Bahrain GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Vettel bounces back with Bahrain pole
Sebastian Vettel, having missed out on Q3 in China a week ago, hit back with pole position for tomorrow's Bahrain GP.
The double champion's time (1:32.422) was a tenth quicker than Lewis Hamilton (1:32.520) as the pair fought out the pole on their final Q3 runs with Vettel's Red Bull Racing team mate Mark Webber (1:32.637).
"Our race pace has proven to be pretty consistent and I am happier with how the car feels here, so I'm looking forward to the race," Vettel said. "I think it will be pretty tight. Nico (Rosberg) has been strong all weekend and the Lotus guys can surprise. But we've worked really hard since day one, when we weren't as strong as we wanted to be, so this one is down to the guys."
Hamilton was pleased to split the Red Bulls and felt that the McLaren was much improved relative to FP3, which Lewis had finished fourth quickest, half a second down on Rosberg. He also felt his qualifying laps were really strong, better even than those that annexed pole position in Australia and Malaysia.
Webber also looked satisfied. "Yep," he said, "Qualifying is not easy and the guys did a good job. I'm happy with Q3 and being up at the front. Generally this is not a great track for me but I've been quick all weekend and I'm feeling confident."
Jenson Button (1:32.711) lines up fourth with the second McLaren, one slot better off than Rosberg (1:32.821). The China winner opted for just one run in Q2 and Q3 but locked up at Turn 10 on his all-important run in the top 10 shoot-out.
Nobody is underestimating Rosberg's race potential, however.
"Nico has looked quick all weekend, they have good speed and it's a long race," Vettel conceded. "There are no points for today."
Rosberg will have more tyres for the race and that could be crucial. "Nobody really knows though," Vettel said. "Sometimes saving tyres is a huge advantage, other times it makes no difference."
Another man with a lot of tyres for Sunday is Rosberg's Mercedes team mate Michael Schumacher, who failed to make it out of Q1 when he was bumped down into 18th position by Heikki Kovalainen's Caterham, by a hundredth of a second!
Button and Hamilton who, like Schumacher, also only ran the prime tyre in Q1, were just six hundredths and four hundredths clear of Kovalainen respectively, and Schumacher had been further hampered by a DRS problem.
Schumacher will look back at China 2011 when Mark Webber made it onto the podium having been mired in Q1, and hope that, through inventive strategy, he can work something similar.
Daniel Ricciardo (1:32.912) did a tremendous job to put the Toro Rosso sixth on the grid within half a second of pole, some 0.09s clear of Romain Grosjean, whose final Q2 run bumped his team mate Kimi Raikkonen out of the top 10. But, going into the race 11th, with freedom of tyre choice and plenty of rubber, may not be a bad proposition for the Finn, however.
Sergio Perez's Sauber (1:33.914), Fernando Alonso's Ferrari and Paul Di Resta's Force India completed a top 10 that included eight different constructors and further demonstrated the incredible competitiveness of 2012-spec' F1. The latter pair opted not to set a Q3 lap to save rubber, with Di Resta having done a particularly strong job to get into the final stages of qualifying after the team's decision not to run in FP2.