Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari snatched pole position from his teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the dying minutes of the Qualifying session at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Though a Ferrari pole was a “given” on Saturday, the expectations were more on Raikkonen taking it, rather than Vettel. In any case, a front row lockout by Ferrari is good news for them. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton could only manage P3 and P4 respectively. Hamilton will be further demoted 5 places due to a gearbox penalty. Daniel Ricciardo, the lone surviving Red Bull in Q3 could manage P5 only.
Sebastian Vettel Takes Pole in a Nail-Biting Session
Verstappen Shocker in Q1
The first session of qualifying started in relatively cooler conditions compared to FP3. The sun was down and the floodlights were on for a showdown. Raikkonen took his expected position at the top of the charts with a lap of 1:28.951 seconds on the soft compound tyres. The usual suspects were in the danger zone when out of the blue, Max Verstappen‘s Red Bull hit the barriers heavily, just ahead of Turn 2. The session was red-flagged with Verstappen being ruled out of further participation in the Qualifying sessions.
When the track became green again, both the Williams and the Sauber cars went out of contention. Fernando Alonso escaped by the tiniest of margins, as Romain Grosjean‘s Haas also got eliminated in the session. Grosjean lapped in exactly the same time as Alonso, down to the last thousandth of a second (1:30.530). But Alonso scraped through to Q2 as he achieved it first. Alonso was the slower of the two McLarens as he was having issues with his DRS.
Toro Rossos ahead of McLarens in Q2
The second session of qualifying saw no crashes but ended in embarrassment for the McLaren team. In a virtual home race for McLaren, with their biggest investors based out of Bahrain, both their cars finished behind the Honda-powered Toro Rossos. Pierre Gasly was the star of the session, making it to Q3 for the first time. Brendon Hartley finished just outside of Q3 at P11. Alonso’s timing of 1:30.212s was way behind Carlos Sainz (P10) at 1:29.802s. Esteban Ocon of Force India also scraped through to Q3, while Perez got eliminated.
The final showdown in Q3
Raikkonen had been the faster of the two Ferraris all weekend, topping FP2, FP3 & Q1. At the start of Q3, Vettel made a small mistake on the kerb of the last corner. Raikkonen was flawless in his first fast lap of Q3, laying down a marker of 1:28.101s to beat. Bottas momentarily split the Ferraris. But, as if taking a rabbit out of his hat, Vettel pitched in with a stunning lap of 1:27.958s. Raikkonen could not improve on his second run, ending with a heartbreaking P2. Pierre Gasly again starred with a P6 ahead of both the Renaults and the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
Spicy race in prospect
Hamilton demoted to the fifth row of the grid will undoubtedly be feisty in the race. Verstappen will also charge hard from P15. Raikkonen being faster than Vettel all weekend is expected to challenge for the win. The fans can expect a spicy race at Sakhir on Sunday.
|5||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:29.552||1:28.962||1:28.398||12|
|6||10||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:30.121||1:29.836||1:29.329||18|
|9||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:30.338||1:30.009||1:29.874||16|
|11||28||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:30.412||1:30.105||15|
|12||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:30.218||1:30.156||11|
|15||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:29.374||4|
Embed from Getty Images