Lewis Hamilton clinched his second pole of the season for Mercedes, as he edged his teammate Nico Rosberg by 0.077 seconds at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) at Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel was third, a further 0.519 seconds behind the Silver Arrows duo. Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 5 in the relatively cool Bahrain night.
The qualification rules were the same as the new 2016 rules used in the first race in Australia. The format was deemed a complete disaster by teams and fans alike. But the FIA decided to continue with the format for one more race, as the teams could not reach a consensus on reverting back to the old qualification rules.
The qualifying session started under cool conditions under the desert night sky. The three compounds that Pirelli has brought to this race are medium-compound tyres, soft-compound tyres and supersoft-compound tyres.
Q1 Rules – Duration: 16 minutes. Slowest driver eliminated every 90 seconds after the 7th minute. 7 out of the 22 drivers will be in the dropzone.
As was seen in the opening race in Australia in this format, the drivers head out immediately and put in a banker’s lap early to avoid elimination after that seventh minute. All the drivers went out on the supersoft tyres. Nico Rosberg went to the top of the timesheets followed by Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen. After the seventh minute, the elimination started and the first driver to go out was Felipe Nasr. The star of the session was Pascal Wehrlein who went P16 ahead of the two Sauber and Renault drivers and Sergio Perez. Force India got their timing wrong which led to Perez (P18) getting eliminated. Kevin Magnussen has a penalty and will start in the pitlane.
Q1 dropzone: Pascal Wehrlein, Marcus Ericsson, Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen, Jolyon Palmer, Rio Haryanto, Felipe Nasr
Q2 Rules – Duration: 15 minutes. Slowest driver eliminated every 90 seconds after the 6th minute. 7 out of the 15 drivers will be in in the dropzone.
During this second session, drivers seemed to get only one flying lap before the elimination started in the sixth minute. Daniil Kvyat was the first driver to be eliminated in this session. Jenson Button was the next driver to be eliminated, which allowed his young rookie teammate Stoffel Vandoorne to out qualify him. The young Belgian was driving in place of the injured Fernando Alonso. Once again the two Mercedes drivers were at the top of the timesheets. Nico Hulkenberg got into Q3 with a last gap effort. Again, as if to emphasize the futility of these new rules, there were no cars on track in the last few minutes of the session.
Q2 dropzone: Romain Grosjean, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Stoffel Vandoorne, Esteban Gutierrez, Jenson Button, Daniil Kvyat
Q3 Rules – Duration: 14 minutes. Slowest driver eliminated every 90 seconds after the 5th minute. Top 2 battle for pole in the last 90 seconds hopefully.
This was really a battle between the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers. In the first run as the four drivers started their flying laps, one behind the other and put in identical first sectors, the excitement built up. As Rosberg took provisional pole followed by Vettel and Raikkonen, Hamilton blew it in the last corner running wide and went P4 only. Hulkenberg was the first driver eliminated in Q3. Ricciardo got ahead of both Williams drivers to go P5. But all 3 drivers were duly eliminated every 90 seconds after that. So the top 4 started their final shootout with the reigning world champion Hamilton under huge pressure. But the Briton pulled out a magical lap to just edge Rosberg. Vettel and Raikkonen had to settle for P3 and P4.
Top 10 after Q3: Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg
That was the fastest lap ever at the Bahrain International Circuit from Lewis Hamilton. Nobody can say that these new V6 engine era cars are too heavy and slow anymore. Again both the Mercedes drivers locked out the first row of the grid. But, if the Ferrari drivers have the super start they had in Australia, they could be ahead by Turn 1. This would make for a very exciting race indeed.
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||1:31.403||1:31.122||1:30.854||12|
|8||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:31.987||1:31.604||1:31.620||15|
|10||33||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1:31.888||1:31.772||9|
|11||55||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:31.716||1:31.816||9|
|15||26||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull Racing||1:32.559||1:32.241||9|
|18||11||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:32.911||7|