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Verstappen claims pole for Bahrain GP

Mark Thompson / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Max Verstappen will start his title defense from a familiar position.

The Red Bull star secured pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday for the 34th pole of his career and third straight at the circuit.

"Very happy to be on pole. To be honest, it was a little bit unexpected," Verstappen said of qualifying.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc starts second, while Mercedes' George Russell will open the race third on the grid.

"I'm a bit disappointed," Leclerc said of missing pole position. "We are in a better place than a year ago but need to see our race pace tomorrow."

After finishing a disappointing eighth in the drivers' standings in 2023, Russell has gotten off to a strong start in Bahrain and believes Mercedes is in a better place to start this season compared to last.

"Starting P3 tomorrow is a great place," Russell said.

"I think it will be a close race between everybody, other than Max. Red Bull is so strong at the moment ... I think the race for all of us is for second."

Verstappen won the 2023 Bahrain GP ahead of Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso.

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