Heat and sand, and day into night. It’s Bahrain this weekend, and the high temperatures might seem to favour Ferrari as they did in Malaysia – but Mercedes impressed last time out in China, dominating the race entirely.
However, this is largely a night race under the lights, and so the track temperature drops throughout the race, so the clear advantage in the heat that Ferrari had in Malaysia.
The key indicators in race pace simulations seemed to indicate it would be close between the Mercedes and Ferraris, with Williams best of the rest, but looking at the Practice sessions, especially the third, the strong wind, which also brings sand and dust to the circuit, seemed to unsettle the red cars less than the silver Mercedes.
Qualifying at the 2015 Bahrain Grand Prix
Poor old Jenson Button had little luck in Bahrain with mechanical and electrical issues giving him limited running – and he fared little better in qualifying, with the car shutting itself down not far from the pit exit.
Team-mate Alsonso had far better luck, and managed to get his car into the second part of qualifying with a spirited lap, before ending up 12th on the grid.
There was no real surprise with the two Marussias propping up the grid in front of the luckless Button, but the presence of Daniil Kvyat in the Red Bull in the drop-out list was a surprise – less so the underpreforming Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus.
Results for Qualifying 2
The Toro Rossos, after a strong performance in China, especially from Verstappen with some stunning overtakes, did not really perform well throughout practice, and Verstappen was the first to drop out in Q2, after making a few errors on his flying lap. Along with Alonson, the two Saubers joined him, with Sergio Perez also being edged out after a great final lap from Carols Sainz in the second Toro Rosso put him into the final Top 10.
Qualifying 3: Mixing it up at the front
The top ten battling it out included the two Mercedes, both Ferraris and Williams, with the single Red Bull of Ricciardo, the Force India of Hulkenberg, Sainz in the Toro Rosso and Grosjean in the Lotus making up the 6-10 slots respectively.
The battle for pole as ever came down to the last flying lap, with Hamilton putting it on pole for the first time in Bahrain ahead of Vettel, with Rosberg managing to split the Ferraris to go ahead of Raikonnen. Massa was pipped to fifth by Bottas.
The spread in time between Hamilton and Vettel was around 0.4 of s second, with Rosberg just around 0.2 of a second further back, and Raikkonen just a tenth behind. So for the race, it looks like being a close fight, with Hamilton admitting that he fears the challenge of Vettel more than that of Rosberg.
It will all come down to tyre wear, and perhaps the timing and strategy around any safety car events. Mercedes may split their strategy to keep Hamilton in front, and are wise to the performance of Ferrari, and as in China, will be taking steps to mitigate their relatively kinder way of treating their tyres.
- My prediction for the race is for Vettel to win ahead of Raikkonen, with Hamilton relegated to third. If you want to guess the podium 1-2-3, then enter our FVL F1 Podium Winners Competition to win a £50 voucher.