Bahrain Qualifying: Vettel steals pole as Red Bull bounce back
21 April, 2012
Apr.21 (PVM) After three relatively barren races so far this season, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull finally came good to claim pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir, edging out McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton who ended second fastest and Mark Webber third in the other Red Bull – the world champions very much back in contention.
Although few would have predicted such a turnaround before the session began, as form didn’t seem to be on their side -it looked as though the momentum was very much with China winner Nico Rosberg and the McLaren duo who have been strong everywhere this year. In retrospect the signals had been there from the start of the weekend in Bahrain, with both the Red Bull drivers looking comfortable in the RB8 and also featuring at the right end of the timing screens, and particularly impressive in the morning’s FP3.
Vettel’s pole winning time was set on his last run on fresh Pirelli soft tyres, after completing a very quick run on an older pair with his first of two runs in Q3. Earlier the double world champion only narrowly progressed out of Q1 and Q2. But when the chips were down he dug deep to do the business when it really mattered.
While Rosberg failed to deliver a Shanghai style ‘miracle’ lap, Vettel kept his cool – in the scorching desert heat to claim his 31st top spot start in F1 – with an error free lap which in the end was 0.098 seconds better than Hamilton, who will start alongside the German, from the front row of the grid.
Inevitably Vettel popped his trademark ‘number one’ finger salute for photographers in parc ferme – it has been a while!
It was a relieved, and visibly pleased reigning world champion who spoke of his achievement afterwards, “This is always a tough race and a lot of things can happen. We are pretty aggressive. We should be better off in the race. Our race pace has proven to be consistent in the last couple of races. I’m happier with way car feels. We should be able to get the same kind of feeling and result on Sunday. I’m looking forward to the start and then I think it will be very tight. I think Nico [Rosberg] has been very strong all weekend and the Lotus guys can surprise. In terms of race pace, I think everyone will be much closer together.”
Webber was third quickest, beaten in qualifying for the first time this year by his teammate, and will share the second row with Jenson Button – shades of 2011 with McLaren and Red Bull squaring up for yet another duel.
Under performing massively on the day were China winners Mercedes with pre-qualifying favourite Nico Rosberg fifth fastest, but biggest shock of all being Michael Schumacher who failed to make it out of Q3 after what seemed like a gross strategy blunder in the first qualifying session.
The team put the mishap down to a rear wing fault which curtailed performance. Schumacher revealed afterwards, “The so called RFA [DRS] rear wing failed on my last try. There was no need to go out again until it was fixed and then the time ran out.”
Although the seven times world champion qualified 18th, he will start from 17th on the grid as Pastor Maldonado’s five place grid penalty promotes the Mercedes driver up the order.
Ferrari’s woes continued, as expected, with Fernando Alonso pulling out all the stops to salvage ninth place on the grid, but the Maranello team suffer the huge embarrassment of starting behind their engine customers, Daniel Ricciardo doing his shares no harm by powering the Toro Rosso to sixth spot on the grid while Sergio Perez was eighth fastest in the Sauber.
Alonso did not bother to do a lap in Q3 and saved an extra set of soft tyres for the race. His teammate Felipe Massa, who will start 14th, has been around half a second slower than Alonso all weekend.
Romain Grosjean will head up the fourth row in the Lotus, while his team mate – comeback champion Kimi Raikkonen, failed to make it into Q3 and will start from 11th on the grid.
Force India’s Paul di Resta surprised everyone by making it beyond Q2 for the first time this year, setting the seventh fastest lap in the middle part of qualifying. He opted not to set a time in Q3, thus bagging an extra set of Pirelli soft tyres for the race.
Schumacher not making it beyond Q1 – knocked out by Heikki Kovalainen who set an impressive lap in the Caterham, to bump out the Mercedes driver, and Raikkonen stumbling in Q2, were the biggest surprises of the afternoon, although the lack of pace shown by Williams (compared to the first three races) was perplexing.
Any of the top half-dozen drivers have a shot at taking home the big trophy at the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix, as grid position is likely to play a minor role in a race which is set to be all about tyre management and strategy built around maximising this factor.
And for sure it won’t rain on race day, but winds which could evolve into sandstorms are predicted for the next few days in the Gulf and this will have a factor on the outcome of the race.
Subbed by AJN.
Qualifying – Sakhir, 21 April 2012
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:34.308||1:33.527||1:32.422||18|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:34.015||1:33.311||1:32.637||17|
|9||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1:34.760||1:33.403||No time||11|
|10||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:34.624||1:33.510||No time||15|
|13||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:34.601||1:33.807||12|
|22||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:37.883||6|
|Q1 107% Time||1:40.380|
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