Despite having looked like he had the fastest car in practice, Max Verstappen said he was well aware of the pace Ferrari would bring to qualifying in Bahrain.
Both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were consistently close to the front in all three practice sessions, but the combination of Red Bull and Verstappen looked to be an imposing force heading int0 Saturday’s running.
But it was a session-long fight between the two teams and Leclerc eventually came out on top in an enthralling qualifying session, with the top three separated by only 0.129s around Sakhir.
#F1 just feels better when Ferrari are fighting at the front, doesn't it? 🤗 #BahrainGP pic.twitter.com/O3XV2vYjND
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) March 19, 2022
This sets up what is likely to be a fascinating race on Sunday, and the World Champion said his car has looked solid in race trim during his practice running – adding a layer of intrigue to the 2022 season opener.
“I always knew it would be close and it’s about the tiny details you need in qualifying to really put the lap together,” Verstappen said on Sky Sports F1 after qualifying when asked if Ferrari had surprised him.
“It seemed like it was going away from us a little bit in Q3 when I just couldn’t find the right balance, front to rear.
“But overall, I think we still did a good job and it’s a good start to the season. And of course tomorrow we will see what the race pace is like. But all the time when we filled up the car [with fuel], it felt quite nice to drive so hopefully it will be the same for tomorrow.”
It was a difficult day for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were a long way off the pace in qualifying P5 and P9 respectively, and aware work needs to be done to catch up.
But when asked if he needs to capitalise while Mercedes are lagging behind, Verstappen was keen to keep his mind on Red Bull alone.
“We just focus on ourselves,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do also from our side to be better, but it’s a good start to the year.”
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez will line up P4 in Bahrain, setting up a Ferrari-Red Bull combination on the first two rows of the grid.
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