Kurt Verlin
No Comments

Max Verstappen Takes Pole Position in Bahrain

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page
The Red Bull RB16B Honda F1 car with which Max Verstappen took pole in Bahrain
Photo: Honda
2021 Bahrain Grand Prix - Qualifying Results

Max Verstappen put his Red Bull-Honda car on pole position in Bahrain this morning, marking the start of a potentially very exciting season of Formula 1.

It was only Verstappen’s fourth career pole and the first time since 2013 that Red Bull Racing has claimed pole position on a season-opening weekend, ending a long streak of underwhelming season starts. For fans who — having been burned in the past — hadn’t dared to hope that Mercedes would be challenged in the title fight, this one pole could be the promise of something great to come.

Honda Versus Toyota: Who has the best sedan?

What’s more, Verstappen’s pole was not hard-won. The young Dutchman beat Lewis Hamilton, who said he had given it everything, by nearly four tenths of a second — a large margin in F1 — and with floor damage that purportedly cost him another tenth.

Sergio Pérez, Verstappen’s new teammate, could only manage 11th, having failed to qualify to Q3 after Red Bull put him out on the slower, medium-compound tires, leaving Pierre Gasly to once more assert himself as the second-fastest Honda-powered man on the track.

There were many other noteworthy performances to write about, such as Charles Leclerc’s phenomenal effort to claim fourth on the grid, or Yuki Tsunoda’s Q1 lap, but none quite as noteworthy — in all the worst ways — of Nikita Mazepin, who is already doing his best to antagonize his fellow drivers.

Honda In The Lead: 2020 EPA Automotive Trends Report

Earning himself the nickname Mazespin, the rookie Russian driver had already spun multiple times throughout the weekend’s free practice sessions. He then broke a gentleman’s agreement on the final Q3 out-lap, passing multiple drivers only to once more lose control and spin at the first corner hairpin, bringing out yellow flags and ruining those drivers’ final attempt at a better time.

Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel were the most affected as they were unable to move on to Q2 even as their teammates would go on to Q3. They drive for Alpine and Aston Martin, respectively, two freshly rebranded teams that have so far been hard to pin down in terms of car performance, so it may be some time before we have a sense of where they fall in the order.

In any case, the race tomorrow should prove an exciting one, if only because the unpredictability factor seems higher than ever. And if Honda has built a championship-winning engine, it should make the upcoming, three-year engine freeze truly interesting.