Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 15. huhtikuuta 2017

Bahrain GP / Qualifying: Maiden pole for Valtteri Bottas!

The third qualifying session of the season got underway under the floodlights of Sakhir in Bahrain. Once again Mercedes and Ferrari were the teams, which stood out of the crowd in terms of their tyre strategy. They decided to run the yellow-marked soft tyres, whereas all their rivals came out on the red-marked super soft Pirellis. After the first runs Hamilton was topping the timesheets, Red Bull´s Verstappen was second and Ferrari´s Vettel was third. I was wondering, if Red Bull had really managed to take a step forward and make it closer to Mercedes and Ferrari, as especially Verstappen had performed extremely well in the free practice sessions. However, it was impressive to see Sebastian third, in spite of the harder tyre compound. Bottas, Massa and Ricciardo were among the top six, who all opted to sit out the second runs -which was a risky decision especially from Massa and Ricciardo. Kimi made his second run on the super soft Pirellis and jumped 3rd. In the very last minute Sainz´s Toro Rosso stopped on track, and the Spaniard complained on the team radio about losing power completely. In addition to Sainz, also Vandoorne (McLaren), Perez (Force India), Ericsson (Sauber) and Magnussen (Haas) were knocked out in the first session; some of these (Perez for example) were hurt by the yellow flags for Sainz´s stoppage. Worth noting is, that Pascal Wehrlein was back behind the wheel of his Sauber, and the German managed to make it through to Q2.

Q2 was extremely tight between Mercedes and Ferrari. Once again Hamilton went fastest, but teammate Bottas was only two hundredths of a second down on the Briton! Sebastian set an impressive lap time as well, being only 61 thousandths of a second down on Hamilton! Teammate Kimi was already three tenths off Hamilton´s pace, but the Iceman had made his first run on a used set of tyres. The top seven -Mercedes teammates, Ferrari teammates, Red Bull teammates and Williams´ Massa- sat out the second runs. Renault had an excellent qualifying, as Hulkenberg leapt to fifth at the closing stage of Q2, and teammate Palmer also made it into the final session. Haas´ Grosjean made his first Q3 of the year. The unluckiest of the session was Alonso; a broken power unit accounted for Alonso´s McLaren, leaving him 15th, without a time.

In the final decisive session the Ferraris were a little breathless in their wake. Hamilton took provisional pole by five hundredths of a second to his teammate Bottas. Sebastian was third after his first run; surprisingly as much as four tenths down on Hamilton. Kimi in fourth was already over eight tenths off the Briton´s pace. Also Red Bull seemed unable to match Mercedes´ pace, although their pace had seemed so promising in Q1. The shootout for pole was breath-taking. Bottas put together a magical lap, which teammate Hamilton ended up unable to match. The Finn took his maiden pole by 23 thousandths of a second to his teammate, who is known as a fantastic and extremely fast qualifier. Sebastian´s SF70-H was joined on the second row by Ricciardo´s RB13, with their teammates Kimi and Verstappen a row further back. The yellow-and-black-liveried Renault had a superb qualifying session, with Hulkenberg 7th and Palmer 10th. Between the two Renaults there´s Massa in P8 for Williams and Grosjean in P9 for Haas.

I have to say, that I´m extremely happy for Valtteri Bottas, who beat his teammate and took his maiden pole. Snatching pole must feel superb for Valtteri after the bittersweet Chinese GP. Lewis Hamilton is one of the fastest drivers in F1 and beating him in the qualifying is no walk in the park! I´m sure this result improves Valtteri´s self-confidence significantly, and he has every opportunity to win the race tomorrow. However, I´m expecting to see "a red challenge" in tomorrow´s scorching race. Ferrari´s long-run pace has seemed very competitive, so it won´t be an easy win for either one of the Mercedes drivers.

I have to say I´m a bit worried about Kimi, who once again complained about understeer issues during the qualifying. Kimi´s difficulties seem like a mystery for me; how come the Iceman´s pace always seems to disappear especially in Q3? However, it seems that for some steering-related reason Kimi can´t get the maximum out of his SF70-H. A perfect strategy will be needed for both red-suited drivers to make it on the podium tomorrow! Sebastian and Kimi, you are in my thoughts and I´ll definitely keep my fingers crossed for you!

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