Bahrain Grand Prix: Ferrari's Charles Leclerc takes maiden pole position

Bahrain GP qualifying - 1 Charles Leclerc, 2 Sebastian Vettel, 3, Lewis Hamilton
Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix is live on 5 live Sports Extra and the BBC Sport website from 16:10 BST

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc beat team-mate Sebastian Vettel to take his maiden pole position at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Monegasque, 21, beat the four-time world champion by 0.294 seconds as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas took third and fourth for Mercedes.

Leclerc was fastest in all three parts of qualifying, a powerful statement of intent.

Hamilton was 0.324secs behind, pipping Bottas by just 0.66secs.

Leclerc said: "I am truly happy. In the last race I was not satisfied with my qualifying and I worked really hard to do better.

"Seb is an amazing driver and I have learned a lot from him and I will learn from him all year. But today is a good day for me."

Vettel, who had only one run in final qualifying, said: "Charles did a very good job today and he deserves to be on pole. I felt happy with my only run and we are in a good place for the race."

Leclerc delivers on potential

Leclerc's switch to Ferrari this year, as a replacement for Kimi Raikkonen, was highly anticipated as he has talent in abundance.

He qualified fifth for his first race two weeks ago but finished it on Vettel's tail and had to be told to back off by the team to protect their positions in the closing stages.

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said on Friday that Leclerc was free to lead the race and stay there, so their new driver has a great opportunity to take his first win on Sunday if he can convert pole into a lead at the start.

It remains to be seen whether Ferrari really will carry through on their commitment to let the drivers race, but with this performance Leclerc has confirmed his huge potential.

He has looked quicker than Vettel for much of the weekend and was ahead throughout qualifying.

Vettel actually made a mistake in the second session on his first lap, forcing him to have to take a second set of tyres for a second lap to ensure he progressed.

That left him with only one run in the top-10 shootout. By the time Vettel went out, Leclerc had already taken provisional pole, and after the German completed his sole lap, Leclerc rubbed salt into his wounds by going quicker again.

Leclerc said: "A lot of emotions but I am trying to stay as cool as possible because there are no points for pole position. It has been a great weekend for us but now we have to focus on the race and do the best race possible."

Max Verstappen during the Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying session
Sparks fly when F1 cars jostle for position at Sakhir

Ferrari come good

Ferrari struggled at the opening race of the season but have dominated in Bahrain after analysing what went wrong.

Vettel said: "We are both much happier with the car this weekend. The credit goes to the team.

"They have done very hard work trying to understand we were not happy what the car in Melbourne but we came here and proved we are capable of fighting at the front and for pole and locking out the front row is a great testament to their work."

Hamilton said: "Ferrari have been incredibly strong. I couldn't have done Charles' time. We have some work to do."

Red Bull adrift of the top

Red Bull's Max Verstappen was fifth but the Dutchman was a massive 0.886s off the pace, while his team-mate Pierre Gasly did not even make it into the top 10, ending up 13th as both drivers struggled with balance throughout.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen was sixth, ahead of the impressive McLaren of Carlos Sainz, whose rookie team-mate Lando Norris made it into the shootout for the second race in a row.

Norris will start from ninth on the grid after Haas's Romain Grosjean - who initially qualified eighth - received a three-place grid penalty for impeding the Briton in Turn 14 during the first segment of qualifying.

Race stewards ruled the Frenchman was "driving unnecessarily slowly" on the racing line, although they accepted that he did not "intentionally intend to impede" cars behind.

Grosjean's penalty also elevated Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen to ninth place while Daniel Ricciardo improved to 10th for Renault,

Both Ricciardo and team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, who was 17th, were affected by engine mapping issues. They prevented the German moving beyond first qualifying while Ricciardo felt it cost him a place in the Q3 shootout.

Twelfth place went to Toro Rosso's Anglo-Thai rookie Alexander Albon, who, thanks in part to Gasly's struggles, ensured Red Bull's junior team outqualified at least one of the cars from the senior outfit.

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Sebastian Vettel 2008
Charles Leclerc is now the second-youngest F1 pole-sitter of all time. His Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel holds the record, which he set at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. Vettel, then at Toro Rosso, was 21 years, two months and 11 days old - around three months younger than Leclerc is now - when he achieved the feat at Monza
Bahrain Grand Prix
The two faces of the Bahrain Grand Prix - searingly hot by day...
George Russell
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