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Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton targets race-day charge despite disappointing ninth

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton reacts following the qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir
Lewis Hamilton will start Saturday's Bahrain Grand Prix in ninth - PA/David Davies

Lewis Hamilton said he had set his car up for “race pace rather than qualifying pace” as he took a “disappointing” ninth place on the grid for Saturday’s season opener in Bahrain.

The seven-time world champion, who had gone fastest in practice on Thursday, was actually only two tenths of a second slower than team-mate George Russell. But that equated to six places on the grid, showing how tight it is in the chasing pack behind Max Verstappen.

Red Bull’s triple world champion, as expected, took pole position, temporarily taking the spotlight off his beleaguered team principal Christian Horner.

But he had to fight for it. Second placed Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) was only two tenths slower than Verstappen. And Leclerc’s Q2 time would have been good enough for pole.

Russell was one tenth slower than Leclerc. In fact, the top eight were separated by just 0.504sec. Last year that gap was more than double that, which was encouraging.

Hamilton, in ninth, said he had “veered in a different direction” to his team-mate post-Thursday practice, gambling on better race pace.

Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Max Verstappen took his 33rd pole, this time at the Bahrain Grand Prix - Getty Images/Mark Thompson

“Yesterday [Thursday] George and I had identical car setups and we veered off in different directions,” the 39-year-old said. “He went one way and I went the other.

“You could say the one I was on was not good on a single lap but I hope it is good in the race. I changed the car to make the race pace better but we will see tomorrow if that is the case.”

Hamilton added: “The car is really fantastic, and a big improvement from previous years. It is stable and more fun to drive. For George to be three tenths off Max is incredible and it shows what is possible.

“I am a lot more excited. For the first qualifying session to be as poor as that when you put in so much preparation is disappointing but that is racing. But in terms of the season to know we have a package that we can potentially fight with is amazing.”

Russell was not so sure they would be fighting with the Red Bull on Saturday, predicting his car could be as much as a second a lap slower.

Verstappen, sitting next to him in the press conference, raised a quizzical eyebrow. “A second?” asked the Dutchman.

“Is that too little?” joked Russell.

“Too much I think,” replied Verstappen. But maybe if you say that now, then tomorrow it’s better for you?”

Russell smiled. “Under-promise, over-deliver,” he said.


Verstappen beats Leclerc to Bahrain GP pole, as it happened


05:40 PM GMT

Lewis Hamilton speaks

It was not the greatest of feelings but I was generally really excited... I’m grateful to be here. George’s pace today is a real testament to the team to show how hard we’ve worked over the winter. For me Bono and everyone did a good job, I just struggled in general today.

He says they diverged on their set-ups and perhaps Russell’s set-up was better over one-lap and he hopes that it pays off tomorrow.

His team boss Toto Wolff says P3 is “okay”. “We thought we had a bit more pace. We put the car in the sweet spot for tomorrow race, this is at least what we hope.”


05:26 PM GMT

The top eight today separated by just 0.504sec

Last year that gap was more than double that. So there are some reasons for optimism. We should also not get too carried away one way or the other until we have seen what happens in the race. My suspicion is that Verstappen will win by 15 or more seconds, but you never know. Would be good to see how the Red Bull copes in traffic. It must have some weaknesses...


05:20 PM GMT

Think Verstappen obviously thought his lap wasn’t good enough for pole


05:15 PM GMT

The pace was there in the Ferrari

That is kind of encouraging though because Ferrari have prioritised finding race pace over their one-lap pace. Obviously we will find out how much that has changed tomorrow in the race.


05:14 PM GMT

George Russell on an encouraging third

Everybody at the factory have done an amazing job to give Lewis and I a car that we are happy with... when we look at our qualifying performance over the last two years and our race pace, starting Q3 is a [good place]. We’ve had some really great drivers back at base doing the work on the simulator... time will tell tomorrow if we’ve made a step forward... we hope we haven’t compromised the race pace tomorrow. I think it will be a close fight with everyone except Max. If there’s an opportunity to take the lead we will go for it... I think the race for everyone else is for second. Let’s hope for some craziness.


05:12 PM GMT

Leclerc reacts to his front row

Yeah I am a bit disappointed but we did a good qualifying. It’s been a tricky weekend until now... then I found the sweet spot in qualifying. Q1 was a bit tricky, unfortunately we put on two new sets of softs which compromised Q3. We are in a better place than a year ago, which is good, now we see [how the race pans out] tomorrow. It was there in the car, I think we lost a little bit the rhythm with the used set of C3 in Q3 and then you have to adapt from there. I am confident we did a step forward but we have to wait and see how much of a step forward we did. We really think that Red Bull is still ahead by quite a bit in the race but if there is an opportunity I will go for it.


05:11 PM GMT

Verstappen reacts to his first pole of the season

It was a lot of fun. The track had a lot of grip bit with the wind the last few days it has been quite tricky to get the lap together and it was the same in qualifying. Of course very happy to be on pole. To be honest it was a little bit unexpected but luckily in qualifying the car came to us a little bit. I said yesterday we needed to fine-tune a few things on the car to get the right balance. I think in the race it’s going to be close as well... we will see tomorrow. I am confident that we can have a strong race.


05:08 PM GMT

That’s not a good effort from Hamilton

Ninth. Only a couple of tenths off his team-mate but six places. That’s how tight it is in that pack behind Red Bull.

Of course, Verstappen taking pole does not bode well for those who want a more competitive season. The gap to the best non-Red Bull car is roughly what it was last year. It was Leclerc that time too, it’s just that his time he’s ahead of Perez and not behind him.


05:05 PM GMT

Q3 - Classification

  1. VER 1:29.179

  2. LEC +0.228

  3. RUS +0.306

  4. SAI +0.328

  5. PER +0.358

  6. ALO +0.363

  7. NOR +0.435

  8. PIA +0.504

  9. HAM +0.531

  10. HUL +1.323


05:03 PM GMT

MAX VERSTAPPEN TAKES POLE FOR THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX

Was it ever in doubt? Well, a little bit. Not a great deal in it but he found the lap time when it mattered - probably helped a little by that tow from Oscar Piastri as he started his final lap.

Six cars within 0.37sec is not too bad at all, though.


05:02 PM GMT

Q3 - Verstappen takes provisional pole

His advantage improves... it’s down to Leclerc and possibly Sainz... but neither of them look to be going well enough to dislodge the Red Bull man.


05:01 PM GMT

Q3 - Hulkenberg stays 10th

Russell with a so-so first sector. Verstappen fastest in the first sector. Russell 0.174sec off after two sectors so is unlikely to improve his time unless he’s really saving his tyres for the final sector. Verstappen is 0.243sec up on his previous best time after two sectors. Russell posts the best final sector to go third! Nice.


05:00 PM GMT

Q3 - Final runs under way

Piastri looking to improve from his 10th. He improves his effort in the first sector and is only 0.197sec off Verstappen after two sectors. He could move up into the top six here.

Norris posts the fastest middle sector...

Piastri improves to seventh and gives Verstappen a big tow at the end of the straight.

Norris then moves sixth to beat his team-mate.


04:59 PM GMT

Q3 - This is a good lap from Alonso

He’s on a par with the front row after two sectors. He loses a bit of time in the middle sector but is only 0.121sec off Verstappen on comparable tyres. That puts him third. Very good. Reminder that Stroll went out in Q2.

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso of Spain steers his car during qualification ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, March 1, 2024.
Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso of Spain steers his car during qualification ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, March 1, 2024.

04:56 PM GMT

Q3 - Order after the first runs

Alonso yet to set a time...

  1. VER 1:29.421

  2. LEC +0.059

  3. RUS +0.182

  4. SAI +0.187

  5. NOR +0.258

  6. PER +0.609

  7. HAM +1.024

  8. HUL +1.081

  9. PIA +1.230

  10. ALO (NO TIME)


04:55 PM GMT

Q3 - Leclerc goes second!

He’s only 0.059sec behind Verstappen, despite the tyre difference. Sainz with a tidy-ish lap, 0.187sec off Verstappen, but his lap was on new tyres too. Leclerc vs Verstappen, then? That’s how it was at the end of last season.

Russell had a bit of a moment at turn six and nearly spun.


04:54 PM GMT

Q3 - Russell posts a 1:26.603

Verstappen looks likely to beat that unless he messes up the middle sector... but of course he doesn’t! It’s only 0.182sec in it, though! Verstappen fastest so far.

Norris into third, 0.258sec behind Verstappen and that was on used tyres. It’s the Ferraris left here, both of them on used tyres. Hamilton over a second behind as it stands...


04:53 PM GMT

Q3 - Russell is on fresh soft tyres

But his first sector time is still just over a tenth slower than Verstappen... it’s a 38.5 for Russell in sector two but Verstappen posts a 38.361!


04:51 PM GMT

Q3 - Looks like it’s Ferrari vs Verstappen here

I doubt the Mercedes, McLarens or Aston Martins have the firepower to challenge the Red Bulls.


04:49 PM GMT

Q3 begins!

This is it, this is the proper stuff. Both McLarens go out on used softs, as does Perez.


04:49 PM GMT

Nico Hulkenberg is categorically one of the best qualifiers out there

He drags the Haas into Q3 yet again. Well done.

Haas F1 Team's German driver Nico Hulkenberg drives during the qualifying session of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 1, 2024
Haas F1 Team's German driver Nico Hulkenberg drives during the qualifying session of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 1, 2024

04:47 PM GMT

So, after some promise...

...it does not look all that close at the top. At least there were some hefty gaps in the top 10 in Q2.


04:43 PM GMT

Q2 - Classification

  1. LEC 1:29.165

  2. VER +0.209

  3. SAI +0.408

  4. HAM +0.553

  5. ALO +0.636

  6. HUL +0.686

  7. RUS +0.757

  8. PER +0.767

  9. NOR +0.776

  10. PIA +0.957
    ELIMINATED:

  11. TSU

  12. STR

  13. ALB

  14. RIC

  15. MAG

Tsunoda misses out by 0.007sec.


04:42 PM GMT

Q2 ends - Leclerc fastest

Hulkenberg is through!

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco steers his car during qualification ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, March 1, 2024
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco steers his car during qualification ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, March 1, 2024

04:42 PM GMT

Q2 - Alonso into third

Leclerc dislodges Verstappen at the top with a 1:29.165. Mercedes have both cars in the drop zone so can afford no mistakes here.

Think Verstappen has aborted his quick lap so we don’t get a true reference.

Russell goes sixth, so he is through to Q3 and Hamilton fourth quickest. That knocks Tsunoda and Stroll out...


04:41 PM GMT

Q2 - Albon tries to get into the top 10

He’s currently in 14th. Hulkenberg moves second, within half a second of Verstappen. All 15 drivers out there. Albon moves to eighth, Piastri sixth. Sainz posts the fastest middle sector but is still well of Verstappen. He improves to second, though! Two tenths off Verstappen.


04:39 PM GMT

Q2 - Final runs under way

Hamilton has found a bit of pace so far this Q2, at least relative to his team-mate.


04:38 PM GMT

Q2 - Magnussen lost his earlier lap because of this


04:37 PM GMT

Q2 - Four minutes remain

It is a hefty gap at the top but can anyone disrupt the Red Bulls on fresher tyres?


04:36 PM GMT

Q2 - Order and gaps after those first runs

  1. VER 1:29.374

  2. PER +0.558

  3. NOR +0.567

  4. LEC +0.720

  5. ALO +0.762

  6. HAM +0.989

  7. SAI +1.051

  8. PIA +1.250

  9. RUS +1.324

  10. STR +1.608
    DROP ZONE:

  11. HUL +1.623

  12. TSU +1.728

  13. RIC +1.752

  14. ALB +1.778

  15. MAG (NO TIME)


04:33 PM GMT

Q2 - Sainz cannot beat Norris, nor Alonso

Verstappen is on a mega lap, though and he goes nearly six-tenths faster than Norris, with Perez then slotting in second, only just beating Norris.

Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives during the qualifying session of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 1, 2024
Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen drives during the qualifying session of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 1, 2024

Norris did post his lap on used tyres, as did Leclerc. Before we get carried away and think that Verstappen is going to breeze it.


04:32 PM GMT

Q2 - Norris looking to post a tidy lap

Fastest in the first two sectors. Hulkenberg is the fastest of the two Haas drivers but then they are both beaten, comfortably by the two McLarens, of which Norris is the far, far quicker man: 0.683sec between himself and Piastri.

Alonso then splits the McLarens and gets within two-tenths of Norris.


04:28 PM GMT

Ocon essentially tells his team “it’s a long season”


04:28 PM GMT

Q2 - 14 minutes remain

A few drivers bailing out of their final runs so that gives a slightly distorted picture. Still the possibility that Verstappen is in a fight for pole position here. A bit of an off session for Hamilton there.


04:26 PM GMT

Q2 begins!

15 minutes, 10 drivers to go through and five to be eliminated.


04:22 PM GMT

Q1 - Classification

  1. SAI 1:29.909

  2. STR +0.056

  3. VER +0.122

  4. NOR +0.234

  5. ALO +0.270

  6. PER +0.312

  7. LEC +0.334

  8. RUS +0.441

  9. ALB +0.488

  10. HAM +0.542

  11. TSU +0.572

  12. PIA +0.622

  13. RIC +0.653

  14. HUL +0.657

  15. MAG +0.737
    ELIMINATED:

  16. BOT

  17. ZHO

  18. SAR

  19. OCO

  20. GAS


04:21 PM GMT

Q1 ends - Sainz fastest

Sargeant is also out. Albon, his team-mate, is through.


04:20 PM GMT

Q1 - Hamilton into 10th

That should see him through but it’s not exactly great...

The two Alpines are bringing up the field. Ferrari pit Leclerc so he saves some life on those new tyres. Can the Alpines improve?

Ocon does not... Gasly does not, either. They will start the race 19th and 20th tomorrow. Poor.


04:19 PM GMT

Q1 - Final runs being completed

Both RBs are in the drop zone. Tsunoda improves to ninth. What does team-mate Ricciardo do? He goes 11th... Hamilton now in the drop zone. Stroll improves from 18th to second. That shows the evolution of the track.

What does Hamilton do?


04:19 PM GMT

Q1 - Zhou is improving

He is in danger of going out and he gets very, very sideways in the final corner. He goes 11th but lost at least a couple of tenths there. Bottas in 17th now and improves to 11th. Hamilton down into 14th now... he cannot afford a mistake on his next lap.


04:18 PM GMT

Q1 - Sainz stays in the garage

He is the only one to do so. I think he is probably safe but he will not end the session fastest unless something strange happens.


04:17 PM GMT

Q1 - Lewis Hamilton onto a new set of soft tyres

He is not safe where he is in 12th, nearly 0.9sec off Sainz. I am not sure what happened in that lap, he is well off Russell, let alone Sainz.

Leclerc disagreeing with his team over something, presumably over them burning a new set of soft tyres. They appear to tell him that track will keep getting quicker in this session.


04:15 PM GMT

Q1 - Four minutes remain

Sargeant complains about Hamilton getting in his way.


04:14 PM GMT

Q1 - Top 10 as it stands

  1. SAI 1:29.909

  2. VER +0.122

  3. NOR +0.234

  4. ALO +0.270

  5. PER +0.312

  6. LEC +0.334

  7. RUS +0.441

  8. HUL +0.714

  9. ALB +0.783

  10. PIA +0.783

ZHO, BOT, MAG, OCO, GAS in the drop zone. Hamilton 12th.


04:13 PM GMT

Q1 - Sainz on a good lap

Fastest middle sector. Can he beat Verstappen? Yes, he can, by 0.122sec. It’s a 1:29.909. Four different cars in the top four!


04:12 PM GMT

Q1 - Lando Norris moves fastest by 0.480sec

Alonso just misses out to him by less than a tenth but Verstappen beats them both. Russell posts a good final sector to go fourth, 0.319sec off Verstappen... Hamilton posts a time that is really poor, nearly 0.8sec off Verstappen. All of these runs are on the soft tyres.


04:11 PM GMT

Q1 - Hulkenberg goes fastest

Albon second, Piastri third and Sargeant fourth. Haas have been showing some surprise pace the last day or so.


04:08 PM GMT

Q1 - Verstappen not happy at being stuck in the queue in the pit lane

He wants to drive past them as we see a replay of Gasly losing his lap time for going over the track limits.


04:07 PM GMT

Q1 - Gasly has his lap time deleted

So he will have to go again. A few more drivers out there now, in fact the rest of them emerge.


04:05 PM GMT

Q1 - Last year’s pole time, for reference

Was a 1:29.708 by Max Verstappen. Not sure we will match that this year - it’s a little colder out there.

Sainz’s first lap is a 1:31.208 and Charles Leclerc is slower than his team-mate by just under a tenth. Ocon is an enormous 0.782sec off that reference point. That is a big gap.


04:03 PM GMT

Q1 - Two Ferrari drivers out on the mediums

As are the Alpine drivers, with the team not expecting them to get out of Q1. Ouch. Plenty of room for improvement, then.


04:01 PM GMT

GREEN LIGHT: Q1 is go!

18 minutes of it, 15 drivers progress to Q2 and five are eliminated.


03:58 PM GMT

Just a few minutes to go


03:52 PM GMT

Predictions?

Here is what I predicted the top eight would be before FP3 began:

  1. Verstappen

  2. Hamilton

  3. Leclerc

  4. Russell

  5. Perez

  6. Sainz

  7. Alonso

  8. Piastri


03:48 PM GMT

Another reminder about the schedule this weekend

It is slightly different to usual. Qualifying is at 4pm GMT today with the race at 3pm tomorrow. A similar (though slightly later) schedule with the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix next week in Jeddah.

Meanwhile, here’s a weather update:


03:43 PM GMT

20 minutes to go until we get under way

Which drivers and teams should we watch? All of them, really. I think most people expect to the grid to be in a couple of chunks. Red Bull and then the chasing pack of Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin. In what order? It is hard to say. It will probably change throughout the year, hopefully with Red Bull dropping back from such a dominant position out the front.

Behind them it will be RB (who look to have improved), Williams, Sauber, Alpine and Haas. Again, in what order?  Haas said they expected to be the slowest team here but have put in a couple of eye-catching laps.


03:35 PM GMT

A few wobbly rear wings out there in final practice


03:31 PM GMT

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur is speaking to Sky Sports about his team’s chances

We are starting in a better place than 12 months ago... we were struggling a lot in the race pace. If we want to score points on Sunday rather than Saturday. It’s a good base to develop the car. It’s much easier for them to feel the car, feel the balance that was a little unpredictable. But let’s see where we are in terms of pure performance.


03:20 PM GMT

A reminder of how the teams finished last season

  1. Red Bull 860pts

  2. Mercedes 409pts

  3. Ferrari 406pts

  4. McLaren 303pts

  5. Aston Martin 280pts

  6. Alpine 120pts

  7. Williams 28pts

  8. AlphaTauri (now RB) 25pts

  9. Alfa Romeo (now Sauber) 16pts

  10. Haas 12pts

Red Bull ended the season with more than the combined totals of Mercedes and Ferrari. Winning 21 of 22 races will do that...


03:15 PM GMT

Geri Horner arrives for Bahrain Grand Prix in apparent show of unity with husband Christian

Geri Horner has arrived in Bahrain ahead of the opening race of the Formula One season, in an apparent show of solidarity for her husband.

Christian Horner, her husband and boss of the Formula One racing team Red Bull, is facing intense scrutiny over leaked messages purportedly between him and a female employee.

Read more from Tom Cary in Bahrain here. 


03:13 PM GMT

Welcome back

Qualifying gets under way in about 50 minutes and we will be here with all the build-up and live updates from the session. Will it be this man on pole?

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing looks on in the Paddock prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing looks on in the Paddock prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain

I am going to plump for “yes”.


03:03 PM GMT

FP3 report: Sainz tops final practice

By Luke Slater

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finished final practice for Saturday’s Bahrain Grand Prix fastest ahead of compatriot Fernando Alonso.

Alonso’s Aston Martin was 0.141sec behind Sainz, with defending champion Max Verstappen just under a tenth of a second further back.

The second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was fourth with McLaren’s Lando Norris fifth and the lead Mercedes of George Russell sixth. His Ferrari-bound team-mate Lewis Hamilton was 12th, 0.628sec off the pace.

It is the third practice session of the weekend and none of them has been topped by a Red Bull driver. FP1 was led by Daniel Ricciardo whilst Lewis Hamilton was fastest in second practice on Thursday evening.

Qualifying gets under way at 4pm GMT.


01:49 PM GMT

That wraps our final practice coverage

Qualifying for the Bahrain GP begins at 4pm GMT so we will be back for all the build-up to that in a little over an hour.

In the meantime, here is the latest on Christian Horner, who may face a disrepute charge, from Tom Cary in Bahrain.


01:42 PM GMT

What to make of that?

Another interesting session, as they often are at this stage. All will be revealed in a few hours’ time and - as I have written many times before - I would be surprised if a Red Bull was not on the front row. It might now be less of a surprise of a non-Red Bull car takes pole position.


01:34 PM GMT

FP3 - Classification

  1. SAI 1:30.284

  2. ALO +0.141

  3. VER+0.238

  4. LEC +0.270

  5. NOR +0.294

  6. RUS +0.366

  7. PIA +0.386

  8. PER +0.424

  9. HUL +0.454

  10. STR +0.572

  11. RIC +0.625

  12. HAM +0.628

  13. TSU +0.807

  14. MAG +0.847

  15. ALB +1.141

  16. ZHO +1.176

  17. BOT +1.272

  18. OCO +1.300

  19. SAR +1.301

  20. GAS +1.558


01:32 PM GMT

FP3 ends - Sainz quickest

Then it’s Alonso, Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris and Russell. All within 0.366sec.


01:32 PM GMT

FP3 - Fair to say Alpine are in trouble

18th for Ocn and 20th for Gasly...

Bahrain Grand Prix - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - March 1, 2024 Alpine's Esteban Ocon during practice
Bahrain Grand Prix - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - March 1, 2024 Alpine's Esteban Ocon during practice

01:28 PM GMT

FP3 - Good lap from Sainz as we enter the final five minutes

His lap is 0.141sec up on his compatriot Fernando Alonso and fastest of anyone. Hulkenberg into the top 10 in the Haas and all of this makes me quite intrigued about how qualifying will pan out. Excited? Not quite and not yet. But there are just over 0.8sec that separates the top 12.

Leclerc on what is going to be his best lap of the day and it is good enough for fourth, 0.270sec off Sainz’s time.


01:23 PM GMT

FP3 - Hamilton runs wide, making a mistake

That means he is down in eighth, half a second behind Alonso.

Verstappen goes again but does not improve his lap time and stays second.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 01, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

01:19 PM GMT

FP3 - Stroll moves into third

0.334sec behind Verstappen, but Alonso beats them all, just under a tenth faster than Verstappen. That is perhaps a fairer comparison.

What can Norris do? It’s a good middle sector. He goes third, 0.153sec down on Alonso. Piastri then moves fourth, about a tenth behind.


01:17 PM GMT

FP3 - Verstappen now tops the timesheets

His 1:31.062 was 0.186sec faster than team-mate Perez. Alonso’s lap was set about 20 minutes ago.

14 minutes remain in the session. 


01:15 PM GMT

FP3 - The Red Bulls now have the soft tyres on

And Perez duly goes fastest but I think Verstappen is about to beat that. Track temperature hasn’t dropped a great deal since earlier, just a degree, but it will have rubbered in a little more.


01:14 PM GMT

Christian Horner shown speaking to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem

He returned to the pit wall soon after.


01:12 PM GMT

FP3 - 20 minutes remain

Verstappen down in 13th and Perez down in 19th. Tsunoda has moved up into fourth, just under 0.6sec off Alonso’s fastest time. Interesting to see a Haas up there again. Maybe they aren’t as bad as they were expecting? Their problem wasn’t one-lap pace last year, though.


01:04 PM GMT

FP3 - Fastest sectors

Probably best not to pay too much attention to what Red Bull are doing...


01:00 PM GMT

Lando Norris x Rallycross


12:59 PM GMT

FP3 - Top 10 at just under half-way

  1. ALO 1:31.582

  2. RUS +0.239

  3. LEC +0.443

  4. SAI +0.620

  5. STR +0.700

  6. MAG +0.858

  7. ALB +0.913

  8. NOR +1.029

  9. HAM +1.151

  10. RIC +1.190


12:56 PM GMT

FP3 - Alonso on a better lap, though...

He posts a 1:31.582sec in the Aston Martin to go 0.239sec ahead of Russell’s Mercedes.

Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR24 Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR24 Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain

Perez complains of bad upshifts for a second time this session.


12:53 PM GMT

FP3 - Russell on a good lap

He goes fastest by half a second over Lance Stroll... decent. Track temperature here is 32c, which is some way warmer than it will be in qualifying. Verstappen crosses the line and goes 10th, 1.4sec off Russell and about a tenth of a second ahead of team-mate Perez.


12:50 PM GMT

FP3 - Magnussen goes fastest in the Haas

0.237sec faster than Leclerc. Meanwhile, the two Red Bulls are circulating on the hard tyres. Perez moves seventh about a second off Magnussen.


12:48 PM GMT

FP3 - Just three drivers to have set a time

So here is how they stand:

  1. LEC 1:32.677

  2. HAM +0.056

  3. SAI +0.085


12:44 PM GMT

FP3 - 46 minutes remain

We finally have some other cars on track! Two Ferraris and two Saubers.


12:41 PM GMT

FP3 - It’s still just Hamilton out there

He is about to cross the line for his first timed lap and he does so with a 1:32.733 on the soft tyres.


12:37 PM GMT

FP3 - Hamilton is the first man on track

Good! He does not have any company yet...


12:33 PM GMT

FP3 - 57 mins remain

And nobody has ventured out of the pit lane yet... which is fairly normal behaviour in this session.


12:31 PM GMT

GREEN LIGHT: FP3 begins!

The final practice session before qualifying later today.


12:28 PM GMT

Right, time for the on-track action to do the talking

FP3 will get under way in the next few minutes...


12:24 PM GMT

Despite its low-ish placing in practice yesterday, the RB20 will be the car to beat

Former Jordan and Jaguar technical director and Telegraph Sport columnist Gary Anderson wrote about the distinctive design features during pre-season testing last week.

Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
The RB20 looks to be the class of the field - Getty Images/Eric Alonso

Click here to read this thoughts


12:16 PM GMT

Hamilton “shocked” by Mercedes pace in practice

[In] FP1, [we] were surprised. It was very, very windy this morning, so it was a really difficult session I think for everyone. The track was so different compared to [pre-season testing] last week. Otherwise it was feeling okay, but we didn’t really know where we stood on the C2 tyre, and then in this session, [with] the car, we made some improvements over the session.

Again I don’t understand, it’s a shock to see us where we are. We’ll take it for now but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to keep our heads down, keep working on the set-up. I think our long-run pace is nowhere near the Red Bulls, for example, and I think we were a lot closer so we’ve got some work to do there.

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes talks to the media in the Paddock during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes talks to the media in the Paddock during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

12:11 PM GMT

A reminder that the first two weekends have unusual schedules

Not that unusual but more that the whole “weekend” has been moved a day earlier. So yesterday we had first and second practice, today with have final practice and qualifying and tomorrow we have the Bahrain Grand Prix. That Thursday/Friday/Saturday set-up is the same for the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix next week, too.


12:09 PM GMT

How Christian Horner’s first day back in F1 as a ‘free’ man rapidly fell apart

Red Bull team principal began first practice in Bahrain looking poised but the day did not proceed to plan off or on the track. Ben Rumsby has the details on how Horner’s day panned out. 

Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner looks on from the pitwall during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Christian Horner on the pit wall during Thursday practice - Getty Images/Bryn Lennon

12:00 PM GMT

Who is driving for who this season?

Red Bull (Honda RBPT)

Max Verstappen (No 1) and Sergio Pérez (No 11)

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton (44) and George Russell (63)

Ferrari

Carlos Sainz (55) and Charles Leclerc (16)

Alpine (Renault)

Esteban Ocon (31) and Pierre Gasly (10)

McLaren (Mercedes)

Lando Norris (4) and Oscar Piastri (81)

Sauber (Ferrari)

Valtteri Bottas (77) and Guanyu Zhou (24)

Aston Martin (Mercedes)

Lance Stroll (18) and Fernando Alonso (14)

Haas (Ferrari)

Kevin Magnussen (20) and Nico Hulkenberg (27)

Visa Cash App RB (Honda RBPT)

Yuki Tsunoda (22) and Daniel Ricciardo (3)

Williams (Mercedes)

Alexander Albon (23) and Logan Sargeant (2)


11:55 AM GMT

Christian Horner’s career in F1


11:47 AM GMT

A reminder of the 2024 season calendar


11:39 AM GMT

Red Bull’s Christian Horner has arrived in the paddock ahead of FP3 and qualifying

Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner ahead of Practice 3 at the Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir.
Christian Horner has been in charge of Red Bull's F1 team for nearly two decades - PA/David Davies

11:37 AM GMT

Times after second practice yesterday

  1. HAM 1:30.374

  2. RUS +0.206

  3. ALO +0.286

  4. SAI +0.395

  5. PIA +0.410

  6. VER +0.477

  7. HUL +0.510

  8. STR +0.517

  9. LEC +0.739

  10. PER +0.741

  11. ALB +0.959

  12. RIC +1.142

  13. SAR +1.341

  14. MAG +1.390

  15. TSU +1.507

  16. GAS +1.577

  17. BOT +1.627

  18. OCO +1.653

  19. ZHO +1.674

  20. NOR +2.234


11:30 AM GMT

Qualifying day begins with Christian Horner still in the spotlight

Today marks the start of the real, meaningful action of the 2024 season. Of course, yesterday’s practice sessions are important and we learned a decent amount from them (some of it surprising, perhaps) but an actual competitive session when something is on the line (grid places) is when the teams have nowhere to hide. And indeed the drivers, too.

Yesterday’s second practice session saw Lewis Hamilton lead a Mercedes 1-2 with reigning champion and massive favourite for the title this year Max Verstappen nearly half a second off the pace in sixth. Now, come qualifying this evening I do not believe he will be that far away. In fact, it would be a surprise if he wasn’t on pole. What it does show, though, is that there is at least a little bit of doubt that the Red Bull might be dominant over one lap.

In fairness that was not the case last season after about the half-way point. In any case, Red Bull’s race pace simulations looked clearly ahead of the field and the races will be won on Sunday (apart from the first two, which take place on Saturday). But if the advantage is not quite so large and there are, perhaps, several cars between Verstappen and the leader, then it might not be quite as plain sailing. We can only hope...

Of course, the on-track action is looking increasingly like taking a back seat once again when it comes to the main talking points of the weekend. That has been Christian Horner’s position at Red Bull. The team principal was cleared of inappropriate behaviour in an independent report on Wednesday, but the story refuses to die.

On Thursday, during second practice there was “a leak of secret evidence from the investigation that cleared him of inappropriate behaviour towards a female colleague,” Telegraph Sport reported. Senior figures in the F1 paddock including the head of the FIA and the CEO of Formula One, as well as numerous journalists, received the e-mail from an anonymous sender.

In any case, the show must go on and that begins with third and final practice at 12.30pm GMT with qualifying at 4pm. We will be here for all of it and any other news and updates.

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