Lewis Hamilton edges closer to 100 poles after superb Bahrain quali lap

Newly crowned seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton edged ever closer to a scarcely believable 100 pole positions in Formula One after grabbing top slot for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s mark of 1m27.264s set a new lap record at the Sakhir circuit and meant it was an 11th front row lockout for the dominant Mercedes team in 2020.

Max Verstappen was his now customary third on the grid for Red Bull Racing, and he will start alongside his teammate Alex Albon on the second row. Sergio Perez furthered his credentials with an excellent fifth for Racing Point ahead of the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon as Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten.

“I just continue to be amazed by my guys who work so hard weekend in, weekend out,” said Hamilton after his latest landmark. “Whatever this season has thrown at us, it’s been a tough year and I appreciate them. To be out here in Bahrain and be able to put laps like that together, that’s definitely… I came here to have fun and enjoy. That’s the most important thing, to enjoy what you’re doing. And I think with the pressure a little bit off, it’s a bit of a release to go and drive like I did today.”

To all intents and purposes, it looks for all money like another 1-2 for Mercedes on race day. But Verstappen has proved time and again that he can challenge for race wins and split the Mercedes duo.

“My lap was pretty good, just lacking a bit of rear grip in the lower speed corners,” said Verstappen afterward. “Overall it was quite a decent qualifying, and let’s see how we will go tomorrow in the race because it’s very hard on tyres so In hope we made the right compromise for that.

“Tomorrow it will be hard to beat them (Mercedes) but we have different tyres available, so let’s see if that works to our advantage or not. I just hope it will be an exciting race, an that’s the most important.”

It will be a tough ask indeed, as the supremely confident Hamilton is now gunning for his 95th race win in Formula One. And even he admitted that he could have found even more pace out there.

“I am on the ragged edge, naturally, and it’s all about trying to find that perfect balance,” added Hamilton. “You want to take quite a lot on the way in and keep the exit. You want your cake and eat it! So it’s about chipping away at it during the lap. I think the lap started off really well, probably lost a little bit of time in Turn 1 and underperformed a little bit towards the Apex.

“Six was a little bit slower, probably could have gone a little bit better there. There’s always just a little bit here and there but the next lap perhaps I’ll improve there and lose somewhere else. Otherwise, it was a very clean lap. I generally stayed around two tenths up, so was very happy with it.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.