Bahrain GP: Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton to first pole of F1 2021 in epic head-to-head start

F1 finally gets the duel it has been waiting for as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton go head to head for pole position at season-opener, with Red Bull challenger winning out; But Red Bull new boy Sergio Perez misses Q3, while Vettel knocked out early on Aston Martin debut

Last Updated: 27/03/21 4:14pm

Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the first pole position of the 2021 season as Bahrain GP qualifying finally delivered the head-to-head duel between the grid’s two biggest names that the sport has been waiting for.

After two weeks of guessing games as to the true pecking order at the start of the season since Red Bull topped testing, Verstappen delivered on the team’s promise to end world champions Mercedes’ seven-year run of pole positions at F1’s season-opening round.

Less than a tenth of a second separated Verstappen and Hamilton after the first laps of Q3 but the Dutchman pulled clear by an impressive 0.388s margin.

“Congratulations to Max, he did such a great job. He was so fast on that last lap,” said a generous Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas took third in the second Mercedes but Red Bull suffered disappointment with their other car as new signing Sergio Perez surprisingly dropped out in Q2 in 11th.

Charles Leclerc took an impressive fourth for a much-improved Ferrari, as Pierre Gasly also impressed to take fifth for AlphaTauri.

Fernando Alonso made Q3 on his F1 return for Alpine, qualifying ninth, but fellow ex-champion Sebastian Vettel was a shock Q1 casulty on his Aston Martin debut after being caught up with yellow flags.

Sunday’s race starts at 4pm live only on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event, with build-up from 2.30pm.

More to follow…

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