Bahrain Quali Recap: Rosberg on pole, Vettel beside & grid penalties shake up grid

Nico Rosberg (1:32.330) won pole for the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix in a Q3 that seemed to continue this season’s single run to pole. He slipped through the field to take his second career pole, breaking the trend by setting a fast lap early on in Q3. He bettered his won time, with second place qualifier Sebastian Vettel unable to beat him on his own single lap. Fernando Alonso was one of the few drivers to set an early fast lap in Q3, which saved him as he aborted his post-flag lap.

Though he qualified fourth, Rosberg’s teammate Lewis Hamilton will start the race five places back as Mercedes changed his gearbox before qualifying. Gutierrez was first penalized with a five place penalty for last week’s over enthusiastic dicing dropping from with eighteenth qualifying position, then Webber with a three-place penalty for the same. Felipe Massa qualified sixth, but will move up to start alongside his teammate, interestingly on the hard tyre compound, after the penalties. Webber will start 7th, Hamilton 9th, and Gutierrez 22nd.

Q1 was slow to get going, but it was nothing on the tyre saving from last weekend in China. While both Williams drivers set the same lap time in that session, Pastor Maldonado did not move on to Q2 as he set his time after Valtteri Bottas. Button was overjoyed to scrap through to Q3 in Q2, even as his teammate could manage only twelfth. The drivers were similarly stacked at Lotus as Raikkonen moved on to Q3 while Grosjean was knocked out in eleventh. He was unhappy with only one run in the session while team principal Eric Boullier blamed the driver for a mistake.

Massa (1:34.487) led teammate Alonso at the end of the first practice session on the dusty Sakhir circuit, though none of the drivers made it their business to get to work too early on Friday. The first session was a waiting game, with few really willing to waste tyres rubbering in the track. Rosberg, Vettel, and di Resta rounded out the fastest five, with Button sixth, Raikkonen ninth, and Hamilton only thirteenth fastest. On his return to Caterham, though only a test driver, Heikki Kovalainen ended the morning practice twentieth and six tenths slower than race driver Charles Pic.

Raikkonen (1:34.154) moved well up the order to end the Friday afternoon session on top of the timesheets, with Webber, Vettel, Alonso and a continuingly quick di Resta completing the fastest five. It was a fairly close session, with the top ten covered by just over eight tenths. Gutierrez caused the most drama in the active practice, fighting hard over track space with Pic as the Mexican made his way around the slower car. Pic continued on unharmed, but Gutierrez punctured a tyre.

Despite spinning earlier in the session, Alonso (1:33.247) led the final, Saturday morning session over Vettel, Webber, Raikkonen, and Hamilton. The last seemed to be having a fairly normal session, but ended his day and forced the gearbox change as his left rear tyre failed on the cool down lap. The flailing rubber damaged the suspension and caused a lot of work for the Mercedes crew between practice and quali.

Despite a spot of rain on Thursday, Bahrain remained hot, sunny, and dry for the twenty minutes of Q1. As happened last week, no one had queued up to get out on track. In actuality, Gutierrez waited until three minutes into the session to get started, with Hulkenberg following him out onto the track. Both were running the hard, harder compound to start, saving the softer, medium compound for later. Vergne soon followed, with others joining behind. Despite a chancy lap, Hulkenberg’s (1:34.409) first fast time was within the practice times and six tenths quicker then teammate Gutierrez. Y the time they had finished their laps, all but the Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren drivers and Hamilton were out on track.

Halfway through Q1, Rosberg (1:33.364) led Grosjean, Vergne, Hulkenberg, Riciardo, Gutierrez, Chilton, and van der Garde as those drivers who had set a time. Sutil soon popped into third, moments before his teammate outpaced him again. Raikkonen did not set a quick time on his first timed lap, having gone wide through T1. Massa, though, managed third fastest on his first lap. Meanwhile, Perez joined the fray directly on the softer tyre. His teammate joined him, shod also with the medium compound. Raikkonen soon bettered his time, going less than a tenth slower than Massa. Alonso went fastest by a half second on his first timed lap with seven minutes remaining in session. At that point, only Vettel remained in the garage.

His teammate Webber had already gone out, though he was taking no chances and was on the medium tyre. When Vettel joined, Red Bull had made a decision across the board to use up their softer tyres earlier. They, Button, Perez, and Hamilton had yet to set times with five minutes to go, though Perez went ninth fastest and Button eighth on their first laps. Button looked to be greatly struggling with his McLaren. Alonso led Rosberg, Grosjean, di Resta, and Massa as the top five with four to go. Webber soon went seventh fastest with a trip over the kerbs, leaving just Vettel and Hamilton without times.

Pic, Bianchi, Chilton, and van der Garde were with them in the knockout zone, but Ricciardo and Gutierrez were on the bubble to join them with three minutes to go, once Hamilton set times. Vettel went second fastest, but Hamilton’s lap was horrible in the middle sector and he backed off to save his tyres for another run. Hamilton’s second lap put him fifth fastest, leaving Maldonado, Riccidardo, Pic, Bianchi, Chilton, and van der Garde in the knockout zone with a minute to go.

Maldonado soon managed to get to sixteenth, setting a lap time exactly equal to teammate Bottas. As it was set after Bottas, Maldonado qualified behind him. In the end, Alonso (1:32.878) led Vettel, Rosberg, Grosjean, Hamilton, di Resta, Massa, Raikkonen, Webber, and Sutil as the top ten. Ricciardo pushed on his last lap, moving up to twelfth.

Knocked Out in Q1:
17. Pastor Maldonado
18. Esteban Gutierrez
19. Charles Pic
20. Jules Bianchi
21. Giedo van der Garde
22. Max Chilton

Just as Q1 began with  no action, the fifteen mintues of Q2 also began with no drivers on track. Meanwhile, Bianchi’s Marussia came under extinguisher spray. He had suffered a vapor fire in the garage earlier in the day. Hulkenberg then Webber got out onto the track with just over a minute gone. Vettel soon followed. Both Red Bull teammates used the hard tyre. Hulkenberg’s lap was quite slow, in comparison, then Webber was a second fastest.

Vettel quickly bettered than by a half second, though he was still well off Alonso’s pace in Q1. They were the only drivers to set time by the ten minutes remaining mark. Ricciardo and Vergne soon slotted into fourth and fifth fastest, even as Hulkenberg pitted. Sutil took his third fastest spot while teammate di Resta (1:33.335) took over the top of the timesheets.

At halfway, only Grosjean remained in the garage. Hamilton had just left it. Back on track, Raikkonen looked unhappy, locking up and fighting his car through the lap. He went fifth fastest. Massa had gone third fastest, while Alonso took over the top spot from di Resta, beating the Scot by less than a tenth. Earlier on Hulkenberg’s in lap, Massa and the German crossed lines.

Alonso led very few drivers still on track with five minutes to go. Hamilton went third fastest on his first timed lap around that time, with Webber lapping in sixth, and Grosjean and Rosberg still to set times. Rosberg was on a flyer, eating Alonso’s time by nearly a half second. Perez, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Bottas, Vergne, and the untimed Grosjean were all in the knockout zone with three minutes to go.  Grosjean’s lap was quick in the first sector, but only managed to get him up to seventh. That dropped Button into the relegation zone with his teammate.

Both of those McLarens rejoined with just over two minutes to go on fresh sets of medium rubber. Only the top four of Rosberg, Alonso, di Resta, and Hamilton remained in the garage. Webber soon moved up to second fastest. Grosjean pitted after a single lap, despite sitting eighth fastest.

After the flag, Vettel went fastest. Raikkonen had dropped into the knockout zone as Sutil went sixth. Button hauled himself up to ninth, then dropped to tenth as Raikkonen went fourth, dropping his teammate. In the end, Vettel (1:32.746) led Rosberg, Webber, Raikkonen, Alonso, di Resta, Hamilton, Massa, Sutil, and Button as the men off to fight for pole.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Romain Grosjean
12. Sergio Perez
13. Daniel Ricciardo
14. Nico Hulkenberg
15. Valtteri Bottas
16. Jean-Eric Vergne

Di Resta, Rosberg, and Hamilton went directly out onto the track at the start of the ten minutes of Q3 with Alonso soon following. The Force India drivers were the next to join, just over two minutes into the session. Though he set the first time, di Resta soon sat fourth fastest behind Rosberg (1:32.543), Alonso, and Hamilton. Sutil did not complete a lap on his hard compound tyres.

Everyone remained in or had returned to the garage with four minutes to go. Webber and Sutil rejoined with three minutes remaining. It was a flurry of activity as everyone else rejoined within the next thirty seconds. Massa wore the hard tyre, Alonso the medium. He would be second last to cross the line, with Button behind him on the track. Webber was the first man to start his final lap. Sutil and Raikkonen followed the Australian, who had a lockup in T8. Webber went fourth. Di Resta led Sutil in fifth, only to drop as Rosberg went fastest.

Alonso kept his previously set third fastest time, pitting and unable to beat Vettel with a few mistakes on his second fast lap. Button also pitted, leaving Rosberg on top of the heap. His teammate Hamilton went only fourth and would drop on his grid penalty, as would fifth fastest Webber.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix:

1. Nico RosbergMercedes1:32.33014
2. Sebastian VettelRed Bull1:32.58412
3. Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:32.66711
4. Lewis Hamilton**Mercedes1:32.76213
5. Mark Webber***Red Bull1:33.07813
6. Felipe MassaFerrari1:33.20713
7. Paul di RestaForce India1:33.23514
8. Adrian SutilForce India1:33.24616
9. Kimi RaikkonenLotus1:33.32713
10. Jenson ButtonMcLarenno time11
11. Romain GrosjeanLotus1:33.7627
12. Sergio PerezMcLaren1:33.9149
13. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1:33.97414
14. Nico HulkenbergSauber1:33.97614
15. Valtteri BottasWilliams1:34.10513
16. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:34.28413
17. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1:34.4256
18. Esteban Gutierrez*Sauber1:34.7309
19. Charles PicCateham1:35.2836
20. Jules BianchiMarussia1:36.1786
21. Giedo van der GardeCaterham1:36.3047
22. Max ChiltonMarussia1:36.4766

*5 place grid penalty for an incident in China with Adrian Sutil
**3 place grid penalty for an incident in China with Jean-Eric Vergne
***5 place grid penalty for a gearbox change Saturday morning

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