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Ambient 22° Track 28° Humidity 29% Wind 1.8 m/s

The cars glistened under the spectacular desert lights as twilight descended and the qualifying session prepared to kick off, ready to answer the question as to whether or not any hope of redemption existed for the not quite so new and shiny qualifying format. Well, except the Red Bulls, because they have the matte finish, of course.

Shorter summary:

For Hamilton Fans: Boring Boring uh oh OMG DID YOU SEE THAT!!!!!

For everyone else: Boring Boring yesss OMG DID YOU SEE THAT!!!!!

That’s right, despite the Negative Nellies at Sky, it turns out almost any qualifying format can produce excitement if there is a real struggle or drama at the sharp end of the field. The last Q3 runs were as exciting as anything run under the old format, but significant problems remain for Q1 and Q2.

Q1 was not as boring as all that, possibly because I skipped the bits that saw Nasr, Haryanto, Palmer and Magnussen losing out and tuned in just in time to see Pascal Wehrlein rock his Manor up to P16 and doom both Pérez and Ericsson to ignominy, a sparkling drive indeed from the junior Mercedes driver and the highlight of the session. Lowlights included the performance of both Sauber and Renault, stooping on 4 of the bottom 5 spots as well as Kvyat who only managed an anemic P15. Rosberg led the way at the sharp end with Grosjean a happy P7 also a good sign for the debutante Haas F1 team.

Q2 was possibly the most painful session as only Hülkenberg chose to defend his position with everyone else accepting the results of their first runs. To be modestly fair, the light at the end of the pitlane kept the cars bottled up for almost a minute after the session started before the drivers were flagged green to start. Vandoorne officially outqualified Button but Macca looked nowhere near yesterday’s surprising results and Kvyat officially underperformed, coming P15 and looking nowhere relative to his teammate. Hülkenberg demonstrated there was pace in the Force India, going P8 and sending Grosjean out of Q3. Despite having time, Haas chose not to defend and it might have been a blessing in disguise as P9 is the highest place that gives free tyre choice for the race. Both Toro Rosso’s were eliminated as well, with Sainz P11 and Verstappen P10 when the music stopped.

Q3 started with Mercedes in a Ferrari sandwich, but on time, and as the hot laps commenced the sector times went purple for Räikkönen but not for Hamilton. Vettel was pushing though and Rosberg batting clean up took P1 up 0.17s over Vettel and into the 1:29’s. Hamilton, meanwhile, had a rough exit on the final turn and wound up P4 almost 0.7s down, setting the stage for a top 4 shootout with lots to play for. Ricciardo displaced the Williams for P5 and Hülkenberg was stuck in P8. Once Red Bull decided to not go for P4, the die was cast and as the cars headed out for their second run, it was Räikkönen leading the way, trailed by Hamilton, Vettel and Rosberg with the last word.

Räikkönen was immediately not on it but in contrast, Hamilton was clearly out to atone for his first run error, turning S1 a colour of purple not normally found in Nature, almost 0.5s up on Kimi’s effort. Vettel couldn’t touch it and even Rosberg on a fairly spectacular lap himself could only get within a tenth.

Lewis continued his assault with S2 also going purple, but Rosberg trailing just missed him by 0.003s. Vettel was giving it everything but the Ferrari remained roughly 0.15s off per sector.

S3 completed the trifecta for Hamilton, again about a tenth up on Rosberg and as it turns out setting the fastest ever lap at the circuit, a 1:29.493, faster even than the brutal V10’s which remain for many the iconic F1 engine. What a sexy lap indeed, according to Lewis’ radio, a 1.6 litre V6 besting a V10 whilst using less fuel. And, TBH, not the least bit boring. Who needs laps after the checkers with driving like that.

Of course, after the miserable start Mercedes had in Melbourne, the race is far from settled, and the midfield offers more mysteries than answers as well. With more track to play with than Melbourne, hopefully overtaking at the front will be possible somewhere other than in the pits. But regardless, the midfield offers much material to work with, in particular whether McLaren’s Friday pace can be found in Sunday’s race. Renault also will be looking to have a better day and Wehrlein will be worth keeping an eye on as well, as Manor begin to extract the benefits of their new power unit.

Thanks for dropping by and play nice in the comments!



29 responses to “#F1 Qualifying Review: 2016 FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX

  1. Vandoorne delivers! Will Ferrari get a jump off the line again? It might be an interesting race tomorrow.

  2. Props for Pascal, vroom vroom Vandoorne and go-go RoGro, plenty of positive stories going on in the midfield. Torro Rosso twins side by side, should be tasty! And hopefully a battle between the big 4 to boot, great expectations for tomorrow.

  3. Man Lewis was on fire! He is the greatest of all time no matter what @WTF_F1 says. All hail king Lewis
    #BlessedIsHeWhoIsBlessed #JesusSaves #JoyfullJoyfull #Hallelujah

  4. I was taken with Sky’s Crofty spreading the disingenuous Gospel according to J Toad, on how it was the PROMOTERS that pushed for the qualifying change. Sure it was Crofty/Toady, sure it was.
    But what about the weasel from FOM that deals with those promoters? Mightn’t it have been that vile little fellow who planted the seed? After all Toad wouldn’t know any more then what he’d been told……

  5. What rubbish qualifying has become. I think it is time for Bernie and Mr Totd to go and a complete re-write of both engineering and qualifying with total new management or F1 will continue to die.

  6. Okay, Lewis Hamilton might have broken the outright lap record for the circuit, which has temporarally papered over the cracks in the musical chairs qualifying – but why wasn’t he banned for at least a dozen races for that unacceptable reversing move in the pits?

  7. Why do you think there was so much difference between Daniel a Danii at RBR? Will the Russian come back in the race ?
    I read Mercedes ordered a new clutch from parent company Daimler, so it may be a while before Lewis & Nico are able to take off as fast as a red prancing horse car.

    • Mercedes must have lost fait in SACHS clutches after the Australian race start (first the part of the start up to 100kmh) but (for the second part of the start, after 100kmh is reached) they now have some breathing space because FERRARI has to limit their (free load mode) to about 50 percent output till new designed parts are made by Honeywell.

  8. What fortune we have to have arguably the two best drivers (or at least two exceptional drivers) in the two best cars at theirs respective peaks battling away. .077 – wonderful. It’s nigh on impossible to pin who the best drivers are, it’s too subjective, but I can’t remember the last time a championship grade team had two drivers so equally matched in every aspect. Ham has a slight edge, as an average it favours him, but Nico can beat him very regularly. Can’t imagine how dull it would be if it were the two Ferarri drivers in their position. Kimi? Decent driver, but they should have taken Hulkenberg. Hope the ferraris jump both Mercs again, for the show’s sake. Wouldn’t mind seeing a new winner this season too. Bit of a break from the Vettel/Ros/Ham trend the last 2/3 yrs. Perhaps a win for… Stoffel! Sure, why not.

  9. I have the unfortunate case of having to watch NBCSN this weekend instead of a British broadcast. When Lewis went wide in the final corner of his first run in q3, am I mistaken in seeing that he had the fastest sector 3 time in the first run for everyone? The broadcast clowns kept talking about the time he lost in the corner.

    • He couldn’t have… Makes no sense. Even without the final corner off, he was marginally down and likely only in at 2/3rd. MSNBC isn’t all that bad either. In fact it’s pretty good. I think the American jibes are getting a bit lame.

      • Of course it doesn’t make sense, it’s NBCSN.
        The FIA broadcast screen displayed Hamilton having the fastest 3rd sector time of 22.449 with 7:31 remaining in the session. Watch it again, I gave you the time cue. if you don’t have it, I’ll post a link to the entire session online or post a screen grab for you.
        I don’t think you’ll find a Beaverton anywhere in Europe. Have you watched a BBC, ITV, SkySports or a Channel 4 F1 broadcast? There is zero comparison. We have never taken F1 seriously in the states. I’ve been watching F1 religiously since the late 70’s and I’ve seen them all.
        BTW, pMSNBC is a terrible news channel, just like all the others.

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