We had to wait a few minutes into the session for any action to happen, but sure enough, the Saubers broke the silence. Perhaps the most difficult qualifying of the year was about to begin.
The midfielders started to set their times initially; Hulkenberg was at the top for the first few minutes before jean Eric Vergne disposed of him. Romail Grosjean solidified his improvements over the weekend by going to the top by a very large margin. His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen looked set to join the Frenchman at the top of the time sheets but he locked up at the first corner. He ended went 4th on his next lap.
Next up, Fernando Alonso on the hard tires repeated his fantastic China Q2 lap by going faster than anyone. His time was the first under 1:33 this weekend. Everyone was scratching their heads at this point.
The Red Bulls and Mclarens went out on the Medium tires with the latter struggling massively for grip in Bahrain. The former, however, still could not take top honors from Fernando Alonso even on the softer tires. Mark’s three place penalty may hurt more than he expected.
The news of Hamilton’s grid penalty for a gearbox will undoubtedly affect him in qualifying, and the fact that he still couldn’t quite match the fastest times will not bode well.
Q1 eliminations: BOT, GUT, PIC, BIA, VDG, CHI
We all waited with bated breath this session. Would the Ferraris be able to show such prodigious speed again? The Force Indias, Paul di Resta in particular, was quick indeed, going fastest early on in the session while disposing drivers like Webber and Vettel. Fernando Alonso, however, went right to the top not a minute later.
The Mercedes seemingly came into its own in Q2, with Nico Rosberg becoming the second driver this weekend to break the 1:33 barrier. This was is welcome pace for the Mercedes team, who have been struggling for ultimate pace over the past two days. He ended up the session second fastest.
The Mclarens and Kimi Raikkonen were on the cusp of being eliminated with just two minutes to go. They went back out on brand new tires hoping for a clean lap. Sutil was also in this group, but has been struggling compared to his teammate this weekend. Grosjean, however, ran into a bit of bad timing. He held the 8th fastest time with two minutes to go but had no time to get back into the pits for new tires. His hopes would rest on used tires at this point; not something you really want at this stage in qualifying.
In a final flurry of fast laps, Grosjean’s time was unable to keep him in the top-10. Button, Raikkonen and Sutil all put in fast enough laps to make the final 10 minute session, with a fantastic fight brewing for pole position. An ominous sign, however, came in the last two minutes, with Sebastian Vettel disposing of Nico Rosberg at the top of the timesheets.
Q2 eliminations: VER, BOT, HUL, RIC, PER, GRO
Surprise! For anyone who thought pole position would be disputed between the Red Bulls, Ferraris and Lotuses, they would have been sorely wrong. The Mercedes of Nico Rosberg continued its pace from Q2 to take the second pole position of the season for the team. This is also the 2nd career pole position for Nico Rosberg. It comes at a track at which he arguably shoudl have been on pole at last season were it not for a mistake on his final lap. His lap was calculated to perfection, though, and he showed everyone that he means business this season.
Whether he will be able to hold this position throughout the race remains to be seen, but rest assured, Nico will fight to the very end to make sure he wins the race tomorrow.
Sunday’s grid (with penalties applied):
Paul di Resta
Mark Webber (Incl. 3 place penalty)
Lewis Hamilton (Incl. 5 place penalty)
Giedo van der Garde
Esteban Gutierrez (Incl. 5 place penalty)