So, despite the new qualifying system coming under heavy fire from drivers, fans, media, and the paddock, the system remained unchanged for the Bahrain GP that saw Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton take pole position by clocking a record time on the Bahrain International Circuit of 1\:29\:493 seconds. He was followed by team-mate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari driver, Sebastian Vettel.
While Nico had topped the time sheets for majority of the Q3 session, Lewis managed to snatch the pole position in the closing 5 minutes of qualifying. The Mercedes drivers have secured their second consecutive front-row lockout of the season and eight in a row.
The Q1 started with Nico Rosberg setting the fastest time of the session of 1 minute 31.325 seconds. The drivers eliminated were Felipe Nasr, Rio Haryanto, Jolyon Palmer, Kevin Magnussen, Sergio Perez, Marcus Ericsson, and Pascal Wehrlein.
In Q2, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap followed by Vettel, Rosberg, and Kimi Raikkonen. The eliminations of the session were Daniil Kyvat, Esteban Gutierrez, Jenson Button, Stoffel Vandoorne, Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean.
In the Q3 session the remaining eight cars went out on track with the Ferrari setting a time in the 1 minute 30 second slot. However, in the final six minutes of Q3, the four front-runners went out again and the Mercs propelled themselves back to the top, locking the front-row with timings in the 1\:29 second bracket. Eliminations in third session were Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, and Kimi Raikkonen.
The important take-away from the qualifying is that Haas F1 team have proved to be the underdogs and will be the first ones to get the free choice of tyres for Sunday, putting them in a competitive position against Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso. For the American team who is in its second race, one cannot ignore that their chassis is similar to the 2015-spec Ferrari and their engine is a 2016-spec Ferrari unit. The combination of the two does put them in a comfortable place for a P5 or P6 position on race day.
Moving to the front-runners of the grid, the tyre strategies both Ferrari and Mercedes implement will be the key to the show in Bahrain. From qualifying, what one can understand is that on the super-soft compounds, there is only half a second difference between the top two teams and it's going to be a close call. But with temperatures dropping by nightfall would mean more use of medium tyres, and the gap between Ferrari and Mercedes on the mediums is one second.
Given the current scenario post-qualifying, the scarlet outfit will have to have an effective strategy in place to close in on the time-gap in terms of race pace. A gamble like Australia is what Ferrari can't afford in Bahrain, knowing that they were in a dominating position here last year, and have the chance to change their fortunes again.
The start and opening laps of the race, will be exciting and interesting to see what drama unfolds at this tricky circuit in the Gulf. The red light will go out at Bahrain's Sakhir circuit at 8.00 PM (IST).
Qualifying results\: 1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m29.493s2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m29.570s3. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1m30.012s4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m30.244s5. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1m30.854s6. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1m31.153s7. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1m31.155s8. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1m31.620s
9. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1m31.756s10. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1m31.772s11. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1m31.816s12. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1m31.934s13. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1m31.945s14. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1m31.998s15. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 1m32.241s
16. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1m32.806s17. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1m32.840s18. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1m32.911s19. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1m33.438s20. Rio Haryanto, Manor, 1m34.190s21. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1m34.388s22. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1m33.181s