It’s taken us a while to work out exactly who will start tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix from where, but one thing was certain after today’s strangely anti-climatic qualifying session and that is that a Mercedes will once again start from pole position. And will most likely, once again, not go on to win the race.
This time its Nico Rosberg’s turn, after Lewis Hamilton could manage no better than fourth. Lewis had a difficult day, which saw a rear wheel attempt to part company with the car in the last practice session. That needed a rebuild and a new gearbox, which meant a penalty for Lewis, who will now start ninth, next to old team-mate Jenson Button who has opted to pull the same tactical trick he pulled in China. He didn’t set a time in Q3 having just made it through from Q2, though McLaren are not optimistic the free choice of tyre can propel him in to a lead as it did in China.
The sharp end of the grid, after Hamilton’s penalty and Mark Webber’s from last week in China, looks like this: Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel on the front row, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa on row two with Massa starting on the harder compound and admitting the tactical gamble was his only option to get ahead. The Ferraris have the bases covered then — that will be worth watching tomorrow.
Then it is the two Force Indias on row three, Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil delivering when it mattered after a weekend when the team has played with the big boys since the start of FP1. With McLaren once again not getting both cars through to Q3, it can’t be easy for the Woking team to see Force India (with Mercedes engines and engineering support from McLaren, remember) getting faster and faster.
Webber and Kimi Raikkonen line up ahead of Hamilton and Button. At least we think so. Webber’s penalty and that of Hamilton took the edge of what could have a been a sensational third qualifying session as all ten fastest cars took to the track with just two minutes to spare. But then Massa and Button’s tactics became apparent and Alonso wasn’t quite able to match his Q1 promise.
And we’ve said this before this weekend, but the completely empty circuit, F1 folk hiding from the heat, plus a complete lack of general public, makes for an entirely soulless spectacle. You can paint all the pretty graphics you want over your endless concrete run-offs, but you cannot get around the fact that these beautiful cars are racing in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Even Bernie Ecclestone, when interviewed by the BBC around the human rights issues in Bahrain, wondered why on earth the government wants this race.
The organisers meanwhile are suggesting it could become a night race in future and want the circuit to become the home of winter testing. Personally speaking, this correspondent would be happy if this was the last race in Bahrain. So let’s get this one over and move on eh?
It will be between Alonso and Vettel, and we’re putting our money on red. The Mercedes just can’t do the distances on the tyres so Rosberg will go backwards, Alonso will just need to ensure the silver car doesn’t get between him and the blue one at the start.