Photo by: www.kymilman.com/f1

There’s a notion that the Australian Grand Prix is a bit of a unique circuit and a sort of one-off so when Mercedes won the race by nearly 60s ahead of Ferrari, many wondered if the pre-season pace of the famous Italian team was horribly misread.

As the series headed into the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, practice seemed to favor the Ferrari but was that due to a more traditional track revealing the true pace of the team or were Mercedes simply pulling back the reigns in the lead up to qualifying?

Q1

The soft, red-striped tires were very touchy in Bahrain and some of the teams were in no hurry to get out early in Q1. Williams, Toro Rosso and McLaren were the early runners and the latter was released and ran under the watchful eye of Fernando Alonso who was in attendance this weekend.

With eleven minutes left in the session, the big teams came out running the Red-striped tires with both Mercedes ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Leclerc had been quickest in two of the three practice session over the weekend.

Things got little close for Lando Norris who had his hot lap ruined by Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean who was trundling around on the racing line. Norris’s compromised lap meant that he would have to use another set of tires to make another run.

Initial top times was set by Leclerc over his teammate, Vettel, followed by Valtteri Bottas in his Mercedes. The time gap was +1.003s behind the Ferrari’s for Bottas with McLAren’s Carlos Sainz and Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen doing well in 4th and 5th.

With 3 minutes left, Lewis Hamilton set a fast lap claiming third quickest behind both Ferraris and ahead of his teammate, Botta. Lewis was +0.767s off the Leclerc’s time.

With 2 minutes left, Max Verstappen chose to stay in the garage while most of the cars were out for their final runs. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was eliminated in Q1 with Daniel Ricciardo just making it into Q2. Racing Point’s Sergio Perez managed to advance while his teammate, Lance Stroll, was out.

Interestingly, McLaren’s Lando Norris managed 4th and Carlos Sainz slotted 7th ahead of the Haas and Renault teams. Could Mclaren be heading in the right direction? Also, both Toro Rosso’s into Q2 does support Cyril Abiteboul’s concern over B-Teams and he wasn’t wrong that STR is a threat for Renault.

Out in Q1- Kubica, Russell, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Giovinazzi

Q2

With 12:16s left in the session, all the cars came out for their initial runs…except Ferrari. That waited for another minute and then came out on red tires for their initial run. Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle speculating that Ferrari had an issue in Australia and were nursing it, that’s why they were much slower than Mercedes.

Hamilton led his teammate by .3s for a 1:28.578s but Ferrari’s Leclerc set the new top time with a 1:28.046 followed by Sebastian Vettel who was down in P6 losing half a second in the middle sector due to traffic. It was a good initial lap by Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen who slotted 4th ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

Both McLaren’s of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz were up to 7th and 8th while Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen was clinging on to 10th.

Sebastian Vettel had to come out again on a new set of red-striped tires in order to set a quick time as these were the tires he will start the race on. He had locked up on his prior set so didn’t want to start the race on those tires. This isn’t how the team wanted it to go.

Out in Q2- Perez, Kvyat, Albon, Gasly, Ricciardo

Q3

Ferrari were looking for a front-row lockout and that would equal Williams and McLaren’s record at 62. Mercedes were looking to deny them that privilege. With 10 minutes in the session, all the teams were out for their initial runs. Could Charles Leclerc take pole?

Hamilton bested his teammate by a little over a tenth of a second but Leclerc topped both of them with a 1:27.958 which was Vettel’s pole lap time from last year. He was +0.232s ahead of Hamilton.

Photo by: www.kymilman.com/f1

Carlos Sainz bested his teammate, Lando Norris on his initial run reversing the trend and he slotted into 5th with Norris in 7th. Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen set a good time for 4th while Vettel and Verstappen remained in the garage.

With 3 minutes remaining, Vettel and Bottas came out for their final runs. Both on clear tracks. Leclerc came out with 2:10s left in the session. Verstappen just ahead of him.

Vettel led the train for the final runs of the top teams. He set a personal best in S1 but not purple. He was just +0.202s off Leclerc’s time and neither Mercedes could match him. Leclerc’s pole run was a track record and the second youngest pole-winner in F1 history.

What was revealed is that Ferrari were 0.3s or three tenths faster than Mercedes in Bahrain on a single lap but race-pace is something different and there’s no doubt Mercedes will beaver away for a perfect strategy on Sunday.

POS DRIVER CAR TIME GAP
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m27.866s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m28.160s 0.294s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m28.190s 0.324s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m28.256s 0.390s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1m28.752s 0.886s
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m28.757s 0.891s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 1m28.813s 0.947s
8 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m29.015s 1.149s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1m29.022s 1.156s
10 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1m29.043s 1.177s
11 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m29.488s 1.622s
12 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso/Honda 1m29.513s 1.647s
13 Pierre Gasly Red Bull/Honda 1m29.526s 1.660s
14 Sergio Perez Racing Point/Mercedes 1m29.756s 1.890s
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Honda 1m29.854s 1.988s
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1m30.026s 2.160s
17 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m30.034s 2.168s
18 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1m30.217s 2.351s
19 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1m31.759s 3.893s
20 Robert Kubica Williams/Mercedes 1m31.799s 3.933s

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Fast Freddy
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Fast Freddy

Fun to see the Haas team on the front row, if only for a moment.

Fabio
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Fabio

Great to see C.L. doing well at SF, thought it would take a few more GPs to get pole.
Two McLarens into Q3, that seems to have slipped under the radar.