The Sun was down, the lights were on and qualifying began for the Bahrain Grand Prix. With 63% of the lap at full throttle, the dynamics and possible qualifying performances may be quite different than the season-opener in Australia.
Friday’s practice sessions suggested that Ferrari may have some serious qualifying pace and with Lewis Hamilton heading into the session with a 5-place grid penalty, it was down to his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, to pick up the mantle for Mercedes and this is the exact reason that the team hired him. IF there was a time for Valtteri to shine, Saturday evening was it.
Australia is a public road circuit and Bahrain is a purpose-built race track so the questions remained about Toro Rosso, McLaren, Haas and others. Where would the teams finish?
Sauber and Toro Rosso were first out and had shown good pace on Friday. Kimi Raikkonen went out on soft compounds while Lewis was on super softs. Raikkonen set a terrific first run at 1:28.951 with his teammate, Sebastian Vettel just a tenth off.
Max Verstappen put his Red Bull into the tire barrier in turn two after losing the backend in the apex of the corner. He radioed his team “F***, F***, F***!”. The red flag was out stopping Q1.
Grosjean set the exact same time as Fernando Alonso but as the Spaniard set it first, Grosjean was out in Q1. Both McLaren clung to Q2, barely, with the Toro Rosso’s ahead of them as well as the Haas, Renault and Force India teams.
Out in Q1: Grosjean, Ericsson, Sirotkin, Leclerc, Stroll.
Vettel was out first on super soft tires. Lewis, factoring his grid penalty, came out in Q2 on soft tires. Vettel led Raikkonen on the initial lap. Bottas slotted behind his fellow countryman in third while Lewis brought his soft compound shod car to second and a fastest second sector. Just a tenth off the Ferrari’s pace.
Lewis switched to super soft tires for his second run and Pierre Gasly pulled his Honda-powered car up to P9 and into Q3. Both McLaren’s couldn’t mount a challenge and were out. McLaren’s Eric Boullier said that this circuit doesn’t flatter them but their Australia pace was more representative. He said the team were all a bit stunned.
Out in Q2: Perez, Alonso, Vandoorne, Hartley, Verstappen
Renault and STR first out. Ferrari’s out on super soft tires. Vettel ran wide on final turn while Kimi took provisional pole with a 1:28.101. Bottas third fastest with Daniel Ricciardo in 4th and Lewis displaces Bottas in third. Lewis needs pole so final run was critical.
Pierrre Gasly, the driver of the session, put his STR in 6th on his first run. With Ricciardo in 5th, the final run would be very interesting to see if he could spoil Mercedes’ race by beating Bottas. It was all to play for with just 2:16 left in the session.
The final runs came down to which Ferrari might claim pole. Raikkonen looking strong all weekend and on point. Vettel struggling over the Friday sessions as well as Q1 and Q2. Could this be Kimi’s year or would Vettel deliver when it mattered? Could Bottas upset the Ferrari’s or would be succumb to Ricciardo’s challenge?
Bottas split the two Ferrari’s while Hamilton slotted fourth but in the end, Vettel took pole just ahead of Kimi with Bottas doing exactly what he was hired for claiming third. Delivering when it counts, Vettel pipped his teammate but it must be said that Kimi looks terrific and on pace this season and that bodes well for Ferrari.
For Mercedes, it would have been better for Hamilton to lead Bottas as he has a 5-place grid penalty but perhaps the team forgot to tell Valtteri that as he knew he had work to do sans Lewis on the front row.
For me, Pierre Gasly was the driver of qualifying
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m28.398s||0.440s|
|5||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m29.329s||1.371s|
|8||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m29.874s||1.916s|
|11||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m30.105s||2.147s|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m30.156s||2.198s|
|15||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||–||–|