As the sun set and the lights took over, it was Lewis Hamilton who once again lit up the timing screens on a Saturday, to claim a fourth consecutive pole position and his first in Bahrain. However, Mercedes’ evening was rather dampened, when Sebastian Vettel managed to edge Nico Rosberg off of the front row in Q3. In fact, a cautious Rosberg was fortunate to retain P3, as both Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas both threatened to displace him. Regardless, the stage is set for an epic race tomorrow, as both Ferrari’s have placed themselves well and truly in play for the race win.
We knew that Ferrari would have impressive race pace, but the manner in which they threatened Mercedes today was simply unexpected. A challenge to Mercedes’ single lap supremacy has not been a feature in the dry since Austria last season. Ferrari have arrived at Bahrain, a circuit which clearly suits the SF15-T, and have proved potent in both long and short runs.
Nico Rosberg admitted that he had “underestimated” the pace of the Scuderia and was ultimately caught out, running with a strategic mindset today that was not fast enough to cover off the Ferrari duo. Rosberg’s conservative pace in Q2 was due to his plan to preserve as much life in his race tyre as possible and with Hamilton opting for a glory run in the second segment of the session, (and what a glory run it was), Nico’s plan to gain a tyre advantage over Hamilton had clearly worked. However, the value of this advantage has been significantly undermined by the fact that he went into Q3 without the feel required to ‘throw down’ his best lap. As such, he will be surrounded by Ferrari’s on the grid tomorrow and with their race pace looking sublime, Mercedes are lacking a silver blockade at the front.
They Quite Like Bahrain
Force India may have languished so far, in the thick of what is a tantalisingly tight midfield scrap, but today, they excelled with their best qualifying result of the season so far. Nico Hulkenberg managed to squeeze into the top ten and Sergio Perez narrowly missed out on a shoot-out spot, as he will line-up P11 – the first car to be able to cherry-pick which tyres to start on tomorrow.
Carlos Sainz was another to make a well-earned Q3 appearance, as Toro Rosso have seemingly struggled to come to terms with their package this weekend, with high winds supposedly making the STR10 unpredictable for the drivers. Max Verstappen has been particularly vociferous in his complaints and as such, he could do no better than P15. However, young Max has demonstrated his overtaking prowess in the first three rounds and as such, he could be a man on the move in the race.
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso will start directly ahead of the Dutchman tomorrow, as McLaren made it into Q2 for the first time in 2015. However, their enjoyment will have undoubtedly been quelled by Jenson Button’s mechanical dramas in Q1, which saw him grind to a halt after just three corners. Energy store problems have meant that the Brit has seldom turned a wheel this weekend, with FP3 being his only clean session. They will hope for more reliability tomorrow.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.599
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.069
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 0.369
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 0.542
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 0.794
6 Felipe Massa Williams 0.872
7 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1.708
8 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.736
9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1.822
10 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1.830
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1.889
12 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1.949
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 2.013
14 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 2.085
15 Sergio Perez Force India 2.128
16 Fernando Alonso McLaren 2.300
17 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 2.380
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus 2.552
19 Will Stevens Manor 5.146
20 Roberto Merhi Manor 5.942
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.571
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.411
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 0.558
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 0.656
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams 0.810
6 Felipe Massa Williams 1.173
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.261
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1.879
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1.891
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1.913
11 Sergio Perez Force India 1:34.704
12 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:34.737
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:35.034
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:35.039
15 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:35.103
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:35.677
17 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:35.800
18 Will Stevens Manor 1:38.713
19 Roberto Merhi Manor 1:39.722
20 Jenson Button McLaren