Bahrain GP – Qualifying

The fastest man in Bahrain!
The fastest man in Bahrain!

Is it that time already? Although I’ve been abandoned by Mr Eau Rouge (who is toiling away at a conference and not at all sunning himself on the shores of Lake Geneva), I’m going to attempt to live blog this thing*. I mean what could possibly go wrong, home at alone at the mercy of two small children. So lets do it.

*Obviously live-blogging was one thing and getting a full 10 minutes to finesse my stream of consciousness blog post and whack in a few photos was a step too far with two feral children on the loose. But I really typed as I watched so I’m going to call it a live blog all the same. Bear with me!

Welcome to Bahrain! Obviously I’ll skip through the build-up to qualifying proper though its been merrily playing to itself for the last hour – but hey its something to catch up on later when the kids are in bed and I’m sitting down to my saddo evening dinner for one.

So round 4 of the F1 season takes us to the Sakhir Circuit – and in previous years the race has been won 4 times from pole position (not that this race tends to be a borefest…much). Anyone could snatch pole – Red Bull, Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen for Lotus (obviously they have totally discounted Grosjean!).

The Sakhir Circuit (yup the most interesting picture I could find)
The Sakhir Circuit (yup the most interesting picture I could find)

So far this weekend, Force India is looking faster than McLaren (ouch) and Alonso had a clumsy spin this morning. The panoramic overhead shots don’t do the Bahrain track any favours – what a desolate, arid, depressing place with literally just two people sitting in the grandstands. Can’t we just lose quietly lose this race and reinstate one of the old great tracks onto the calendar. I have a reasonably long list if Bernie is interested.

Gutierrez, then Webber and then Hamilton will have their penalties applied in order. Time for a quick update on the rebuild job on Lewis Hamilton’s car (what…what…what rebuild??!!) after his big blow out in final practice. A new gearbox has been fitted (ah hence the penalty) – and it turns out he had a tyre delamination but not a suspension failure. Still a quick change of underpants was probably required.

Oooops didn’t realise that Q1 has got underway – but we all know how these things work. Sweet F.A. for around 10 minutes then a frantic burst of activity. But shock horror, 3 whole cars (Vergne, Hulkenberg and Gutierrez) have actually set a time with 12 minutes to go. Martin suggested putting a camera in Ricciardo’s crash helmet to see if he smiles all the time while on track. Er ok. Its pretty fair to say Daniel Ricciardo is universally loved. But then I remember everyone eulogizing similarly about Vettel back in the Toro Rosso days and the early Red Bull days before he crossed over to the Dark Side.

A slightly freaked Giedo van der Garde just radioed in to say he could feel something moving around in his cockpit. Brundle (he of the Old School ‘just sellotape your car up and get back on track’) didn’t sound very sympathetic saying you can get all sorts like screwdrivers etc left in cars.

Giedo van der Garde having a mildly eventful qualifying (what was in the cockpit...did we ever discover?!)
Giedo van der Garde having a mildly eventful qualifying (what was in the cockpit…did we ever discover?!)

Then an incandescent Paul Di Resta radioed into his team to s**t all over them for not giving him enough information…“its really not good enough”. I’m sorry but I’ve got to put it out there. I really can’t bear Paul Di Resta. Does he ever stop whinging and ranting for a single race? Get a grip of yourself man, you’re hardly A List in the world of F1. He will probably now get pole just to spite me.

Ah Gerhard Berger is here! We like Gerhard a lot. My favourite Berger story ever is the time he threw Ayrton Senna’s new carbon fibre briefcase out of a helicopter to prove it wasn’t indestructible. Crazeeeee days man. But we digress and oh yes, Q1 is still going on.

Ayrton and Gerhard
Ayrton and Gerhard

Meanwhile 3 minutes to do and its Alonso, Rosberg, Grosjean, Di Resta (boo), Massa and Kimi at the top end. And Hamilton STILL hasn’t set a time – he had a problem in the middle of his lap and it looks like he backed out of his lap. OH BUT HANG ON needless panic averted as Lewis goes 5th. I think the commentary team need to get a grip along with Di Resta.

And in the Dropzone of Doom are (17) Maldonado (apparently a Williams car has fallen at Q1 every single qualifying of this year) (18) Gutierrez (19) Pic (20) Bianchi (21) Van Der Garde and (22) Chilton. Williams really have gone backwards this year. As a longtime Williams fan (despite the cruel and brutal treatment of Damon Hill…I’m still relatively bitter) its desperately sad to see.

Ah talking of which, I’ve now been joined on the sofa by the 5 year old as the Sky team discuss the fall-out of Q1. “Oh”, he says, “there’s Damon Hill…did he drive when you were young?”. Was I still young then? Anyway, swiftly moving on.

A very freshfaced Damon Hill (I was definitely young at this point in time!)
A very freshfaced Damon Hill (I was definitely young at this point in time!)

So time for Q2 and thoughts are turning to the actual pole time – the feeling is it will be the low 1.32s or the late 1.31s. And apparently its not sand at the side of the track, its Beige Painted Concrete. And that, ladies and gentlemen, tells you all you need to know about Sakhir.

With a few minutes to go, Rosberg does a truly stonking lap to go fastest by 0.5 seconds which even merits a flicker of approval on the inscrutable face of Ross Brawn. And Webber manages to insert himself between Rosberg and Alonso – I really would love Mark to have a good qualifying though the poor old sod still has a grid penalty to come.

With a minute to go, Sutil, Button and Kimi are back out on flying laps. Where will they end up? All perilously hovering close to/in the dropzone so this lap will be crucial. Sutil goes 7th, Button goes 9th and Kimi goes 4th shoving Grosjean out of the top ten.

So dumped out of Q2 are the following: (11) Grosjean (12) Perez (13) Ricciardo (14) Hulkenberg (15) Bottas (16) Vergne. Of those six, Grosjean and Hulkenberg are a real surprise. Perez should be but isn’t if you know what I mean. All a bit puzzling what’s going on with Grosjean this season. But after all the flak he got last year, I wonder if he’s driving within himself. Loved Damon’s comment in post-Q2 analysis about him getting unhelpful advice from Alain Prost. Its safe to say Prost isn’t without an opinion on most things.

Ah a word from Eric Bouillier (who has the thickest French accent I’ve EVER heard – think the resistance woman from ‘Allo ‘Allo ‘listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once’ and you’re there). A couple of titbits of news hot off the press. Pirelli have signed a 5 year deal and Bahrain might be a night race next year. Hmmmm. I am not a fan of night races, certainly based on the mind-numbing tedium of most Singapore races.

I shall say 'zis only once
I shall say ‘zis only once

And Q3 gets underway pretty quickly for once with Nico setting a blisteringly fast time of 1.32.543 (0.8 seconds faster than Di Resta) and Hamilton on his first run can’t quite match his team-mate’s time. And nor can Alonso who slots into 2nd place just ahead of Lewis. So top 4 (and indeed the only 4 cars to venture out) are Nico, Alonso, Hamilton and Di Resta. All the rest presumably are saving their tyres/playing the long game/sending tweets/punching their team-mate etc.

Then BIG excitement, Ferrari have come out on the hard tyre. That’s a bit different. And we have TEN cars on track. Prepare to have your brains fried for the last 1 minute of qualifying. <reaches for valium>

And we are following Mark Webber as he makes various mistakes and lock-ups which brings sighs of despair from Martin Brundle. Webber anyway manages to go 4th and Di Resta can’t match that on his next flying lap. Kimi meanwhile has only gone 7th…what?!? <sobs into my third black coffee of the day> Here comes Nico with Vettel in hot pursuit. And Nico STAYS on pole with an even faster time, Vettel goes 2nd and it all comes down to Alonso but he has made a mistake and peels off into the pits. Alonso stays 3rd. Button alone of the top ten fails to set a time and comes into the pits.

So we have a second Mercedes pole in a row. And it’s the first back-to-back pole for Mercedes since Moss and Fangio in 1955 (note to David Coulthard – that’ll be JUAN MANUEL FANGIO, the FIVE time F1 world champion).

Moss and Fangio
Moss and Fangio – Mercedes team-mates

Well assorted Sky F1 presenters and commentary team, you didn’t call that one remotely right for pole. You load of doofuses. The top ten tomorrow looks like this*

  1. Rosberg
  2. Vettel
  3. Alonso
  4. Hamilton *but with 5 place penalty
  5. Webber *but with 3 place penalty
  6. Massa – will start on the hard tyre
  7. Di Resta
  8. Sutil
  9. Raikkonen
  10. Button – didn’t set a time so could start on hard tyre (I so bet he will)

Well that was a turn up for the books. Will Nico’s luck change on race day tomorrow? Will we have our 4th different winner in 4 races? That’s me done and I’m outta here until tomorrow!

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