Back-to-back pole for Mercedes as Rosberg leads the way in Bahrain

Rosberg Bahrain 2013

Nico Rosberg achieved his second career pole position and the Mercedes F1 team’s first back-to-back since 1955 following an exciting qualifying session at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Silver Arrows had not looked like an outright front row contender during practice but when Rosberg recorded a lap of one minute, 32.4 seconds at the start of Q3, his rivals were unable to match it.

Sebastian Vettel came close for Red Bull Racing with a time of one minute, 32.584 seconds. He will start ahead of last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.

Rosberg then made his pole position absolutely certain, improving with a time of one minute, 32.330 seconds to grab the top spot by over 0.2 seconds.

His Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton was 0.4 seconds slower in fourth position. However, he will lose five places on the grid for having a gearbox change prior to qualifying.

A left-rear tyre failure damaged the rear suspension, which also included the gearbox. So the team was forced to replace it, hence the grid penalty.

Fifth position will also change post-session. Mark Webber took the place for Red Bull, but faces a three-place penalty himself after last weekend’s collision with Jean-Eric Vergne in China.

Ferrari put Felipe Massa on hard tyres for Q3 and he took sixth position, followed by the Force India pair of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil. The latter only just made it into Q3 with a late charge.

After setting the pace in Friday practice, Kimi Raikkonen was only ninth in his Lotus.

McLaren was ecstatic to see Jenson Button reach Q3 against expectations with a last-gasp lap. The 2009 world champion chose not to do a flying lap in the top ten shootout.

The late Q2 improvements pushed Romain Grosjean’s Lotus down to P11. The Frenchman was back in the pits at the end of the session with his first lap not been suitable enough to make it through.

Both Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado set identical times in the Williams during Q1. However, since Bottas recorded the one minute, 34.425 seconds lap first, meaning he made it to Q2 that became P15, his team-mate was left out with P17.

Esteban Gutierrez’s troubles continued as he only managed P18 in qualifying, which will become last when his five-place penalty for crashing into Adrian Sutil in China is applied.

There was a change in form at the back. Driving the upgraded Caterham, Charles Pic got his team ahead of Marussia for the first time this season, as he beat Jules Bianchi by a full 0.9 seconds.

Giedo van der Garde, in the older-spec Caterham, also outqualified a Marussia, pushing Max Chilton down to P22.

So a great pole position by Nico Rosberg. The first for Mercedes since Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio at the British and Italian Grands Prix in 1955. This is also the Brackley-based team first back-to back, when it was Brawn GP, since Jenson Button in 2009 Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix.

Grid positions for the Bahrain Grand Prix:

1.  Nico Rosberg         Mercedes              1m32.330s
2.  Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull-Renault      1m32.584s
3.  Fernando Alonso      Ferrari               1m32.667s
4.  Felipe Massa         Ferrari               1m33.207s
5.  Paul di Resta        Force India-Mercedes  1m33.235s
6.  Adrian Sutil         Force India-Mercedes  1m33.246s
7.  Mark Webber          Red Bull-Renault      1m33.078s*
8.  Kimi Raikkonen       Lotus-Renault         1m33.327s
9.  Lewis Hamilton       Mercedes              1m32.762s*
10.  Jenson Button        McLaren-Mercedes     No time
11.  Romain Grosjean      Lotus-Renault         1m33.762s
12.  Sergio Perez         McLaren-Mercedes      1m33.914s
13.  Daniel Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m33.974s
14.  Nico Hulkenberg      Sauber-Ferrari        1m33.976s
15.  Valtteri Bottas      Williams-Renault      1m34.105s
16.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m34.284s
17.  Pastor Maldonado     Williams-Renault      1m34.425s
18.  Charles Pic          Caterham-Renault      1m35.283s
19.  Jules Bianchi        Marussia-Cosworth     1m36.178s
20.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham-Renault      1m36.304s
21.  Max Chilton          Marussia-Cosworth     1m36.476s
22.  Esteban Gutierrez    Sauber-Ferrari        1m34.730s*

*Grid penalty

107 per cent time: 1m39.379s

10 thoughts to “Back-to-back pole for Mercedes as Rosberg leads the way in Bahrain”

  1. After taking his second career pole position in Formula 1, Nico Rosberg believes in the race he will fall back due to pace in the Mercedes. has the details.

    Bahrain Grand Prix polesitter Nico Rosberg expects his race to be “much more difficult” than Saturday’s qualifying session.

    The Mercedes driver took a surprise pole ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, putting in two laps good enough for top spot.

    But Mercedes is not expected to have the race pace of the other frontrunners based on Friday’s running.

    Rosberg admitted that taking pole position was “a little bit” of a surprise, and he is also expecting to have a tougher time on Sunday.

    “We will not be as quick as we were in qualifying compared to everyone else,” Rosberg said. “It will be much more difficult.

    “It was not clear before [qualifying] who had the quickest car, especially over one lap.

    “The team worked well last night to improve the car as we were struggling. It is a fantastic result, great for tomorrow, but tomorrow will be a tough day with rear tyre degradation.”

    Rosberg added that while Mercedes had made progress since struggling in free practice on Friday, he was unsure if it will translate into giving him a car capable of winning the race.

    “Yesterday we were in a difficult situation, we were not where we wanted to be or where we were in the last couple of races,” he said.

    “To be the absolute quickest today is great and is down to having done really good work last night and this morning.

    “For the race, the competition will be tough. It’s difficult to say if we have enough pace to win but we’ll try and I’m looking forward to starting first.”

  2. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has admitted that Nico Rosberg’s pole lap was says out of reach. has the story.

    Sebastian Vettel admitted there was no way he could have matched Nico Rosberg’s shock pole time in Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying.

    The world champion’s Red Bull will share the front row with Rosberg’s Mercedes, which did two laps good enough for pole.

    Vettel was ultimately 0.2 seconds slower than his countryman, but said he was satisfied.

    “I’m definitely not disappointed,” said Vettel. “Congratulations to Nico, he did a very strong lap. It was all his today.

    “When I crossed the line I saw I didn’t go first, saw second place on the screen and did not know how much was missing because my lap was fine.

    “When I got told the gap to P1 and Nico, it was clear that even with a perfect lap I couldn’t have done it.

    “Nevertheless I am very happy we managed to save some tyres throughout qualifying.

    “It will be all about tyres and tyre deg tomorrow once again. We will see what happens but it’s good to start from front row.”

  3. Despite missing out on pole position in Bahrain, Fernando Alonso is feeling relaxed heading into the race. The Ferrari looks quick on race pace. has the news story.

    Fernando Alonso said third place on the Bahrain Grand Prix grid was nothing to be disappointed about as he is sure his Ferrari will be quicker in race trim.

    Although Alonso was fastest in final practice, and team-mate Felipe Massa had led the way on Friday morning, the Spaniard was outpaced by Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull.

    Having won from third on the grid in China a week ago, Alonso said a row two slot in Bahrain was fine for him.

    “It is true that on Sundays normally we improve our performance and are more competitive on Sunday than Saturday,” he said.

    “On Friday the long run was more or less OK and there was no big trouble with tyres.

    “Tomorrow will be a good opportunity for us to get consistency and we can fight for the podium – and maybe a win would be even better.”

    Alonso chose not to complete his second Q3 run, preferring to conserve tyres once he realised pole was a long shot.

    “At the last corner I saw I was half a tenth to one tenth slower so we decided to come in and save one lap on those tyres,” Alonso said.

    “You never know if you’ll have to use it in the race.

    “Usually in qualifying we struggle a lot whereas today we were happy.

    “It puts us in a strong position for racing with the leaders and fighting for a podium.”

  4. The McLarens seems to be struggling for pace around the Bahrain International Circuit and yet Jenson Button was able to qualify in the top ten. However, the British driver is not expecting a miracle on race day. has the details.

    Jenson Button does not believe McLaren can repeat the strategic race that landed him a top five finish in China in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

    The McLaren driver was delighted to make the cut for Q3 in Bahrain, and he then opted not to set a time to give him free tyre choice for the start of the race.

    Button and McLaren pulled off an alternative strategy to finish fifth at Shanghai last weekend – making only two stops – but the 2009 champion has warned that the MP4-28 is not quick enough on the Sakhir circuit to make something similar work this weekend.

    “I don’t want people to expect too much out of us,” said Button. “It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow.

    “But we’re always going to be positive and every time I jump in the car I try to go as quick as I can.”

    Button hinted that while an alternative strategy is unlikely to yield as much as it did last weekend, McLaren is still likely to try something different to the frontrunners.

    “Maybe a two-stop strategy is on the cards,” he said.

    “Most of the time we are doing something different to other people because we have to. We’ll see what we can do.

    “We’re definitely on for points and it would be good to come away with both cars in the points.”

    Team-mate Sergio Perez, who was eliminated in Q2, said that his qualifying strategy was built around putting himself in better shape for the race.

    “I’m not concerned,” said the Mexican. “I put my car in the best possible position for tomorrow and it made qualifying really difficult.

    “We are looking after the tyres and it will make the difference tomorrow.”

  5. After setting the pace in Friday practice, Kimi Raikkonen was unable to match his rivals speed in qualifying. The Iceman admits the Lotus is slow. has the story.

    Kimi Raikkonen says his performance in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix was the maximum Lotus was capable of.

    Having been fastest on Friday, Raikkonen was tipped to join Ferrari and Red Bull at the front of the field at Sakhir.

    But he was 0.997 seconds off the pace in qualifying and only ninth quickest.

    He denied that there had been any unexpected drama and said the result reflected the car’s single-lap pace.

    “We were not fast enough. This was our maximum,” Raikkonen said.

    “Maybe we could’ve been a few places better, but like I said yesterday, it didn’t feel exactly like we want.

    “It’s just one of the places where we don’t seem to have the speed. Hopefully tomorrow it will turn out different.”

    Although Raikkonen is currently second in the world championship, he said Lotus is a notable step behind the top teams.

    “We need more grip,” he said. “We know we’re probably missing a bit of downforce compared to the top guys.”

    Last year in Bahrain, Raikkonen was able to turn 12th place on the grid into a runner-up finish, as he fought race winner Sebastian Vettel for the victory.

    Raikkonen played down the chances of a repeat performance, while admitting he hoped the E21’s long-run pace would be more competitive.

    “Every day is different. Whatever happened last year is not going to help us tomorrow,” Raikkonen said.

    “We had an OK long run yesterday so hopefully it will work better.

    “I cannot tell you where we’re going to finish. That would be stupid. We can only do our best and hopefully that will be a better result than today.

    “I hope that our tyres can last in better shape than some of the others.”

  6. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa has blamed tactics as part of the problem on a lack of pace. has the details.

    Felipe Massa says his lack of pace in Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying was the reason Ferrari put him on a different strategy to the rest of the frontrunners.

    The Brazilian made the surprise move of qualifying by taking the hard tyre in Q3. He was sixth fastest, and will start fourth due to Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton receiving grid penalties.

    “I was not 100 per cent happy with the lap times and [the chance] of fighting for pole,” Massa said after qualifying.

    “We were looking at two cars that would lose position [Hamilton and Webber] so one option was to watch and not go out.

    “The other was to go out on the hard. I hope this is the right tyre for the race tomorrow.”

    Massa also hopes that he will get an advantage from being on the hard tyre for the opening stint of the race.

    “The long run on the hard [in practice] was more consistent,” he said. “The degradation’s a bit better.

    “It can be better to have the hard [in the first stint]. Maybe the start will be a little bit worse but we’ll see how it’s going to be.”

  7. Lewis Hamilton’s left-rear tyre failure during Saturday morning practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, which led to his five-place grid penalty, was caused by metal debris, according to Pirelli.

    The problem led to suspension and gearbox damage, as confirmed by a Mercedes statement.

    This forced Mercedes to change Hamilton’s gearbox, which was being used for the fourth weekend of its run of five, leading to the penalty.

    Pirelli’s conclusion is based upon its intial analysis of the tyre, along with the fact that Giedo van der Garde suffered a similar problem.

    “Van der Garde was following and his rear tyre had a 10cm cut through it, a very aggressive cut that could only have come from a bit of metal,” Hembery told AUTOSPORT.

    “We are assuming that there was a piece of metal on the track that got into the suspension, the wheel, the brakes and that has caused us to lose the tread.

    “It didn’t deflate the tyre as the structural part was still intact and whatever it was went on and did van der Garde’s tyre as well.

    “That’s all we can say at the moment.”

    Hembery confirmed the metal debris caused the tyre to overheat dramatically. This led to the loss of the tread.

    “It has sent it into a massive overheat and we are trying to look at the telemetry to understand it,” he said.

    “We have a lab here, so we have some idea and can see some patches of overheating on the tread that has caused it to go well over 200C, which is rare and strange.”

    Hembery added that, as is routine, Pirelli personnel were due to walk the circuit after track activity had finished in an attempt to find the debris.

    “We will go out and look as our guys always do a track walk,” said Hembery.

    “We are not overly concerned as it’s just one of those racing things.”


  8. As one Mercedes took pole position, the other was struggling to keep up. Lewis Hamilton admits his pace faded away in qualifying. has the news story.

    Lewis Hamilton said the pace of his Mercedes slipped back in Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying after good progress was made in final practice.

    As team-mate Nico Rosberg surged to a surprise pole position, Hamilton was 0.432 seconds adrift in fourth place. He is also due to get a five-place penalty for having a gearbox change prior to qualifying.

    Hamilton had been unhappy with his car on Friday, but felt he made a breakthrough on Saturday morning, only for that pace to fade away again.

    “The car didn’t feel the same as it did in P3,” said Hamilton. “The guys are looking into the data.

    “P3 was a big improvement. P1 and P2 we had some problems with the car and fixed it overnight.

    “But we got to qualifying and it felt like it did yesterday.

    “Whatever it was, it doesn’t matter. Nico did a great job today. I wasn’t able to match his pace.

    “Tomorrow’s going to be a tough race from ninth place but I’ll do what I can.”

    Hamilton incurred his penalty when his gearbox was among the components damaged by a blown tyre at the end of practice three. Pirelli believes debris was to blame.

    “The rules are the rules. I just have to suck it up and deal with it,” said Hamilton.

  9. After qualifying in the top six at Bahrain, Force India believes a top six finish in the race is a realistic target. has the details.

    Paul di Resta believes Force India can repeat its strong performance from last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix in this year’s race.

    Di Resta and team-mate Adrian Sutil have already scored the team’s best grid result of the campaign – with fifth and sixth at Sakhir – and Force India’s strong long-run pace means hopes are high for the race.

    But di Resta thinks the key to delivering on that potential is Force India being allowed to run at its own pace in the race, and not having its chances compromised by getting stuck behind slower cars.

    “We finished sixth here last year in the race, so we are hopeful that the long-run performance means we can be strong enough to fight for that this time,” he said.

    “If we can get good track position – to keep ourselves out of it [traffic] like we did in stint three in China and push the others on a bit – then that will be great.

    “The key thing is what happens between the start and Turn 4. If we can finish fifth, anywhere around fifth, that would be a job well done. That is all we are aiming to do at the moment.”

    When asked if a podium finish was even possible, di Resta said: “I am not going to say never, but all I can say is that our performance in the race in Malaysia was pretty strong.

    “We can certainly hope that where we have qualified is where we can race, because in Malaysia the speed from Saturday carried over to Sunday, before we were stopped with the wheel nut issue.”

    Di Resta added that one of the main things he wanted to understand was why he and Sutil had not made as much improvement in Q3 as other drivers.

    “We are miffed about why we did not improve in Q3 as much as the others did, because we got to Q3 in the same state as [Nico] Rosberg and [Fernando] Alonso – we were as quick as them,” he said.

    “Although we were thrown a bit of a dummy with a set of pressures that affected the last set, which compromised a bit of speed.”

    Force India’s best race result of the season so far came in Australia, where Sutil finished seventh and di Resta was one place further back.

  10. The cars were invisible to viewers of the same race last year after the team angered Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone by pulling out of a Friday practice session so jittery staff could get back to their hotel before nightfall.

    Earlier in that 2012 race week, some Force India employees had been caught up in a petrol bomb incident on the highway as anti-government protests spilled over into the cocooned world of Formula One.
    Force India made sure their cars got plenty of television exposure at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday after Britain’s Paul Di Resta qualified fifth with his German team mate Adrian Sutil sixth on the grid.

    The team’s subsequent absence from the TV feed triggered speculation that they had been punished, although Ecclestone denied that was the case.

    That all seemed like ancient history on Saturday, with teams reporting no troubles this time despite ongoing low-level clashes around the island in parts rarely seen by most grand prix visitors.

    Di Resta’s grid position was the best of the Scot’s career to date.

    “It’s very good, very encouraging,” deputy team principal Bob Fernley told Reuters.

    “I think it was a good solid team performance, that. It has been solid all the way through the weekend. It’s not something that’s just sort of crept in. It has been top 10. I think we can hold at least where we are,” he added.


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