Lewis Hamilton was quickest in every practice session, but teammate Nico Rosberg grabbed pole position for the Bahrain GP by nearly 0.3s in another front row lock-out. Rosberg said: “Starting from pole is a great thing but it’s a whole different story tomorrow. The challenge awaiting us is tyre degradation but I’m confident. I had some good runs so I’m confident I can stay ahead in the race.”
Meanwhile, a secret for why the new Mercedes power unit is so fast has been revealed.
What Mercedes’ boffins have done, according to Sky Sports F1 technical guru Mark Hughes, is split the turbo in half, mounting the exhaust turbine at the rear of the engine and the intake turbine at the front. A shaft running through the V of the V6 engine connects the two halves, keeping the hot exhaust gases driving the turbo from heating the cool air it’s drawing into the engine.
Aside from getting cooler air into the engine and extracting more power (maybe as much as 50 horsepower), this setup also allows Mercedes to keep drivetrain components closer to the center of the car. It also allowed the team to use a smaller intercooler, which cools off the heated air before going into the engine, compared to the rest of the cars.
Enjoy the race!
Nico Rosberg, who will be in pole position for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, always had a chance to turn the tables on his rival at Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton.
The British driver, who won the first two poles of the season as well as the last race in Malaysia, had dominated the weekend, topping all three free practice runs but Rosberg has some form here. He made his Formula One debut on this track, in an unfancied Williams in 2006 and finished among the points in seventh place. He also won the GP2 championship here and took the F1 pole position last year. This was his fifth pole and he is clearly determined to be anything but Hamilton’s stooge this season.
Rosberg said: “Starting from pole is a great thing but it’s a whole different story tomorrow. The challenge awaiting us is tyre degradation but I’m confident. I had some good runs so I’m confident I can stay ahead in the race.”
Hamilton said he was not disappointed but his long face told a different story. “You can’t always get it right,” he said. “Congratulations to Nico and he has done a great job this weekend. He is improving and picking up the pace. I locked up in the last lap but generally I am happy for the team.”
Hamilton aborted his final lap when he locked up on the first corner and that allowed Rosberg to come in too. It could be some contest between the two Mercedes drivers on Sunday.
Arguably the best drive came from Daniel Ricciardo, whose Red Bull is not really fancied for this track, with its long straights and slow corners. He finished third in qualifying, the position he finished on his Red Bull debut in Australia, only to see it taken away by disqualification. He also carries a 10-place grid penalty into the race from the last round in Malaysia, but that took nothing away from his qualifying performance. His team-mate, the four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, failed to make the top 10 shootout for the second time in three races.
The ever-smiling Australian said: “I’m really pleased with the performance. At moment it’s the best anyone else can do behind the two guys alongside me [Rosberg and Hamilton]. I’m pleased with how well qualifying went. It’s been tricky with the temperature dropping a lot for the evening sessions – as you saw in P3 we were a long way off and we turned it around this evening.
“Tomorrow of course I don’t stay at the front, so there’s work to do. We’ve got top guys in the office to get me back up there. It will be close, between two and three stops.”
Vettel, who complained about his downshifts, said: “The Mercedes are out of reach. This track suits them. Hopefully we can do a good job and rescue some points.”
The others who failed to make the cut for Q3 were Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg, Danil Kvyat, his Toro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne, Romain Grosjean (Lotus) and Esteban Gutiérrez (Sauber). A dejected looking Hülkenberg said: “The car was good enough to make Q3 but I had a bad lap. I got on the kerb at Turn 11 after problems with Turns 1 and 2.”
The casualties from Q1 did not throw up any surprises. Out went the Caterham cars of Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi, the Marussia team of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi, plus Adrian Sutil (Sauber) and Pastor Maldonado (Lotus).
The opening qualifying run was topped by Hülkenberg, with his team-mate Sergio Pérez third. Force India had looked most impressive during practice on Friday, particularly on their longer runs.
Pérez came fifth in Q3 and he has a chance of a surprise podium place here, but, for now, the men in silver are in a class of their own.
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