In only his second race for Ferrari, the young driver from Monaco put his car on pole, to beat Vettel by nearly a third of a second as the Italian team issued the perfect response to their troubles in Melbourne.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) March 30, 2019
Mercedes ripped up the testing form book to dominate in Melbourne a fortnight ago but the silver cars were handed a thrashing under the lamps that light up this Sakhir circuit.
Yet, it was the performance of Leclerc who, aged just 21 years and five months, and in only his second season in F1, delivered a message of intent to elder statesman team-mate, Vettel.
Leclerc was not allowed to pass the four-time world champion in the closing stages of the season-opening race due to the German's de facto number one status.
But the Ferrari hierarchy will surely be forced into a rethink given the impressive nature of Leclerc's showing here.
Vettel, limited to just one shot at pole after making a mistake in the second phase of qualifying, will be alarmed.
So, too, will Hamilton and Mercedes as they could have been forgiven for leaving the first race with their sights set on a record-equalling sixth consecutive constructors' championship.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) March 30, 2019
Now they know they are in a fight, with Ferrari matching McLaren and Williams with their 62nd front-row lockout.
Max Verstappen qualified fifth for Red Bull, while a rejuvenated McLaren managed to get both of their cars into Q3 for the first time since Malaysia 2017, with Carlos Sainz to line up sixth and British teenager Lando Norris 10th.
Williams are a team in deep crisis, and they will occupy the last row. British novice George Russell and Robert Kubica were an eye-watering 1.5 sec slower than the next car.