is holding its own in Bahrain this season. Indeed, the majority of the field completed competitive long-run simulations on the red-walled rubber in the second half of the session, with Verstappen’s race pace in particular looking strong.

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Pierre Gasly topped the first official timed session of the 2022 Formula 1 season for AlphaTauri, leading Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in first practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Frenchman used the soft tire with around 15 minutes remaining to edge the Ferrari driver to the top time by 0.364s.

“What a lap,” exclaimed his impressed engineer. “That was nice. We get into the mojo now.”

But Ferrari’s pace was more eye-catching, for neither Leclerc nor Sainz, who was less than half a tenth further back, used the soft-compound tire yet were both comfortably within half a second of the lead. Leclerc even had time to spin his car on the red-marked rubber that would carry him to his quickest time and still finish the session second overall.

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