Make no mistake about it, the Mercedes cars are still the fastest by a wide margin. Lewis Hamilton edged out Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Nico Rosberg to take pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix, as Ferrari's challenge fell short.
Ferrari looked genuinely competitive in final practice at Sakhir, but when it counted they just were simply not fast enough.
In Q3 Raikkonen set the ball rolling with 1m 30.244s, before Vettel improved that to 1m 30.065s. Hamilton’s first effort was spoiled when he ran wide exiting Turn 15, his 1m 30.627s left him vulnerable as Rosberg reeled off 1m 29.897s to take temporary pole. All four, however, went for second runs.
This time Raikkonen came up short with 1m 30.397s but Hamilton put together three purple sectors to jump from fourth and take pole with 1m 29.493s, Rosberg improving to 1m 29.570s to lock out the front row for the Silver Arrows even though Vettel also went quicker, with 1m 30.012s, it wasn't quick enough by over 1/2-second.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull was 5th, three tenths clear of the Williams of Valtteri Bottas in 6th.
The second Williams of Felipe Massa was just 0.002s slower in seventh, while Nico Hulkenberg's Force India completed the top eight.
The two Toro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr all paid the price for staying in the pits after making single runs in Q2.
Hulkenberg knocked Romain Grosjean out of the final Q3 spot and the Haas driver will start 9th.
|A happy Toto Wolff congratulations one of the Mercedes engineers|
Verstappen and Sainz ended up 10th and 11th, ahead of McLaren-Honda rookie Stoffel Vandoorne (who outqualified teammate Button on his debut), the second Haas of Esteban Gutierrez and Button.
Afterwards Lewis Hamilton has been reprimanded by the Bahrain stewards after reversing his car in the pit lane at the end of Saturday's qualifying session.
The incident breached of Article 28.3 of the FIA's sporting regulations, which states that "at no time may a car be reversed in the pit lane under its own power".
After hearing accounts from Hamilton and a Mercedes team representative, officials decided not to impose a penalty "due to the fact that no clear instruction was given to the driver on where he should park the car after qualifying".
I'm really happy with that – the last lap was so much fun! Throughout practice and most of qualifying my laps weren't quite perfect and Nico would be ahead by a tenth here and a tenth there – whatever it might be. So, to finally put it all together when it counted was really satisfying – and quite a relief! There was big pressure too, as I went off on the previous lap and knew I had to make a big improvement. A massive thank you to everyone here at the track and also back at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth for this car. It's really very special. It will be important to get a good start tomorrow, like always, especially as there's a longer run down to turn one here than in Melbourne. It's something we've been working on – but we've only had a couple of weeks since the last race, so I don't expect big improvements. Hopefully it's better than last time – we'll see.
My lap felt good and I was sure that I had got pole when I crossed the line – but then the guys told me that Lewis was just a bit quicker. He did an incredible lap at the end, so a good job from him. The good news for me is that this is one of the tracks where pole position counts for the least. Strategy tomorrow will be important and maybe even quite messy, so there are still a lot of opportunities. You have a few more places to overtake here than at other tracks too, so I'm quite confident for tomorrow. Tires are going to be a big issue. We have softer tires here than last year and it will be interesting to see how long they last and when they will start graining. It should be an entertaining race, so I'm looking forward to it.
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
Leaving aside any comment on the qualifying format itself, the actual battle today between our two cars – and also between ourselves and Ferrari – was very close and really exciting. It was only in the final part of Q2 and Q3 that Lewis and Nico hooked everything up – and for Lewis it came down to his final Q3 lap after he ran wide on his first run. What he produced was a stunning lap, the fastest ever on this circuit – quicker even than the V10 era – and more than three seconds faster than last year's pole. Really impressive. Nico came very close to beating it and fell less than a tenth short in the end after his fastest lap of the session. My feelings about this qualifying format haven't changed and there is nothing to add to what I've already said about it. Now we focus on tomorrow's race, on getting off the line well – and what I am sure will be a very tight battle with Ferrari.
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
A fantastic competition between our two drivers and the two Ferraris – the result of having four cars very close in performance here. There was a lot of excitement building up to those second Q3 runs, with Lewis making a mistake in the final corner and adding extra pressure to his second lap. All four cars made it out for another run and it was a closely fought thing, with terrific laps from Lewis and Nico to lock out the front row. There's a great sense of pride in seeing this car set an all-time lap record tonight. There's a lot of negative talk around at the moment, with suggestions that these cars aren't fast or exciting enough. In fact, they're now proving to be quicker than those of the V10 era – previously the fastest machines in Formula One history. All credit to the men and women on both the chassis and Power Unit side of this project for their innovative, record-breaking work.
“I’m really happy with the result today. We didn’t expect to be fifth, especially from my side of the garage as yesterday didn’t go too well and this morning wasn’t great either. We came into qualifying thinking if all went well, maybe we would squeeze into Q3, and so to get into fifth is great. I am happy with the laps we did, the changes we made from FP3 worked well for us in quali and I am excited for what the race will bring tomorrow."
DANIIL KVYAT, Position
"Today didn’t go as planned. Our timing during the session was not bad but we just didn’t have any pace. From our side of the garage there was something missing when we got to qualifying, I don’t know at the moment exactly what it is but it’s not where I want to be. FP1 was fine and we showed good pace, FP2 and 3 weren’t too bad either but when it came to qualifying we were pretty much nowhere. I don’t know what it was but we will look into it and try to turn things around for the race tomorrow."
“A superb performance by Daniel today. He got quicker and quicker on every set of tires and extracted every ounce of performance from the car. To line up P5 on this circuit for us is an excellent result. Unfortunately for Dany things didn’t go as well. He was happy with the car in the warmer conditions earlier in FP3, but the balance fell away from him during qualifying and he struggled for pace which resulted in a P15 for him. But as we have seen here in previous years, with a good strategy overtaking is possible and that should make for a fascinating race."
“It was quite a good qualifying at a track that isn’t the strongest for us, so to be that close to Q3 is quite a good achievement. Of course you always want to end up further up, but we have to be realistic and try and make it a good race tomorrow. The good news is that we can choose on what tires to start on tomorrow, so all in all it’s not a bad result. During the Free Practice sessions over the weekend we’ve also been focusing a bit more on the race because we didn’t have that many Super Soft tires compared to other people, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow – it will be a tough but very interesting race!"
“I think we did a decent job in today’s qualifying as we knew that with the amount of Super Soft tires we have, getting into Q3 was difficult. We still managed to put a good lap together and even though I’m not entirely happy because my lap in Q1 was faster than in Q2, we are quick and I think we have a good chance of scoring points tomorrow. We have some interesting tire options for the race and I’m therefore looking forward to it!"
James Key (Technical Director)
“We knew that out of the first four events this year, Bahrain was always going to be the trickiest one for us and unfortunately this proved to be the case today. This is a stop-start track, where longitudinal performance is a bigger player than lateral performance, and we are weaker in longitudinal than lateral… So it’s not playing to the strengths of our car as much as other circuits will be. The nature of this track is also to pull the field a lot closer and so it was very tight between teams today. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough tires to do a proper job in Q2 with only one set available – had we had enough for a proper Q2 I think we could’ve got one, if not both cars, through to Q3, but with this format of qualifying you’ve got to have a certain quantity of tires to make it work and we only had a single set of tires for Q2. Having said that, we’re just behind the Q3 line-up, we have the choice of tires for the race start and that gives us a little bit of an advantage for tomorrow. We’ve now got some work to do this evening but hopefully we can have a stronger race performance and finish with both cars in the points."
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering
It’s always fraught at the beginning of this new qualifying format when you need to think about your strategy and timings, but by the time you’re in the middle of Q2 it all evens out and you know where your pace is. We ran again in Q2 on the basis that we wanted to get the drivers ready for Q3 and use the extra track time. We knew that Ferrari and Mercedes would just be a little bit too far away from us and so we wouldn’t be able to do a second run in Q3. The drivers were improving throughout and I think we’ve got ourselves into a reasonable position. We are roughly the third quickest car so we are in a good positon for the race tomorrow. The drivers are reasonably well matched as there is very little between them, just two milliseconds in Q3. That is what we want to see. The set-up and tire work we did on Friday is very encouraging in terms of race pace. We’ve got a reasonable strategy planned, so we just need to execute it tomorrow to come out with a good haul of points.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Valtteri Bottas
"It was a good qualifying session and we managed to get the maximum out of the car we had. In Felipe’s car we’ve also made progress with the new front wing today, which is good. We start the race in a strong position and the target will be to finish in the top five which I think is definitely possible. We just have to find a way to get past the Red Bull and the fact that we have better straight-line speed compared to them should help us. I’m hoping for a nice clean race and to collect some good points tomorrow for both cars.
It was definitely a good qualifying. We always expected to be a little bit more in front. It was a difficult day trying the new wing in practice and then not really having the balance, so we took our time to decide whether or not we would use it in qualifying. We decided to use it and managed to improve our time which was important. We need more time though to understand this front wing to get the most from it. I’m pretty upbeat about our position for qualifying, though. We know the race will be long tomorrow. We have one Red Bull in front and also one behind. Both Toro Rossos are behind, as are the other teams we are fighting, so we know the race will be difficult. We will try the best we can to score as many points as possible.
“Our position is higher than our expectations, so that’s good. Everyone worked brilliantly. I was talking with Guenther (Steiner, team principal) before qualifying and he said this session would be a big test for us. Every time we go out on track, we’re learning more. I’m very proud of my guys. Tomorrow is a long race – a difficult race with the tire choices – but I think it’s possible to have a good time. We’re hoping for more points, but it’s a very different track from Australia. I’m looking forward to going racing."
“It was a very tight and very competitive qualifying for us today. I had quite a lot of traffic at first, so it was tricky to prepare the tires on the out-laps. Therefore, my first time in Q1 wasn’t great. However, the second time was a lot better. Going into Q2 was a fantastic effort from the team to get everything prepared. Again, I found there was a lot of traffic in front, so it was wasn’t ideal. However, the most important thing for us to do now is to concentrate on the race and obtaining points. We are P13 and we’ll do our best to maximize everything for tomorrow."
“It’s a nice result to make Q3 because we’ve had to work hard this weekend to get the performance we needed from the car. The changes we made last night took us in a good direction and made the difference today. During qualifying the car just got better and better, and I think the track improvement came towards us as well. All of my laps were clean and tidy, and I’m happy with our performance. Hopefully tomorrow night will be a similar story because I think we can come away with some good points. It’s true that the cars directly behind me have a free choice of tires, but I’m happy with where I’m starting because it’s always better to be further up the grid."
"It's was an unlucky session and we just miscalculated things. I think the mistake was doing an extra timed lap during my first run in Q1 because it left me short of time for my second run. It looks like we just got caught out and it’s going to hurt my race tomorrow. It’s a shame because the car has shown good pace today and we had the potential to have both cars inside the top ten. I will do my best tomorrow to fight back and recover some points."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“Qualifying was a mixed bag and it has left us wondering what might have been. As Nico demonstrated, we found some pace overnight and he delivered an excellent lap at the end of Q2 to reach Q3. With Sergio our approach in Q1 didn’t work out and it’s left us with an uphill struggle in tomorrow’s race. We knew Sergio had to put in another lap, but a miscalculation meant we cut things too fine and left us in the drop zone and out of time. It was a mistake on our side and we hold our hand up to Sergio. Looking at the positives, we’ve seen today that the car is performing well and Bahrain offers many opportunities to overtake, so there’s every reason to believe we can bring home a good result with both drivers tomorrow evening."
“It was a decent qualifying, even though the result is not satisfying. As a team we have done a good job over the weekend with regard to the set-up of the car. We all know that we need to find more pace, because we cannot be happy being knocked out in Q1 again. We want to proceed and go further. For the moment we have to see what tomorrow brings. The race is a different story, but, as always, I will do my best."
“Clearly, we do have some issues with my car. We have to look into this in more detail. On the other hand, we have a good reference point with the other car in our garage, so we have to analyse the data and understand what we have to change for tomorrow."
More to follow……
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/TAG Heuer||1m30.854s||1.361s|
|8||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m31.620s||2.127s|
|10||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m31.772s||–|
|11||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Ferrari||1m31.816s||–|
|15||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull/TAG Heuer||1m32.241s||–|
|18||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m32.911s||–|