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Dominant Verstappen Takes Red Bull’s 100th F1 Pole

  • SPORT
  • 3 min read

Triple world champion Max Verstappen won Formula One’s first sprint of the season and then secured Red Bull’s landmark 100th pole position after dominating qualifying for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

The pole was the Dutch driver’s fifth in five races this season and sixth in a row including last year’s Abu Dhabi finale.

Mexican team mate Sergio Perez qualified second fastest in a front row lockout for Red Bull, 15 years after the team took their first win at the Shanghai International Circuit with Sebastian Vettel.

Verstappen, who beat old rival Lewis Hamilton by 13 seconds in the morning sprint, was the first driver since double world champion Mika Hakkinen in 1999 to start a season with five successive poles.

“I think after the sprint race it gave us a few more ideas for the car and I think the car worked even better in qualifying now… The car was really nice to drive,” said the 26-year-old.

“That final lap felt pretty decent and (I’m) also very happy to drive here in the dry. The conditions were pretty good so it was a lot of fun.”

Verstappen’s pole time of one minute 33.660 seconds was 0.322 quicker than Perez, who came close to being knocked out in the very first phase when he hit traffic.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lando Norris shared the second row but Mercedes seven-times world champion Hamilton went out in the first phase after making changes to the car and will start 18th.

DIFFERENT LEAGUE

“I’ll give it my best shot,” Hamilton, winner a record six times in China, said of his prospects for the race. “18th is pretty bad. When I was making the setup changes I was like ‘It can’t get any worse, surely?’ and it did.”00:12Artistic swimmers promote Paris 2024 in London

Norris had been on pole for the earlier sprint but went wide at the start and ended up only sixth. Sunday’s race gives him another chance for solid points.

“I’m very happy. It was close with Fernando. Not a lot more I could ask for,” said the Briton.

“The Red Bull is clearly in a different league this weekend both in qualifying and race pace.”

Alonso’s third was a strong reply to his retirement in the sprint, when stewards also handed him three penalty points for a clash with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz when they were battling for third place.

“I had a moment in Turns One and Two and I was thinking about whether to abort or not, but we kept going and I set a good lap time. The car improved since this morning and we made a few changes,” said the double champion.

Australian team mate Oscar Piastri will line up fifth on the grid with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sainz sixth and seventh.

Sainz brought out the red flags 6.44 seconds from the end of the second phase of qualifying when he went onto the gravel, spun and crashed at the final turn.

The Spaniard managed to keep the engine running and returned to the pits, where Ferrari were able to change the tyres and front wing and send him back out to set the third-fastest lap and qualify for the top 10 shootout.

Hamilton’s team mate George Russell qualified eighth with Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg ninth and Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas completing the top 10.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo qualified 12th, his best performance of the season, with Japanese RB team mate Yuki Tsunoda trailing in 19th.

Sunday’s race will be the first in China since 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reuters