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Verstappen: Red Bull continuous gains key to beating Ferrari to Bahrain F1 pole

Bahrain Grand Prix polesitter Max Verstappen says Red Bull's continual improvements to its RB20 Formula 1 car rather than a sudden performance breakthrough yielded the fastest time in qualifying.

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Although Red Bull had been predicted to resume its 2023 dominance after testing, Verstappen had not headlined any of the sessions leading up to the final stage of qualifying as Ferrari and Mercedes largely took the limelight.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc headed Q1 and Q2 respectively, but the Ferrari duo could not beat Verstappen in the top 10 shootout - although Leclerc's Q2 lap had been faster than the Dutchman's pole time.
Verstappen says that the circuit conditions had ensured that Red Bull had its work cut out pulling together a good set-up for qualifying, but incremental improvements throughout Thursday and Friday were the key to the team's build-up to pole.
"I think if you look at the weekend so far, it didn't come easily to us," Verstappen explained. 
"Testing was very good, but then it was very windy so far this weekend and it was just, I think, a bit more difficult to get the balance of the car together.  
"It was just continuous work all the way to qualifying, and I do think that we made some good improvements over the car, and I think that made us then do the lap for pole."
Asked where the leap in time over qualifying had come from, Verstappen could not pinpoint a particular reason and stated, "I just had a bit more grip somehow. On the first run, it just didn't really feel that great and the car never really switched on."
Sparks fly from Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Sparks fly from Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The three-time champion reckoned that the 0.3s gap masked the closeness of the first qualifying session of 2024, and that it had not been clear who was going to secure pole position for the season opener.
He added that the breezy conditions present around the Sakhir circuit had ensured that it was tricky to stitch a cohesive lap together and that it placed greater value on gaining time in the corners.
"I think it was just a very tight qualifying, and with very tricky conditions with the wind. If you can get the la- together, maybe you can find one, one-and-a-half tenths in one corner," he said. 
"It was good for us in Q2, Q3, especially in Q3, I would say as we just improved a little bit more. I think throughout the whole qualifying, you can see the gaps were super close, and we never really knew who was going to be on pole heading into Q3.
"That was very exciting to see."

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