Both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen managed to pip their Mercedes’ opponents to the post, with Vettel shading his teammate by less than a tenth of a second, Rosberg trailing Vettel by nearly 1/2 a second, with Hamilton setting an almost identical time to his Mercedes teammate, with Bottas following him up in the Williams.
The newcomers Haas again made a good impression with Romain Grosjean coming in 6th and teammate Esteban Guiterrez 8th, split by Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat. Williams’ Felipe Massa and Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo completed the top ten.
For a little while after that, things seemed to be almost normal, if you call Hamilton and Rosberg recoding exactly the same time of the soft tyres – 1m 33.150s – normal.
A little later during the session, Raikkonen set a faster time of 1m 32.836s, therefore setting the fastest two sector times, however failing to match Rosberg’s time in the third.
On the supersofts, Rosberg managed to gain the upper hand on Hamilton again, coming in at 1m 32.104s, whilst his teammate fell back in the third sector by 0.056s.
Overall, it was an unusual session, with drivers ending up in places that were unexpected. Marcus Ericsson managed to jump to 11th place in his Sauber, a stark contrast to yesterday where they were in so much trouble that even Manor were ahead of them.
McLaren, noted for how fast they were yesterday, managed 13th and 14th on the supersofts, and Stoffel Vandoorne, in his first GP of the season, was a mere 0.040s down on teammate Jenson Button despite Button remaining in his garage for all but the last 18 minutes because of an oil leak.
The two Toro Rosso’s only managed 15th and 16th place after drivers Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz had both complained about puncture issues and battery drainage, however they only ran on the soft tyres. The Force India’s weren’t fast either, coming in at 18th and 19th place.
Beyond the driving element of Formula 1, there was also a bit of tension among Sky Sports presenter Johnny Herbert and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso during the session today. Herbert wrote in an article published earlier today that he believes that ‘Fernando Alonso should retire’. [http://www.skysports.com/f1/news/24184/10225138/fernando-alonso-should-retire-says-sky-sports-f1s-johnny-herbert] This prompted Alonso to approach Herbert on camera and caused a conversation between the two that went something like this:
Alonso: “I’m not going to retire.”
Herbert: “You’re not retiring?”
Alonso: “No, I’m a World Champion. You ended up as a commentator because you weren’t Champion.”
You can see the video here: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lAIx6MrePw]
In Q3, current world champion Lewis Hamilton rebounded from a mistake made in Q2 which left him in fourth, behind his teammate and both the Ferrari’s to deliver a lighting fast lap to gain pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix, which was announced as the fastest lap ever around the circuit.
Ferrari seemed genuinely competitive during qualifying today, and unlike at the end of the last race in Australia, managed to retain enough sets of supersofts to continue to attack the Mercedes’ to the end of qualifying, however not managing to beat them, gaining the second row on the grid.
The remainder of the runners in Q3 only had sufficient time to complete single runs, thanks to the famously controversial qualifying system implemented for 2016 and remaining for this race.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz paid the price for choosing to remain in the pits after only making single runs during Q2, whilst Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg was the only driver to attempt two runs in this segment of qualifying. This move ended up being well worth it, as on his second attempt, Hulkenburg managed a flyer, avoiding elimination in Q2, coming in at 8th place on the grid, knocking Grosjean out of the final Q3 spot.
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne ended up 13th, managing to out-qualify his teammate Jenson Button on his debut qualifying. Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat had another disappointing session today, only ending up in 15th, whilst teammate Daniel Riccardo managed to qualify 5th fastest.
Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein managed to get up to 16th place in a last ditch effort, which managed to fall less than 3/10ths shy of being in a position to get into Q2. This was the best performance by Manor since Jules Bianchi’s Q2 at the 2014 Belgian GP.
Renault’s Kevin Magnussen dropped out of Q1 in 19th place, however has to start from the pit-lane tomorrow after missing the weighbridge in practice.
Felipe Nasr’s lap was ruined by a huge lock-up under breaking at Turn 1, so he ended up being the slowest, qualifying last.