Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 8. huhtikuuta 2018

Bahrain GP / Qualifying: A sensational front row lock-out for Ferrari!

It was a dream come true to see Ferrari dominate qualifying under the floodlights in Bahrain! The red team set the pace right from the first session. The Ferrari aces Kimi and Sebastian opted for the yellow-marked middle compound, and Kimi was top of the charts, with teammate Sebastian only a tenth of a second off the pace. Mercedes´ Bottas was the quicker one of the Mercedes drivers, although the Finn ran the middle compound as well, whilst teammate Hamilton opted for the red-marked super soft Pirellis. Red Bull´s Verstappen was 4th on his first run, which turned out to be the Dutchman´s last as well. On his second flyer, Max lost control of his his RB14 coming out of Turn 2 and hit the barrier nose first. The flying Dutchman´s qualifying was over, and the session was red-flagged. It seemed like a mistake of his own (which he doesn´t usually make!) but in his post-qualifying comments Max accused a horsepower spike for causing the crash. However, the crash meant a very modest P15 on the grid for Max. On resumption, the top six (Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull) sat out the second runs. Magnussen in his Haas was the best of the rest, as the Dane made it 7th in the opening phase. Teammate Grosjean faced bittersweet fortunes, as the Frenchman was the first driver to be knocked out of Q2 after making a small mistake on his last flyer and setting an identical time to McLaren´s Alonso. Both Sauber drivers and the Williams teammates were out of Q2. However, it caught my eye, that the Russian rookie Sirotkin was the faster of the Williams teammates (P18), as Stroll turned out to be the slowest driver on the grid.

The shocking news before qualifying had been, that Hamilton had been handed a five-place grid penalty for the race due to a gearbox change on Friday. With the Briton hampered by the grid penalty, he and Mercedes opted to run the softs in Q2, giving the reigning world champion an alternative strategy as he will start the race on that tyre. Sebastian went fastest on the super softs, but actually Hamilton´s pace looked more convincing on the middle compound, as the Briton was second, only a tenth of a second down on the pace-setting Sebastian. In spite of the tyre choice, the Briton was the fastest man on the second sector! The Ferrari duo´s pace was so impressive, that no second run was required. The star of the session was Gasley, who put the Honda-powered Toro Rosso into Q3 for the first time this year in ninth! Teammate Hartley, who damaged his front wing when he hit a bird early in the session, just missed out in 11th. Force India´s Perez and the McLaren duo of Alonso and Vandoorne were eliminated from the final segment as well.

In the past six years the Sakhir Circuit has suited the Silver Arrows perfectly, but this time Ferrari seemed to have the upper hand. The shootout for pole was absolutely hair-raising. Kimi took provisional pole, as teammate Sebastian made a mistake at the final turn. There were only 95 thousandths of a second separating the red warriors! Hamilton was third, only a tenth off the pace. Bottas was also close, two tenths off pace in 4th. The Finn managed to improve his lap time on his second flyer, jumping second. But his joy was premature. Sebastian put together a staggering lap and took his 51st career pole in the darkening night of Bahrain! Kimi made it a sensational front row lock-out for Ferrari. The Iceman´s track position had left a little to hope for, and the Iceman was 0.143s down on his teammate. Bottas was the leading Mercedes in third, only two hundredths of a second down on his compatriot. Hamilton had to settle for P4, which will turn into P9 on the grid due to his penalty. Ricciardo qualified 5th for Red Bull, and the sister team´s Gasley made it a sensational P6. Haas´ Magnussen, Renault´s Hulkenberg, Force India´s Ocon and Renault´s Sainz rounded out the top ten. Sebastian´s driving was very close to perfection; this was the sensational first non-Mercedes pole in Bahrain in six years!

I can´t wait for today´s race! I don´t know what has happened to the Silver Arrows after Australia, but they are definitely struggling with their performance at Sakhir. I´m cautiously optimistic and hopeful in terms of a Ferrari 1-2. The Sakhir Circuit certainly offers more chances for overtaking than Melbourne did, but I don´t know if Hamilton still has realistic chances to make it on the podium. At least without Ferrari hitting trouble... I can´t wait, what Max Verstappen will be capable of from P15. He has had a trouble-filled start to the season, as he spun in Australia and crashed out in yesterday´s qualifying. But I´m quite convinced that he´ll offer quite an overtaking show today. It´s interesting to see, how the top teams manage to save the super soft tyres in the hot conditions. Hamilton´s different tyre choice may be an advantage, especially because Mercedes have proved their pace on the middle compound. But to be honest, I would be very very disappointed not to see Sebastian or Kimi on the top step of the podium today!

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