Ambient 25° Track 31° Humidity 45% Wind Gusty 14-24 kmh
Dusty, Dry and Toto the Terminator on screen as the sun dips down towards the horizon. Talking standard parts AGAIN and now it’s the main terms of Lewis’ contract that have been sorted out, and details have been booted to end of season. Wind is picking up as the sun sets.
Cooler than yesterday, tricky for teams but the race is where the temps will matter most. Vettel looked strong in P3, 2nd fastest. Arrivabene was pacing about in the pitlane but Ferrari was looking strong for Quali. Hamilton has never had pole here and its one of Rosberg’s better tracks. Cooler temps than yesterday complicated the job for Ferrari as they have had a harder time switching on tyres.
If you love showers of sparks then this was the Quali for you. On the other hand, if you don’t love political repression likely you’ll have to wait to see the show in Singapore as likely you’ve skipped this Grand Prix. Nonetheless, for those who can overlook the unsavory nature of the politics of the al-Khalifis, Q1 started unexpectedly with Raikkonen out the moment the lights went green sporting the Primes.
Lights glittered off the car as he kicked it round the track and sparks flew from the underside of the chassis as the titanium skid blocks torched the pavement under braking and at the bumpy bits. AS he completed his outlap the other runners began to emerge in short order and as they began to warm the tyres, all Primes save the Force India and Toro Rosso.
Kimi immediately denied us any sense of Ferrari’s pace as he had a massive lock up into T1, ruining his lap and his tyres in one spectacular go. T1 braking being key to setting up the lap properly. Forced to wait for the outlaps to continue all eyes were on the Mercedes as they hit the line and it was Rosberg with the early advantage, but with the stray Force India of Hulkenberg a fevered debate ensued behind the scenes as the top teams took account as to whether anyone would be safe on the Primes. Despite Lewis’ confidence he could do a better job the 2nd time round management decided discretion would be the better part of valor. As the time ticked off the focus was oddly on the top teams and they did not fail to disappoint
AS the 2 minute marker was cracked it was Vettel first throwing purples in a 1:34.919. His teammate picked it up for a 1:34.568 a notch as the Mercedes Men came round towards the line. First through was Rosberg in a 1:34.398 and then Lewis in a staggering 1:33.928.
At the back, the scrap for Q2 was being waged between Grosjean, Sainz, Verstappen, Maldonado, with Merhi and Stevens not yet having a realistic chance.
AS the checkers dropped it was Stevens on telly, Bernie having apparently forgiven them their sins, at least for the moment, and Stevens delivered in fine form, eclipsing Merhi for P18. It was Sainz first to cross the line and he jumped to P11. Maldonado failed to improve much and made P15 his temporary home but not for long as the dropping times imperiled Kvyat, who had slid into P15 with Sainz’ flyer. Verstappen was last to escape, into P14 dooming Kvyat to P16.
Alonso made Q2 as did Massa who had a bit of a diva moment yelling about traffic before he went P4.
Button broke his car on the outlap and the whole world got to see the start of a temper tantrum from Ron Dennis, before he remembered he was on telly.
Q2 was bereft of such drama at the front as from the off the runners were all on the Option tyre. IT was clear the times were going to tumble as the track cleaned up and rubbered in, but unlike the last session, it was a long wait before anyone hit the track. It wasn’t until the clock ticked past 12:00 that Perez decided to start some stuff. Rosberg followed him out and it was on. Unlike the last session the top teams were all looking for one and done, with Ferrari and Sauber electing to wait in the garage whilst Mercedes and the rest of the runners had their moment. Again it was Hamilton with the fastest time, a 1:32.669 as his teammate put in an oddly sedate 1:33.878, in what turned out to be a strategic move to have fresher tyres for the race start.
AS the pits filled up, the Ferarri’s exited the pitlane to take advantage of an absolutely clear track, with Vettel also being oddly slow, taking P3 to Raikkonens P2, but making the point clearly that it is Q3 that matters for grid position, it’s the tyres from Q2 that you have to start the race on.
The drop zone featured an underpowered Toro Rosso, 2 Force India’s and a helpless McLaren driven by Alonso. AS the checkers fell it was no surprise to see Alonso wind up P14 as Honda are not yet on it, but it was wunderkind Verstappen in P15, with constant complaints of now power from his ailing Renault engine. The Sauber duel was resolved in favor of Nasr, but it was fairly pointless as they wound up P12 and P13 respectively. It was Sainz with the miracle run, as he snatched P10 from Perez. Hulkenberg out did him, however as he put his Force India into Q3 for the first time since Monza last year, as Checo was relegated to the depths of P11 and his forward progress was halted. Grosjean snuck through, as did the oddly invisible Ricciardo.
The final qualifying session answered the question can Ferrari compete with Mercedes, but first there was a lot of running about on scrubbed tyres by all save Ricciardo, whose 1:33.85 on fresh Options was only barely bested by Hamilton, with a 1:33.522, a shot across the bow to Rosberg, Vettel and Raikkonen.
AS the cars sat in the pit lane getting fresh tyres, a new sense of excitement dawned as it seemed very possible that it was all to play for in the final run. When the clock dipped under the 3 minute mark it was Vettel leading the way and Hamilton bringing up the rear, as it was Lewis’ turn to be last out of the garage.
It was a long 2 minutes before Vettel got round for his go and as the top 10 came through one by one it was Lewis hitting the line with 27 seconds left and Vettel already 0.1s up on his first time. AS Vettel threw purples round the track he was first to finish with a 1:32.982 to go P1. Bottas followed up P2 and then was displaced by Rosberg, who failed to beat Vettel. Raikkonen went P4 and as Hamilton approached the terminally tricky T14/T15 complex the temporally disjunct announcers all howled with glee noting one mistake would be all it would take for Vettel to have his pole. It was to be a mistake that Lewis would not make, going across the line in a 1:32.571 and taking his first ever pole in Bahrain. It was also the first time that he had ever claimed 4 poles in a row, so perhaps he knows a bit more about negotiating then was first suspected, as the Terminator did seem to be a bit on the back foot at the pre-race interview he did. Rosberg admitted his strategy call did him in, as tyre saving did in his rhythm for his Q3 effort. Other notables were Hulkenberg in a magnificent P8 and Grosjean, P10. Bottas again outqualified Massa, and Ricciardo again will have his hands full getting past them and likely Hulkenberg too, given his less than stellar starts (it’s an Aussie thing).
Vettel and Raikkonen look like the cat amongst the pigeons, in an excellent position to mess with Mercedes and given their tyre management and pace in the free practices, it may very well be Ferrari’s race to lose tomorrow. The wildcard, as was seen in China, will be track temperature, as that will determine whether or not Ferrari can get the pace out of the Prime tyre they need to take advantage of what very much seemed to be their superior pace on the Options. The only way to know that is to turn up for the race tomorrow.
Happy Race Watching All!
Raikkonen immediately lit it up on the Prime tyre the moment the track went green. Sparks, lots of Sparks as he made his way round on the outlap. Bottas was next out as RAI came round for his first timed lap. ROS trailed Bottas
Big Lock Up from Kimi spoiled his first lap very thoroughly as now Hamilton and Massa entered the track
Kimi got it back together and set a 1.36.731. The track was hotting up as Force India and Manor emerged on Options.
Raikkonen complained of vibrations,completely not a surprise as given the size of his Lock Up he likely flat-spotted his tyres. Bottas to the top in a 1:36.268. Rosberg said “not yet son” with a 1:35.657 pushing Kimi to 3rd and even Lewis couldn’t do better, going P2 with a 1:35.957 on his first effort.
Verstappen to P6. Macca was out on Options as well Sainz, who outdid young Max with his first lap.
Grosjean to P6 as Button climbed out of his stricken car, throwing a yellow that was shorter than the temper tantrum Ron Dennis threw, till he was reminded that the cameras were still rolling. 3rd stoppage for Jenson this weekend according to Sky, a miserable weekend for him and the McHonda, despite showing signs of a more promising pace. Hulkenberg went P2 setting off a round of concerned discussions on the pitwall.
As the times rolled in, Rosberg maintained his P1 but Lewis dropped gradually to P5. Hulkenberg, Perez and Nasr all had better times running the Option tyre.
Intermission as cars streamed into the pits to change tyres, check data and head back out for the last push.
Grosjean takes advantage of a lull and has at it, but can’t improve and heads for the pits still in P11.
Alonso on track now as the song Will It Go Round In Circles by Billy Preston rapidly becoming unofficial anthem of Macca fans this year. Yellow in T2 spoiled Grosjeans last effort and Vettel emerged on the Option tyre.
The mighty Mercedes follow suit, despite Lewis’ insistence he could set better time. AS they rolled out the team got on the radio and told them they were using either a race or Q3 set of tyres, i.e., don’t flat spot them.
Raikkonen emerged as those out early approached their timed laps.
Vettel painted the track purple with his effort, a 1:34.919 good for temporary P1.
It was Raikkonen finishing strong as the clock ticked down, taking P1 away from Vettel with a 1:34.568, but with Mercedes rapidly approaching. Rosberg did the business in a 1:34.398 only to be overridden by Hamilton’s 1:33.928 as no punches were pulled even in the first session.
With the top of the order sorted the gaze of the telly drifted to the midfiels with Hulkenberg going P5, Bottas to P2 and at the back the supposedly fast Lotus of Grosjean sat P14. Sainz was P15 whilst Verstappen and Maldonado had their work cut out for them as they sat in the drop zone with under a minute to go. AS the clock ticked over, Massa finished a very dramatic lap, yelling about traffic on the radio but still good for P4.
Strong fluctuations in the midfield, with Kvyat sat out already in P11. The rest of the pack completed their outlaps as the checkers approached, their moment of ignominy or glory to hand
It’s a win for Manor as they got a good long shot of Stevens cruising round with no real chance to exit the drop zone, but doing a number on Merhi for P18, and of course the hapless Button P20 and having to beg for entry from the stewards (a formality) as he failed to set a time in Quali.
Sainz was first through and up into P11, Maldonado, suffering from an unspecified engine malady, could only manage P15. Kvyat, meantime had drifted into P15 displacing Maldonado as the times tumbled. It was Verstappen, in a nasty bit of irony, taking out the big brother Bull by going P14 and dropping Kvyat to P16 in what was already a fairly unhappy session for the Russian. Joining Kvyat were Maldonado, Stevens, Merhi, and Button in hitting the showers early. Alonso was into Q2 and it was looking promising for the duel at the top.
Lights Green and no early takers, unlike the last session.
Tick Tock Everyone listed on softs for this session and nighttime proper had fallen, with the wind dropping along with the sun.
Frank Williams looked around.
Looked like a one and done strategy for the top teams given the time already elapsed.
Perez finally kicked it off, with Rosberg following him out of the pitlane exit.
Hamilton and Bottas added themselves to the on track mix, then Massa, Ricciardo and Grosjean in a group.
Vettel and Raikkonen continued to hang about the garage along with the Saubers and Alonso.
First hot laps finally started.
Verstappen on the radio called in no power as Rosberg set the first time in a 1:33.878, ahead of Hulkenberg and Perez.
Hamilton through and much faster than Rosberg with a 1:32.669. Tyre preservation mode for Nico as tyres used in Q2 are the race tyres. Massa, Rosberg, Bottas, Grosjean, Ricciardo, and Verstappen for the moment as the Ferraris awaited their time.
A lonely Sainz went P6 as Vettel and Raikkonen headed out.
Outlaps, Inlaps and Pit Stops.
Vettel onto his timed lap as the rest of the field save Raikkonen were in the pits. Alonso, and the Saubers still had no times on the board as they readied themselves, before following the Ferraris out.
Sky talked of an upgraded engine for Ferrari in Canada as Vettel went P3 in a not terribly impressive time. Again with the tyre saving.
Raikkonen went P2, Saubers and Alonso were on outlaps followed by rerunners Verstappen, Grosjean, Perez, Hulkenberg and Sainz.
Mercedes stayed put as Vettel complained of an engine drop out during his run.
Nasr went full tilt but still only good for P9, and time for some nail biting.
Ericsson first through, P10. Hulkenberg to P9 shoved him out. Verstappen couldn’t convert, Grosjean to P7 put paid to Nasr. No deal for Alonso as Perez went P10, but only for a few seconds as Sainz took away his toy for good. Force India into Q3 for the first time since Monza last year and on the outside looking in were Perez, Nasr, Ericsson, Alonso and Verstappen.
OUT PER NAS ERI ALO VER
Reminded yet again by Sky commentary that neither Hamilton or Raikkonen have held pole here as the track awaited the first drivers.
Vettel and Raikkonen wasted no time and were first out on old Options, followed by Ricciardo on fresh ones.
Grosjean, Bottas, Rosberg and Hamilton continued the trend of used tyres for the first run.
Massa emerged as Vettel kicked off his fast lap.
Grosjean hit the Start/Finish for his lap, followed by Bottas then Rosberg and Hamilton. Sainz exited the pits for his outlap as Lewis hurtled down the straight.
Vettel’s effort on old tyres was a 1:34.522 with Raikkonen a 1:34.535.
Ricciardo’s new tyres bought him a 1:33.85 as Grosjean swept by for P4. Bottas went P2 as the Mercedes cirulated.
Rosberg went P3 and only Lewis on the old tyre was able to get the better of Ricciardo, by just 4/1000 of a second, 0.522 to Danny’s 0.526.
It was Hamilton, Ricciardo, Rosberg, Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Massa, Grosjean, with Sainz and Hulkenberg having set no time at the halfway mark. Sainz having gone off track in his effort. Over the radio Hamilton related he felt like it wasn’t his best lap. LOL.
Vettel, then Bottas out, a little gap and out followed Raikkonen, Rosberg and Grosjean. Massa Hamilton and Sainz emerged next, as they all warmed the tyres on their outlaps.
Ricciardo hit the line first for his final lap. Vettel came through next and threw down. Bottas followed and the night was filled with showers of sparks as the skid blocks hit the circuit with all the cars on their limit.
Raikkonen across the line now then Rosberg. Grosjean, Massa, charged across as well as Ricciardo got it a bit wide in T4. Hamilton hit the line at 0:27 and there were no more takebacks. Vettel started turning purples as Sainz came across.
Ricciardo P2, Vettel P1 in 1:32.982, it was all to play for, Bottas P2 then Rosberg P2 as his strategy did not work as planned. Raikkonen could not improve and it was all down to Lewis who approached the final turn then broke the line for a 1:32.571, leaving behind him whatever gremlins plagued last years qualifying.
Congratulations to Hamilton for his 4th straight pole, the first time he’s ever done that and for his first ever pole at Sakhir as well.
The final order was Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Bottas, Massa, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Sainz, and Grosjean.
The mixing of the Ferraris and Mercedes bodes well for an interesting race tomorrow, with Ferrari’s having good starts but being confined to the dirty side of the track. Degradation and temperature will be key but if Quali is any guide, Lewis is a man in his element for the moment. He sounded ebullient about the cornering of the car so with luck the duel we have so long awaited will materialize.
What They Said
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: It was a good qualifying for us, our cars are fifth and sixth quickest out there and we also saved tyres for the race. The team has worked well together, probably the best we have all year. We have maximised the potential from qualifying and have set ourselves up well for the race but we do still need a bit more performance out of the package to fight with the cars in front.
Valtteri Bottas: I’m not unhappy to get P5 as it is representative of our pace. The race is long and will be tougher than today, the start will be especially important considering Turn One can produce problems. As a team we did a good job, we got the best out of the tyres and it is refreshing to finally get a clean qualifying session.
Felipe Massa: I did a great lap in Q2, so was upset not to replicate this in Q3 after a few mistakes. The best position I could have achieved today was P5 and Valtteri has that, so the cars are where they should be. Overtaking is possible here so we can have a good race, but tyre management and strategy will be important. I am not unhappy, we are not out of position and there is a long race ahead tomorrow.
P8 Nico Hulkenberg VJM08-01
Q1: 1:35.653 Q2: 1:34.613 Q3: 1:34.450
Nico: “P8 – I’m happy with that. I think we extracted the most we could from the car today. Overnight we made some good tweaks to the set-up and that helped, especially in these slightly cooler temperatures. It was quite windy, but it didn’t impact on us too badly and all of my laps were pretty good. Points will be the goal tomorrow, but it won’t be easy because there are a lot of quick cars behind us and they will put pressure on us. We need to make the best of the car we have and hopefully come away with a good result. Bahrain always produces good racing with the DRS zones and tyre degradation will be an important factor in the ace. Whatever happens, we are ready for the fight.”
P11 Sergio Perez VJM08-02
Q1: 1:35.451 Q2: 1:34.704
Sergio: “Even though I’m frustrated at missing out on Q3 by just a few hundredths of a second, I think we can be satisfied about the big step forward today. It would have been an amazing result to have both cars in the top ten, but eleventh on the grid is something we can be happy about and it’s the result of a massive effort by everyone in the team. Today both our car and the track characteristics played into our hands, possibly more than we were anticipating. This result is also a matter of learning the best way to set up this car. The sixth row is a good place to start and I’m optimistic about getting some good points tomorrow. We have shown to be pretty good around here: we had strong pace during our longer runs yesterday and this should give us a chance of a strong result.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“Today’s qualifying result is a very positive step in the right direction. It was encouraging to see us nearly placing two cars in the top ten and, even though we just missed out with Sergio, we can be proud of this effort: the drivers extracted everything that the car could offer and they put together some excellent laps. We must not get carried away as we know that our car is particularly suited to this track, but we are confident for tomorrow. Starting in P8 and P11 gives us a good shot at scoring points, so it will be important to do a good job tonight and be prepared for tomorrow’s race. Our pace looked solid in practice and we will need to ensure our strategy gives us the opportunity to make the best of it: the midfield is very competitive so it won’t be an easy job, but we’re ready for it.”
Pastor Maldonado, E23-03. Q: P16, 1:35.677. FP3: P7, 1:36.307
“We had a problem unfortunately and weren’t able to get the maximum pace from the car, meaning that it felt like we were lacking in power. It’s not the end of the world as we should be able to fix the problem so we can focus on recovering positions through the race. We have enough tyres to do a different strategy and have showed good potential on both long and short runs throughout the weekend. The pace is there and points are definitely possible so let’s do our best as always.”
Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director:
“We have two different challenges tomorrow.”
How was qualifying for the team?
Romain did a great job through qualifying after we struggled to get his car working for him earlier in the weekend. His pace through Q1 and Q2 was such that we considered a riskier qualifying strategy. He didn’t quite get the optimal Q3 lap but P10 on the grid certainly isn’t the end of the world as there’s good potential. Pastor, in contrast, had a really strong weekend until qualifying when something that we are still investigating caused the front brake system to retain pressure without any pedal input, causing a considerable loss of straightline speed.
What are the considerations for tomorrow’s race?
Tyre performance looks to be reasonably predictable however it’s the brakes where we’ll be paying a lot of attention and monitoring during the course of the race as they generate a lot of heat thanks to the circuit layout here. With Romain we’re looking to move up the top ten as much as possible, whilst with Pastor we have the opportunity to make strong progress through the field as his race pace should be superior to that of quite a few cars ahead of him. It will be two very different challenges, with good opportunities for both drivers to score well.