Ferrari secured a 1-2 on the grid as four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel qualified in second place. Defending champion Lewis Hamilton was third, ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
After the disappointment of the season-opening Australian GP two weeks ago, Ferrari has looked in ominous form with its drivers finishing 1-2 in all three practices sessions and throughout qualifying.
Leclerc carried the day, even surpassing his own leading time on his last lap to set a new record in Bahrain of 1 minute, 27.866 seconds on the 5.4-kilometer (3.3-mile) circuit. Now he is well poised for the first win of a career progressing as quickly and smoothly as his driving. He impressed last year with the Alfa Romeo Sauber team in his debut season, with 10 top-10 finishes and a best result of sixth in one of the grid's least competitive cars.
Qualifying started at 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) and mirrored cool race conditions for Sunday evening's race, which finishes with floodlights illuminating the desert track. Bottas won in Australia ahead of Hamilton , where Vettel finished fourth and Leclerc fifth in Melbourne.
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