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Bahrain FP3 and Qualifying Recap

During Free Practice 3, teams made their final adjustments and tweaks to fine-tune their cars before the intense qualifying session that would determine Saturday's Grand Prix grid. Carlos Sainz led the pack at the end of FP3, with fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso close behind in second and Max Verstappen in third.


As the session concluded, the time for speculation and posturing came to an end. It was now time for the teams to reveal their true capabilities on the track. Questions loomed: Had Red Bull been holding back their pace? Were Mercedes pushing their engines to the limit in the earlier sessions? Would we witness a repeat of the thrilling battles from 2021? The answers would soon unfold with the commencement of the qualifying session, where teams shed their restraint and unleashed their full potential.


Qualifying commenced with surprises as both Alpines, both Saubers, and Williams' Logan Sargeant failed to progress beyond Q1. Q2 saw the unexpected elimination of both RB’s, despite their strong form in practice. Kevin Magnussen, Lance Stroll, and Alexander Albon also faced disappointment as they were knocked out in Q2.


Hamilton had been struggling throughout qualifying thus far. He was in the relegation zone in Q1 until a lap in the closing stages pushed him through to Q2. The Ferrari’s both looked strong. Max seemed to have finally come to grips with the RB-20. Both McLaren’s showed pace and Fernando Alonso was hustling his Aston Martin around the track. Nico Hulkenberg continued his strong qualifying form, dragging the tire-eating Haas into Q3.


The climax of the qualifying session, Q3, delivered intense excitement. Max Verstappen led the first runs, with the top five drivers separated by less than 0.30 seconds. However, Hamilton trailed by over a second, with Hulkenberg and Piastri following closely.  Fernando waited for the first runs to complete and decided he wanted the track all to himself, running out of sequence to complete only one run in Q3. When he finished his only lap of Q3, he had gone purple in sector 2 and finished 0.121 seconds away from Max in P3.


As the final runs unfolded, the grid began to take shape. Verstappen secured pole position, followed by Leclerc and an unexpected George Russell in a Mercedes, outpacing his teammate Hamilton. Sainz claimed fourth, with Perez in fifth. Despite his efforts, Alonso settled for sixth, while the McLaren duo of Norris and Piastri followed in seventh and eighth positions. Hamilton, finishing ninth, expressed frustration, attributing their qualifying compromise to prioritize race pace for the Grand Prix.


With the dust settled and uncertainties cleared, the grid positions for the season opener were firmly set. Now, teams eagerly await race day, poised to embark on the pursuit of championship points.

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