Vettel Clinches Bahrain Pole
After three winners from three teams in the first three races, it was Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel’s turn to step into the limelight in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Don’t say that 2012 is predictable. A time of 1 minute 32.422s saw him edge out McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton by a tenth of a second with Mark webber a further tenth back in third. In fact, spookily the first seven were all neatly stacked up with 0.1 second gaps.
So would it be Mercedes or McLaren on pole? Hang on, where did Red Bull come from? With Mark Webber third, the World Champions look suited to Bahrain, at least in qualifying trim but the real test is tomorrow. For today, Vettel’s faultless lap brought reminders of last year’s dominance.
If Vettel on pole was a surprise, Daniel Riciardo’s sixth was astonishing. After a disappointing weekend in China for the team, the performance was underlined by his team mate not making it through to the second part of qualifying for the third race on the trot.
Small pockets of disappointment around the grid, including Kimi Raikkonen who chose to sit out the rest of Q2 happy with his lap time. In the end, it turned out to be not good enough to make Q3 where team mate Romain Grosjean put his Lotus seventh on the grid. Moreover, with the two drivers ahead of him opting not to compete in Q3, the benefit of the extra set of tyres might not be as strong as he hoped.
With Nico Rosberg tipped by many to be on pole, nobody expected Mercedes to struggle this early in the weekend so when Heikki Kovalainen pipped Michael Schumacher’s Q1 time to go through at the expense of the seven-times World Champion, eyebrows were raised. Particularly because the German was sat in the garage while the track conditions rapidly improved. However, it turned out to have been a DRS problem with the team feeling that the limited improvement they could find without it, not worth using up an extra set of tyres for. He does have plenty of tyres of course and Schumacher is set for an interesting race.
With the field so close, it’s difficult to make predictions this year, especially with such variation between qualifying and race form. However, whoever takes the lead from the start will find themselves in the perfect position to preserve their tyres and produce a victory. Red Bull’s starts have not been that impressive this year, however, McLaren will line-up on the dirty side of the grid and may have to be watching behind them rather than ahead.
Qualifying Lap Times
|1. Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1:32.422|
|3. Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1:32.637|
|6. Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:32.912|
|9. Alonso||Ferrari||No time set|
|10. Di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||No time set|
|Q2 cut-off time:||1:33.660|
|13. Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:33.807|
|17. Maldonado||Williams-Renault||No time set|
|Q1 cut-off time:||1:34.852|
|19. Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:35.014|
|22. De la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:37.883|
107% time: 1:40.380
|Sector 1||Sector 2||Sector 3|
|Webber||29.405 s||Vettel||40.003s||Hamilton||22.912 s|
|Vettel||29.413 s||Webber||40.073 s||Ricciardo||22.957 s|
|Rosberg||29.439 s||Button||40.102 s||Vettel||23.006 s|
What are your predictions for the race? Will Red Bull convert pole into victory? If not, who who will win in Bahrain? Who should have done better in qualifying? How far up the order can Michael Schumacher recover?
Photo: Red Bull Racing/Paul Gilham/Getty Images