Nico Rosberg has taken pole position for the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit. The Mercedes driver had looked to have to settle for second throughout the weekend so far, with Hamilton having topped every practice session prior to qualifying.
Daniel Ricciardo set the third fastest time but will start down in 13th after a 10 place grid penalty for an unsafe pit-stop in last weeks Malaysian Grand Prix. Valtteri Bottas will line up in the third position, with Sergio Perez just outside of the top three.
The battle for the front row seemed to be all but over for 10 of the 11 teams as qualifying began. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had topped every practice for Mercedes and it looked as though it would be a straight battle between the two team-mates.
Nico Hulkenburg was the fastest man early on in the first 18 minute qualifying session, with the Force India cars looking strong throughout the run up to qualifying. Fellow German and fellow ‘Nico’ Rosberg took over the times briefly as the Mercedes duo emerged, but was pipped by team-mate Hamilton by a tenth of a second.
All the drivers had set lap times on the slower medium tyres, but in the closing stages, almost every driver – bar the Mercedes pair – ventured out on to the circuit on the faster soft compound to try and ensure their spot in Q2. Valtteri Bottas was the first to do so, with Hulkenburg then coming through to take the fastest time of the session.
Several drivers improved to get into the top 16, with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen briefly under threat of elimination as the clock hit zero. The Dane managed to get through however, with a last minute time to lift himself into 7th. Romain Grosjean was pushed into 17th, the first spot in the elimination zone, but a final quick lap put the Frenchman up into the vital 16th spot, pushing team-mate Pastor down into the elimination zone.
Pastor was joined by Adrian Sutil in the elimination zone, with the German driver being one of the first to switch onto the soft tyres in the closing minutes. Kamui Kobayashi and Jules Bianchi both had moments where they had lifted themselves out of the drop zone, but neither of them managed to sneak their way in. They will line up 19th and 20th ahead of their team-mates Max Chilton and Marcus Ericsson.
Out of Q1:
Q1 leader Hulkenburg was the early leader once again at the start of the 15 minutes of Q2. He was soon beaten by Lewis Hamilton, who was then beaten in turn by team-mate Nico Rosberg. This was the order that would remain for the rest of the session, with Lewis getting a wake up call from his team-mate.
The battle for the top 10 shootout hotted up in the final few minutes of the session, with Sebastian Vettel struggling at the wheel of his Red Bull RB10. The world champion had spun his car in the final half hour of FP3 at turn 2 and did not look comfortable in the final few minutes. He left it late to set his first lap time which put him in 8th place.
Williams duo Bottas and Massa had put aside their differences in the week gap after the Malaysian Grand Prix, where Massa defied team-orders to keep Valtteri behind. The pair both set times to lift themselves into the top 10, putting Vettel on the edge in 10th. Sergio Perez was the one who dealt the final blow, pushing Vettel into 11th and into elimination for the second time in three races.
Nico Hulkenburg was perhaps the biggest surprise elimination in 12th, having led Q1 after looking fast all weekend. The two Toro Rossos failed to get into Q3 in the team’s 150th Grand Prix, with Kvyat out-qualifying Jean-Eric Vergne. Esteban Gutierrez was 15th fastest ahead of Romain Grosjean, who got the most out of his Lotus in 16th; just one second away from Q3.
Out of Q2:
|11||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1’34.985|
|12||Nico Hulkenburg||Force India||1’35.116|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’35.145|
|14||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1’35.286|
The battle for pole was really hotting up between the two Silver Arrows cars, with the likelihood of another driver spoiling their day looking increasingly smaller.
The two Williams cars were the first out on track, with the team breathing a sigh of relief that the session was dry (which was never in doubt due to the event being staged in the desert.) The previous two qualifying sessions had been wet which had neutered the pace of the Williams car. Valtteri Bottas set the benchmark with a 1:34.247.
The two Mercedes came through next to spoil that, with Rosberg going a second faster than Valtteri with a 1:33.185; impressively within a second of his pole position time in last year’s Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton was the next car through and was slower than Nico once more. Hamilton was reported to have made a mistake at turn 4 which could have cost him the two tenths between him and Nico.
After the first of two runs, it was Rosberg fastest ahead of Hamilton, Bottas and an impressive effort from Sergio Perez in 4th. All 10 drivers emerged on track for a final attempt with the checkered flag waiting for them at the finish line.
Lewis Hamilton’s challenge on Rosberg was almost over before it began, with the pole-sitter of the last two rounds locking up and running wide at turn 1. This meant that Nico Rosberg’s time was safe. This meant that he would start the Bahrain Grand Prix on pole position for the second consecutive time.
Daniel Ricciardo jumped up from 7th to 3rd place in a great final lap for the young Australian. Unfortunately he will start from 13th after his 10 place grid penalty has been applied. Valtteri Bottas held on to his 3rd place as a result, equaling his best qualifying position from the Canadian Grand Prix last year.
Sergio Perez will start from an excellent 4th place after his miserable Malaysian Grand Prix weekend. Kimi Raikkonen also bounced back from a poor race last weekend to take 5th on the grid ahead of Jenson Button in 6th for his 250th race. Felipe Massa was 7th fastest, 3 tenths of a second down on team-mate Bottas in 3rd. Kevin Magnussen grabbed 8th place for McLaren ahead of Fernando Alonso, who filled out the final spot in the original top 10 prior to Ricciardo’s penalty application.
Following qualifying, Adrian Sutil, who had qualified in 18th, was moved to the back of the grid for impeding Romain Grosjean during Q1.
2014 Bahrain Grand Prix grid:
|4||Sergio Perez||Force India||1’34.346|
|10||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1’34.985|
|11||Nico Hulkenburg||Force India||1’35.116|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’35.145|
|13||Daniel Ricciardo*||Red Bull||1’34.051|
|14||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1’35.286|
*Ricciardo starts 13th after a 10 place grid penalty. **Sutil starts last after being moved to the back for impeding another driver.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who starts on pole: “It has just worked well through the weekend, finding my way, making progress and getting through some issues. The challenge this weekend is that free practice were in such hot conditions, and you have to guess, sort of, for the cold conditions [for qualifying]. It worked out well. I felt comfortable and got my laps together. I’m very happy. I have good memories of this track, winning the GP2 championship and starting my first race in F1. I enjoy coming here and again today, it’s suited me.”
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who qualified second: “I am not disappointed, congratulations to Nico and he has done a great job this weekend, he is improving and picking up the pace. I locked up in the last lap but generally I am happy for the team.”
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who will start 13th: “Really pleased with the performance. At moment it’s the best anyone else can do behind the two guys alongside me. Still got ground to make up, but I’m pleased with how well qualifying went tonight.
“It’s been tricky with the temperature dropping a lot for the evening sessions – as you saw in P3 we were a long way off and we turned it around this evening – it’s nice to close the gap. Tomorrow of course I don’t stay at the front from here, so there’s work to do. We’ve got top guys in the office back there to get me back up there. It’s close between two and three stops and a bit of room to get back from there.”
By Jordan Groves Formula 1 correspondent for RTR Sports Marketing - Sport Sponsorship Agency