Max Verstappen shone under the lights to take the first pole position of the season, his first back-to-back pole in his career.
What looked to be a dramatic showdown between Mercedes and Red Bull did not disappoint, both teams swapping places at the top of the time sheets all session.
After running wide on the penultimate corner in (Q1), a piece of carbon fibre came loose on Verstappen’s car, causing doubt as to whether the car would suffer as a result.
However, the Flying Dutchman took the fastest time by almost four tenths of a second, clinching pole and will also have the advantage of starting on the mediums, having set his fastest time on the compounds in (Q2).
Max Verstappen is the first non-Mercedes driver to take pole on F1’s opening weekend since Sebastian Vettel in 2013.
Lewis Hamilton had to eventually settle for second alongside Valterri Bottas who starts third.
Interestingly, if Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas finish on the podium together, they will be tie the record for most appearances on the podium as a trio (14), currently held by Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel.
The other superstars of qualifying were Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly who qualified in fourth and fifth respectively. Importantly, the Alpha Tauri driver will start the race on the medium tyres giving him a massive advantage on a track known for high degradation. Additionally, the Scuderia will see this as a sign of improvement and a turn of fortune for the coming season.
Daniel Ricciardo impressed on his first outing in McLaren in sixth, outqualifying his teammate Lando Norris in seventh. Carlos Sainz, who set the fastest time of (Q2) failed to improve on his first run and will line up in eight.
Fernando Alonso reached (Q3) for the first time since Monaco ’18 – a fantastic achievement for the returning two-time world champion. Alonso’s teammate Esteban Ocon failed to escape (Q1) in 16th. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin rounded out the top ten.
Sergio Perez failed to reach (Q3) and will start in 11th, but importantly with a free tyre choice for tomorrow’s race. Other notable mentions should include an improved Alfa Romeo who finished a respectable twelfth with Antonio Giovinazzi and 12th with Kimi Raikkonen 14th.
Sebastian Vettel had a difficult first outing for his new team Aston Martin going out in 18th place, Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda, the 20-year-old at his first F1 meeting put in a good run with 13th for AlphaTauri. George Russell was 15th for Williams, with his teammate Nicholas Latifi 17th.
Mick Schumacher, the 22-year-old son of seven-time world champion Michael, acquitted himself well on his F1 debut, keeping it clean in a very uncompetitive Haas. He was in 19th place, beating teammate Nikita Mazepin into 20th, who brought out multiple yellow flags in (Q1).