Max Verstappen took the first pole of the 2024 Formula 1 season, beating Charles Leclerc by 0.228s to book his place at the front of the Bahrain Grand Prix grid.

The reigning champion had taken a back seat during the opening two stages of qualifying but, when it came down to Q3, he set a demanding benchmark of 1m29.421s - and then beat his own effort amid the final runs to settle on a 1m29.179s.

This was slower than Leclerc's time from Q2, but the Monegasque was unable to replicate that effort in the final runs of the Q3 session, and could only manage a 1m29.407s as Verstappen claimed the best first sector time by two tenths.

George Russell overcame a brief scare in Q2, where he straddled the elimination zone, to find form in Q3 and worked his way up to third on the grid with a 1m29.485s.

Although Russell was placed under investigation for exceeding the maximum delta time in Q1, no further action was taken and he should hence retain his position on the second row in Saturday's race.

This put him ahead of Carlos Sainz, as the Spaniard looked rapid in Q1 but was unable to retain a similar advantage over his Ferrari team-mate Leclerc. Regardless, he will start ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez, as the Mexican moved up to fifth late on in the Q3 session.

Fernando Alonso will start from sixth, having only completed one lap in Q3 after electing to run in the gap. This lap put him third among the initial runs, but he fell back as the majority of the top 10 improved in their second efforts.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri locked out the fourth row for McLaren, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was unable to deliver on the pace he'd shown earlier in the weekend and looked out of sorts compared to team-mate Russell.

Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10, although could not replicate or improve upon the time he had set in Q2.

Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll were dumped out of a potential Q3 by late laps by Russell and Hamilton, who delivered under the pressure of needing to find a lap on the second attempt having been stuck in the bottom five.

With minor gaps between the drivers on either side of the progression line, the end of Q2 played host to a series of improvements as the timing board resembled a slot machine in the latter stages.

Although the likes of Tsunoda, Stroll, and Alex Albon all had moments within the top 10, further improvements - including Leclerc's ride to the top of the order and Hulkenberg's journey into sixth - shuffled them down the order.

Russell had slid into the drop zone alongside Hamilton, but the younger Briton captured sixth and the elder foisted his way up to fourth to save Mercedes' pit wall from awkward collar tugs.

Daniel Ricciardo dropped out behind Albon, as Kevin Magnussen could not join his Haas team-mate Magnussen in the top 10.

Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu had both hauled their Saubers out of the Q1 drop zone after their second runs, but soon drifted back into the bottom five when other drivers on the cusp of elimination had improved.

This also cost Logan Sargeant who had been 12th after the initial runs, but the American could not improve on his final tour and fell to 18th.

Alpine continued to endure the early woes forecast after testing, with both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly rooted to the bottom of the timesheets throughout the session - with Gasly the only driver outside of a second's gap to Carlos Sainz's Q1 headline time.

Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Laps Time Interval km/h
1 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 Red Bull Red Bull 6

1'29.179

  218.472
2 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 Ferrari Ferrari 6

+0.228

1'29.407

0.228 217.915
3 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes 6

+0.306

1'29.485

0.078 217.725
4 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 Ferrari Ferrari 6

+0.328

1'29.507

0.022 217.672
5 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 Red Bull Red Bull 6

+0.358

1'29.537

0.030 217.599
6 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 Aston Martin Mercedes 3

+0.363

1'29.542

0.005 217.587
7 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 McLaren Mercedes 6

+0.435

1'29.614

0.072 217.412
8 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes 6

+0.504

1'29.683

0.069 217.245
9 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 Mercedes Mercedes 6

+0.531

1'29.710

0.027 217.179
10 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 Haas Ferrari 6

+1.323

1'30.502

0.792 215.279