Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying


The Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships have been won, but there’s still plenty to fight for. There are just 4 points between PER (P4), LEC (P5) and RIC (P6); just 1 point between McLaren teammates SAI and NOR; and 24 points span Racing Point (P3), McLaren, Renault and Ferrari (P6). There’s also the question of Williams breaking their duck – their drivers are the only ones without a single point so far this season.

Free Practice:

  1. FP1: HAM (1:29.033), BOT, PER, SAI, GAS, VER, ALB, OCO, STR, RIC [video recap]
    Teams were testing the 2021 prototype tyres; BOT locked up and VER had a 360° spin
    Robert Kubica had a chance to drive RAI’s Alfa Romeo, ending up P13, and Roy Nissany replaced NOR in the Williams, bringing up the rear of the timings in P20
  2. FP2: HAM (1:28.971), VER, BOT, PER, RIC, GAS, NOR, STR, KVY, ALB [video recap]
    ALB ran wide in the final turn, touched some gravel and was spat into the tyre wall, wrecking at least 3 corners of his Red Bull but at least ALB was OK
    Red flags came out almost immediately because many drivers, if not everyone, had run wide there and the wrecked car was in a dangerous place
    Marshals cleared the car and reassembled the tyre wall; pit lane lights went green to restart FP2 and almost immediately red flags came out again – this time because a dog was running along the track!
    Cue lots of dog puns: “Spaniel Ricciardo”, “Toto Woof”, “Racing Pointer”
    FP2 restarted again, and more 2021 tyre testing
    Radio from VER, “Who’s that in front of me? He’s drifting very nicely!”; it was HAM, who reported “I’ve got no grip out here right now”
    HAM and BOT put in additional test laps of the 2021 tyres; HAM was pretty scathing though when asked what he thought of the new rubber
  3. FP3: VER (1:28.355), HAM, BOT, ALB, SAI, GAS, NOR, KVY, STR, PER
    VER’s rear wing picked up a nasty oscillation; Red Bull report it was due to a delamination
    HAM had an electrical problem which prevented his final run

The floodlights are on and the sun is setting; Qualifying starts soon…
Previous pole sitters: VET 3 times, HAM twice, BOT and LEC once each

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Air temperature 27°C; track 29°C
RUS is first to leave the pit lane
RUS aborts his timed lap and heads back into the pits, leaving VER to have the track to himself
VER 1:28.885 and his rear wing looks fine now
HAM 1:28.343
BOT P2
5mins remaining of Q1; bottom 5 are RUS, RAI, GRO, MAG, LAT
RUS P8, LEC P16
Chequered flag
MAG P17
LEC P6, STR P16
RAI P17
STR P2! GRO P16
Back of the grid: GIO RAI, MAG, GRO, LAT

Qualifying session 2
Green lights are on but everyone’s waiting in the garages
No-one’s taking advantage of the empty track but you know they’ll complain about traffic when they all finally get out there
Finally some action: everyone heading out on medium compound tyres except GAS and KVY on softs; RUS is the only one still in the pits
Yellow flag in sector 1 – SAI has stopped in Turn 1
Red flags – Q2 suspended with 9:10 left on the clock
Replay shows SAI’s rear axle locked as he started to turn in at Turn 1, spinning him around
Radio from SAI, “There is no drive, like something broke”
That’s going to hurt McLaren’s battle in the Constructors’ Championship, with SAI pinned to P15
Cars are starting to queue at the pit exit, because there’s not much time left to put in some quick laps
NOR followed by VER, ALB, PER; all on mediums
Green light for the restart
VER 1:28.025
NOR P2
ALB P2
5mins left of Q2
HAM 1:27.586
(BOT P3)
Time for everyone to take to the track for their final flying lap
NOR and ALB now on softs
Chequered flag; RIC, LEC, VET, KVY, RUS have not set a time but they’re all on track
RIC P4
LEC P11
RUS P12
VET P11
STR P13
Middle of the grid: VET, LEC, STR, RUS, SAI
Radio for STR telling him he’s P13; “Miscommunication – we’ll talk about it later”

Top 10 shootout is between HAM, VER, BOT, RIC, ALB, NOR, PER, OCO, KVY and GAS

Qualifying session 3
RIC, NOR, PER and KVY are the first batch to leave the pit lane – all on softs
Rest of the garages empty out, all on softs too
NOR 1:29.029
KVY P2
RIC P3
PER 1:28.470
GAS P2
HAM 1:27.677
VER P2
BOT P3
ALB P6
OCO P6
Radio from VER, “I don’t have the same rear grip compared to [Q2]”
Order after first run: HAM, VER, BOT, PER, GAS, OCO, ALB, NOR, KVY, RIC
VER thinks about trying to pass RIC in the pit lane; waits until they’re on the track and then passes the Renault
HAM 1:27.264
GAS P4
KVY P6
BOT P2
NOR P6
VER P3
ALB P4
RIC P5
OCO P6
PER P5
Front of the grid: HAM, BOT, VER, ALB, PER, RIC, OCO, GAS, NOR, KVY
11th front row lockout for Mercedes

Interviews:
VER: “My lap was pretty good, just lacking a bit of rear grip. Overall it was quite a decent qualifying and let’s see how we go tomorrow in the race because it’s very hard on tyres, I hope we made the right compromise on that.”
BOT: “It felt good, it feels like you’re extracting everything but the time isn’t there. There were no mistakes it felt good but at least it is another front row. Long runs were good so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
HAM: “I’m keeping my mind and my eye on the ball. To be out here in Bahrain and put laps like that together – with the pressure off, it’s a bit of a release. I’m on the ragged edge, the lap started really well but there’s always a little bit here and there.”
STR: the “miscommunication” was about which tyres to use for that run

Provisional grid: HAM, BOT, VER, ALB, PER, RIC, OCO, GAS, NOR, KVY, VET, LEC, STR, RUS, SAI, GIO RAI, MAG, GRO, LAT

[2020 calendar] [2020 line-up]