“How hard is it to take set that hot lap here in the desert,” asked Paul di Resta to the Ferrari driver with car number 16.
And in came an answer that echoed a quiet sense of confidence and grace akin to a paratrooper returning from a battlefield.
“It’s extremely hard because Seb is an amazing driver and I’ve learnt a lot from him but today was a good day. Now I work hard for the race win!”
With these graceful words, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc warmed up to a bit of history as he clinched the pole position for the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix.
In so doing he became the second youngest driver ever in the history of the sport to become pole-sitter.
Leclerc keeps his cool in the desert
Additionally, he also became the first-ever driver from Monaco to clinch pole position here at Sakhir, the home of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
It was a bit of history all around for the new Ferrari recruit because it was back in 2017 where he had clinched pole for Formula 2 but had managed third in the race.
From this perspective, Ferrari fans would certainly hope that Sunday’s race result bears no similarity whatsoever to Leclerc’s 2017 exploits.
But all said and done, it won’t be incorrect to state that on March 30, 2019, as Leclerc, among the youngest and fastest drivers on the grid stormed to the pole in the desert, a thought went out to Jules Bianchi.
A thought goes out to the late Jules
One makes no bones in admitting that had the Frenchman been around, he would’ve been perhaps in tears or filled with immense joy for a man he helped train and nurture.
And it’s none other than pole-sitter Charles Leclerc.
With Leclerc on pole, how did the other Ferrari perform?
But as Charles Leclerc topped the table in the qualifying, setting a new track record at 1.27.866 and in the process beating his Ferrari teammate, Sebastian Vettel held on to a fighting second.
The German would set a 1:28:160 and in so doing completed a front row lockout for the Scuderia.
But why was this front row lockout important for Ferrari?
With Charles Leclerc on pole and Sebastian going second, respectively on the grid for the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Ferrari too, scaled a bit of fascinating history.
This was the 62nd occasion where the Scuderia stable ensured a front row lockout start for a Grand Prix. Their current feat sees them tied with the likes of McLaren and Williams.
That told, how did the Mercedes drivers fare at the qualifying?
Following the show-stopping performance by Ferrari, who seem to have immediately responded to a frail show at Melbourne, Hamilton and Bottas ensured a third and fourth-fastest slot on the grid.
In so doing, the five-time world champion, who also happens to be the defending champion for the 2019 season, Lewis Hamilton, clocked a 1:28:190, the front of her Silver Arrows machine just parked behind the rear of Vettel’s Ferrari.
No surprises then why Hamilton echoed a quiet sense of confidence, despite the Ferrari blow rendered to both Mercedes’ that, “we will try to beat them and being fastest doesn’t mean that they can’t be beaten,” when interacting with Paul di Resta.
The Briton was closely followed by teammate Valtteri Bottas, who trailed Lewis by a margin as dainty as six-hundredths of a second; the gap between third-placed Hamilton and Bottas being as low as 0.066 seconds.
Max rests on 5th at the Bahrain GP qualifying as others follow
While Verstappen, fresh from a P3 at Australia’s Albert Park, in the season-opener was comfortably stacked at a rather sedate P5, a slew of dynamic performers followed his Red Bull.
Leading the array of final five including the top ten on the grid was Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, inarguably, the faster of the two Haas drivers. He would go at a smashing 1:28:757, his personal best of the three qualifying runs.
He’d ensure that his quick pace on the softer compounds would ensure that McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr., who did seem struggling during the initial few minutes of the qualifying run would follow in on seventh at 1:28:813.
Then came the other Haas of Romain Grosjean, among the most improved drivers during the qualifying runs, and someone who failed to score a point at Australia.
Kimi struggles but makes the cut somehow
One of the only three drivers among the top ten who recorded time into the 1:29’s, the Frenchman went fast but not fast enough to avoid a P8 at 1:29:015. Following him was Kimi Raikkonen in his Alfa Romeo, the Finn constantly struggling throughout the three qualifying runs but luckily doing just enough to scamper home on ninth courtesy his 1:29:022, although comfortably 2 seconds off the leader of the pack.
To complete the final position on the grid was McLaren’s other driver, rookie Lando Norris, who until the second qualifying was much higher up than both Raikkonen and his own teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr.
Norris would set a 1:29:043 in his very first run at Bahrain.
Charles Leclerc stands on the cusp of history
But on Sunday, all eyes would be on Charles Leclerc, all of 21. Someone who’ll be competing against vastly experienced drivers, titans in their own right if you may, it’ll be interesting to see how well can the young Ferrari rookie can hold onto his own against two supremely capable men who’ll be in hot pursuit of the aggressively quick Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.
Notable drivers missing the final qualifying run and hence start outside the Top-10?
Daniel Ricciardo- Renault
Nico Hulkenberg- Renault