Bahrain GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
The first first
By Dan Knutson in Manama
Valtteri Bottas will start from the first position for the Bahrain Grand Prix after winning the first pole of his Formula 1 career. He beat out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton who had been quickest for all of qualifying except for the last lap.
The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Centigrade).
The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Antonio Giovinazzi.
Wehrlein and Ericsson headed out first for the 18-minute session. They had the super soft Pirelli compound tires on their Saubers. It was Wehrlein's first qualifying session of the year, and he was 0.4 of a second faster than his teammate.
Bottas, on the soft compound slicks, turned a 1:31.041. Moments later Hamilton had a messy lap and had to abort it.
Verstappen used the super soft tires to take the top spot with a 1:30.904. Hamilton's next run on the softs yielded a 1:30.814, so was ahead of Verstappen, Vettel, Bottas, Massa and Ricciardo.
With the first runs completed, Palmer was 15th and on the cutoff line with Stroll 16th and Perez 14th. Then Grosjean jumped from last to eighth and pushed Palmer out of the top 15 transfer spots.
Raikkonen, seventh, then had another go on the super soft tires, and moved to third. Palmer bounced up to seventh at the checkered flag, and Sainz, who had just set the fastest lap in the first sector, stopped out on the track. "No power," he radioed.
The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Sainz, Vandoorne, Perez, Ericsson and Magnussen.
The fastest 15 drivers who moved on to Q2 were: Hamilton, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Massa, Palmer, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Stroll, Ocon, Wehrlein and Alonso.
Next up was the 15-minute Q2 that would end with 10 drivers transferring to Q1. Bottas was first on track.
Super soft slicks would be the tire of choice.
Bottas clocked a 1:29.555. Fifteen seconds later Hamilton posted a 1:29.535. Ricciardo took third and was soon displaced by Verstappen.
Then the Ferrari boys crossed the line, and Vettel was now third and Raikkonen fourth.
Palmer was tenth and on the cutoff line, with Hulkenberg ninth and Grosjean 11th. Alonso and Stroll did not make a first run with the rest of the drivers. Alonso was done for the day, but Stroll headed out with four minutes remaining.
The top seven drivers stayed in the pits and the next seven were now on the track.
Grosjean moved to eighth, but others were going quickly as well including Hulkenberg who squeezed into fifth.
The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Kvyat, Stroll, Wehrlein, Ocon and Alonso.
The fastest 10 drivers who moved on to Q3 were: Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Massa, Grosjean and Palmer.
Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault, therefore, all had both cars in the final 10 shootout along with one Haas and one Williams.
The Red Bull boys and Bottas were the first out. Ricciardo posted a 1:30.007, Bottas a 1:28.844. Verstappen beat Ricciardo, and then Hamilton beat Bottas with a 1:28.792.
Again the Ferrari drivers then moved into third, Vettel, and fourth, Raikkonen. Massa was seventh while Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Palmer skipped the first run.
Now it was down to the final laps. Could Hamilton hold on to pole?
All 10 drivers were on the track in the final two minutes.
Bottas' second go produced a 1:28.769. Hamilton started fast but could not improve so remained second. Vettel remained third while Ricciardo vaulted to fourth ahead of Raikkonen, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Massa, Grosjean and Palmer.