SAKIR, Bahrain—Max Verstappen picked up where he left off a few months ago. as the Dutchman took his 21st career pole on his father’s Jos 51st birthday by recording a time of 1:29:708 Saturday evening in preparation for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakir International Circuit.

Sergio Perez finished in second, to highlight a Red Bull 1-2, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took third.

Verstappen managed to succeed in obtaining the quickest time of the evening following Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Leclerc who took the first two sessions. Verstappen had been struggling all weekend, but when it all came down to when it counted, the double world champion proved that he is still in front of the grid.

Verstappen's 21st Pole in Bahrain just happened to occur on his father's 51st birthday. Reuters photo

"It's been a bit of a tough start to the weekend yesterday and today, not really finding my rhythm," he said. "But luckily in qualifying we managed to put the pieces together.

I was positively surprised to be on pole after the struggles we had in practice."

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly showed that he needed to improve on his first drive in his new car, as the Frenchman and Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen, McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri, and other first year drivers, Alpha Tauri’s Nyck de Vries and Williams Logan Sargeant were out in the first session. Following them were the second McLaren of Lando Norris, the Alfa Romeo duo of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas, Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Williams Alex Albon, who also failed to make it to the final session.

Fernando Alonso had been in the running all weekend long, but the new Aston Martin driver ended up in fifth, while the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton showed some promise, but finished in sixth and seventh, respectively. Lance Stroll put a second Aston Martin in the top ten by placing in eighth, and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Haas F1’s Nico Hulkenberg were ninth and tenth.

The only event that happened all night was Leclerc’s Ferrari which lost a piece of carbon fibre in the opening session on the main straightaway, causing a ten-minute delay.

By Mark Gero

Lewis Hamilton had a brief moment in first during qualifying but dropped down to seventh behind teammate George Russell. Getty Images photo