Max Verstappen thrilled with 'unexpected' pole in Bahrain but prepared for another 'close' race-day battle

Max Verstappen described qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix as “a lot of fun” as he and Red Bull kicked off their low-key start to the weekend to secure pole position for Saturday's season-opening clash.

Leading after the first Q3 run, Verstappen clocked a better time of 1m 29.179s on his second attempt to finish two-tenths clear of Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc, and a tenth behind the Mercedes of George Russell.

READ MORE: Verstappen beats Leclerc and Russell to take pole for season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

Asked for his reaction after the session, reigning world champion Verstappen said: “It was really fun. The track grip was very good, but due to the wind that has been blowing for the last two days, it has become quite difficult to handle the entire lap at once. It was the same in qualifying also.

2024 Bahrain GP qualifying: Verstappen crosses the line to seal pole position for season opener

“Q1, Q2, you naturally get a little faster with the track ramps, but then it was a little more difficult to actually get everything going in Q3. But of course I am very happy to be on pole. To be honest, it was a bit unexpected, but luckily in qualifying I think the car came to us and I felt a little bit happier with the car as a whole.”

As far as his race pace is concerned, and whether he is worried about any cars trailing behind, the Dutchman said: “I think it's going to be close in the race as well. We are looking good in the race and undoubtedly that is the most important [thing], but we'll see tomorrow. I'm confident we can run a strong race.”

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Verstappen's teammate, Sergio Pérez, could only manage fifth on the grid, also losing out to the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz as he regretted a lack of fresh tires and a costly mistake during the decisive Q3 stage.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 01: Max Verstappen (1) of the Netherlands driving Oracle Red Bull

There was no stopping Verstappen as he continued where he left off last year until 2024

“Everything is very tight there,” said the Mexican, who was almost half a second off pole. “I didn't have a good Turn 1 and that means two or three places, you know, considering how tight everything is.

“Unfortunately we lost a set [of tyres] Going into Q2, we thought we weren't safe and then we were safe. Ultimately we aborted, but it was a flat tire anyway, so we only had one shot. But things are really close and I think there’s going to be a good fight tomorrow, a good fight going forward.”

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Asked if he was surprised by how close the field is, Pérez continued: “Not really. It was already in testing, so I wasn't surprised. I think things are very good there, very close so it's going to be an interesting fight tomorrow.

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