Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 2. huhtikuuta 2016

Bahrain GP / Qualifying: Hamilton on pole with the fastest ever lap at Sakhir!

I had a very good feeling about the qualifying as Ferrari´s pace had seemed so stunning in the last free practice session on Saturday morning. It had been very close between the Ferrari teammates with Vettel having the upper hand. But what was surprising and impressive was the fact that the Mercedes drivers were 4 tenths of a second down on the Ferrari duo! The Sakhir Circuit has always suited Kimi extremely well so I was confident that this time the Ferrari duo could actually take the battle to Mercedes for real!

Against all odds the qualifying format wasn´t changed after the qualifying farce in Australia. Although the teams were unanimous that the qualifying format needed an immediate change especially in terms of Q3, Ecclestone stated that the new format was given another chance in Bahrain. I was actually eager to see if the new elimination system could turn out more interesting and exciting than it did at the season-opener.

The Ferraris and both Mercedes were the first cars to head out on track as the first session got underway under the artificial lights. Rosberg had been the fastest man on track all weekend and he took the lead after the first runs. Sauber´s Nasr was the first driver to be eliminated in the opening phase. He was soon followed by the Renault duo Palmer and Magnussen. The Dane had a frustrating qualifying because he must start to the race from the pit lane after missing a weight check in FP2. Manor´s rookie driver Pascal Wehrlein drove an excellent qualifying as he was the last driver to be eliminated in Q1, which meant the German qualified 16th whilst his teammate Haryanto had to settle for P21.  At the end of the session Rosberg and Hamilton were topping the time sheets with Ricciardo third and Vettel fourth.

As darkness fell, Räikkönen led the two Mercedes out for Q2. At first we saw a bizarre episode as the clock started ticking but the light at the end of the pit lane was still red. A moment later green flag was out to send the drivers out. After the first runs Hamilton took the lead with Sebastian being 4 tenths down on the Briton. Rosberg and Räikkönen completed the top four. Red Bull´s Kvyat was the first driver to be eliminated in Q2, which must have been a huge disappointment as his teammate Ricciardo had no difficulties to make it in the final session. McLaren´s Alonso hadn´t been granted a permission to take part in the Bahrain GP weekend because of the broken ribs due to his horrifying crash in Australia. Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne had been called to replace the Spaniard. The Belgian´s great F1 debut saw him outqualify his teammate Button! Vandoorne qualified in P12 whilst Button managed to make it only P14. Once again Grosjean in his Haas made an excellent job by making it as high as P9 in the qualifying. The Toro Rosso duo Sainz and Verstappen didn´t even go out and try to improve their lap times in spite of the elimination threat, although there would have been enough time to do so! Sainz qualified 11th and Verstappen 10th. This time Q2 didn´t have a thrilling end like in Australia but with 5 minutes in the clock Hulkenberg was the only driver on track trying to improve his lap time! On the other hand Williams made a strange decision to send both Bottas and Massa out on a fresh set of super soft tyres in the closing stages of Q2 although both of them were already safe from the elimination!

When the last phase got underway, both Ferraris and Silver Arrows rushed out on track on super soft rubber. Hamilton´s first effort was spoiled when he ran wide exiting Turn 15. After the first attempts Rosberg took provisional pole with Sebastian 2nd only a tenth of a second down on his compatriot. Kimi was third and Hamilton fourth. This time we saw a thrilling head-to-head battle for pole going down to the wire! All four went for second runs -the only Q3 runners to do so. Hamilton nailed it with three purple sectors to take pole! Only 77 thousandths of a second separated the Mercedes duo. At the end of the day Sebastian had to settle for P3 and finally his gap to the pole-setter Hamilton turned out to be as much as half a second! Kimi was 4th two tenths off his teammate. Ricciardo put Red Bull fifth, ahead of the Williams of Bottas and Massa.

During the Bahrain GP weekend there have been many rumours about Ferrari having an issue with their turbo charger. An issue which would prevent the Italian-based team to extract the maximum out of their power unit on the straights... Well, it certainly didn´t look like that in FP3 this morning when the Ferrari duo went fastest of all! Kimi did have an issue with the turbo in Australia, which led to the Iceman´s retirement but luckily Ferrari didn´t need to change the whole power unit due to the turbo failure! And I definitely keep my fingers crossed that there won´t be any reliability issues in tomorrow´s  race! And what is more than a rumour, Mercedes seem to have an issue with the race starts. I hope both Sebastian and Kimi will start like they did in Australia and benefit from Mercedes´ issue, what ever it is.

The dark night of Bahrain with dashing sparks flying from the shining-red Ferraris made a memorable impression on me indeed. I´m looking forward to an entertaining race with some Ferrari magic! ;)

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