Sakhir Grand Prix – Qualifying

It’s called the Sakhir Grand Prix but the teams haven’t moved since last weekend’s Bahrain GP – it’s just a different track configuration at the same venue.


Bahrain uses the infield, and VER set the fastest lap at 1:32.014; Sakhir is the “outer circuit” and it’s expected to be under 55 seconds per lap!
Bahrain
Sakhir


Both are run under floodlights, although Sakhir (this weekend) starts slightly later so it’s fully dark rather than just after sunset.

  • It may only have been a few days but there’s been a lot of news since the previous race:
    • Obviously there’s been a lot of coverage of GRO’s fiery crash in lap 1, looking at the safety improvements e.g. new overalls which doubled the expected protection to 20 seconds
      The stats: GRO hit the barrier at 221kph (137mph), a 53G impact; it took him 28 seconds to escape the fire – the new race suits are rated for 20secs but their gloves are only 10secs, hence GRO’s burns on both hands
    • Romain Grosjean says he “saw death coming” in his fiery crash in the Bahrain Grand Prix and fought to get out “for his children”. [BBC]
    • “Romain Grosjean has given an extraordinary account of the 28 seconds he spent struggling to free himself from the burning wreck of his Haas Formula 1 car following his crash in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.” [racefans]
    • “In his latest column, Martin [Brundle] reflects on what happened in Romain Grosjean’s horrifying accident, the safety aspects and brave reactions that helped save the Frenchman’s life, and the lessons that will be learned” [SkySports]
    • “Romain Grosjean returns to Bahrain track just four days after horror F1 crash, reunited with rescuers” [SkySports] [FIA video]
  • Haas have called up Pietro Fittipaldi to stand in for GRO this weekend [FIA]
    “After it was decided that the best thing for Romain (Grosjean) was to skip at least one race, the choice to put Pietro (Fittipaldi) in the car was pretty easy,” said Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner
    FIT will use #51
  • HAM tested positive for COVID on Monday; he says he had mild symptoms [BBC]
    RUS will replace HAM, so he has a great chance to finally score some points – some might say RUS has big shoes to fill but he’s actually having to wear smaller boots in order to fit into HAM’s car 🙂
    That leaves a vacancy at Williams, so they are promoting reserve driver Jack Aitken; he’ll use #89
  • Haas have signed Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin for next season [BBC]
    The only leaves 2 or 3 unassigned seats: Mercedes (surely it’ll be HAM), VER’s teammate at Red Bull (can ALB hang on or will it be PER?), and GAS’ partner at AlphaTauri.
  • Somehow Fernando Alonso, Robert Kubica and Sebastien Buemi (total age 106) have been given the ok to take part in the post-race Abu Dhabi young driver test.
    “The FIA rule book states that a driver must be in possession of an ‘International A Licence’ and not have competed in more than two F1 races in their career. However, there is clearly a loophole somewhere as it states you can make a case with the FIA for other circumstances you feel are appropriate.” [WTF1]
  • It’s race #77 for driver #77 (BOT)
  • There are 4 points covering P4-P6 (RIC=102, PER=100, LEC=98) and then just one point from P7-P9 (NOR=86, SAI=85, ALB=85) with just two races remaining (Sakhir and Abu Dhabi) this season. In the Constructors’ Championship, it’s also close between McLaren (171 pts), Racing Point (154), Renault (144) and Ferrari (131). [My last points post]

Free Practice:

  1. FP1: RUS (0:54.546), VER, ALB, BOT, KVY, GAS, OCO, VET, RIC, LEC
    SAI joking on the radio, “So, I need to turn left here, right?”
    GAS’ right mirror has come loose – he’s holding on to it as he enters the pit lane
    FIT has a huge lockup and destroys his front left tyre
  2. FP2: RUS (0:54.713), VER, PER, OCO, ALB, KVY, STR, RIC, GAS, SAI (BOT=P11)
    VET spins in Turn 2
    LEC seems to be stuck in 6th gear; returns to the pits
    NOR runs over a kerb, thinks there’s damage to the floor
    A few laps later, VET spins again
    Radio from VER complaining of understeer, and then ALB reports the same
    BOT’s laps seem to alternate between him running wide and cutting corners (resulting in lap times being deleted)
    GAS reports some gravel (from BOT running wide) hit his finger
  3. FP3: VER (0:54.064), BOT, GAS, OCO, NOR, ALB, RUS, PER, STR, SAI
    VER spins in Turn 2 – that was VET’s trick yesterday
    Radio from RUS complaining of being held up by a Williams 🙂
    It’s been BOT and RUS at the top of the timings for most of FP3 but now NOR goes P2, and then VER to P1
    VET pitted earlier; Ferrari say they will do a power unit change for precautionary reasons
    It’s now LEC’s turn to spin the Ferrari

The pre-Quali coverage is largely focused on GRO’s accident: the 53G impact, the fire, getting himself out of the car, the medical car team and the response of the firefighters; but also questions about the barrier, fire fighting equipment, overalls and gloves.

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Air temperature 24°C; track 27°C
Green lights come on to indicate the start of Q1
The Haas pair of MAG and FIT are first to leave the pit lane
FIT is in what would be GRO’s seat, so lots of engine changes and therefore he’ll start at the back of the grid due to penalties
FIT 0:55.884
MAG 0:55.464
AIT P2
SAI 0:55.334 on hard tyres
GAS 0:55.311 on mediums
LEC 0:54.917 on softs
KVY 0:54.785 on mediums
BOT 0:54.607 on mediums
RUS P2 on mediums
PER 0:54.267 on softs
NOR’s lap time is deleted – exceeding track limits at Turn 8
VER 0:54.037 on softs
5mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are LAT, GAS, RAI, GIO, FIT
RAI P13, pushing AIT down to P16
GAS P2, OCO P16
OCO P9, RAI P16
BOT 0:53.904
GIO P4, NOR P16
NOR P4, MAG P16
Chequered flag
Back of the grid: MAG, LAT, AIT, RAI, FIT

Qualifying session 2
Green light; no activity
SAI on softs, followed by LEC and VET and mediums, and then VER on mediums too
A gaggle of cars leaving the pits as SAI starts his flying lap; RUS cuts the corner to stay out of the way
SAI 0:54.514
LEC 0:54.474
VET P2
GAS 0:54.130
BOT 0:53.803
RUS P2
VER P3
GAS’ first time has been deleted
PER 0:53.787 on softs
Mercedes power have the top 4 places
Both Ferrari starting another fast run – they’re on new mediums which seems overly confident
VET abandons his lap and pits
(LEC P6)
4mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are OCO, GAS, VET, NOR, GIO
2mins left and 10 cars on track… now SAI the only one in the pits… no, he’s heading out too
NOR with a gearbox problem?
GIO P13
GAS P6, KVY P11
Chequered flag
OCO P8, VER P11
VER 0:53.647
VET P13
ALB P12
LEC P6, OCO P11
NOR P15
Middle of the grid: OCO, ALB, VET, GIO, NOR

Top 10 shootout is between VER, PER, BOT, SAI, RUS, LEC, STR, KVY, RIC and GAS

Qualifying session 3
BOT 0:53.760
RUS P2
GAS P3
VER 0:53.591
LEC P2
RIC P5
SAI P6
PER, STR and KVY remain in the pits
After the first run: VER, LEC, BOT, RUS, RIC, SAI, GAS
PER P4
STR P8
Mercedes send out BOT and RUS for another run
LEC is out of the car!?
KVY did an out lap but returned to the pits without setting a time
BOT 0:53.377
RUS P2
4mins left; order is BOT, RUS, VER, LEC, PER, RIC, SAI, STR, GAS, KVY
LEC still walking around
2:10 left and cars start to leave for their final flying laps
Chequered flag
RUS P2 – just 0:00.026 behind BOT
VER P3
RIC P6
PER P5
GAS P8
STR P9
KVY P6
SAI P8
Front of the grid: BOT, RUS, VER, LEC, PER, KVY, RIC, SAI, GAS, STR

So that’s the first time RUS has been out-qualified by a teammate since he came to F1 🙂

Interviews:
BOT: “For sure it’s a different situation to have a new teammate. But I focussed on my own doing and didn’t waste energy focusing on anything else. Not my best qualifying but I’m happy it was enough. Hopefully we’ll see a fun race.”
RUS: “It’s been incredibly intense, so much to learn. It’s a different way of driving, having to re-learn how to drive this car fast. I was just happy to get through to Q3, we got it all together on the final lap and if you’d told me last week I’d be qualifying P2 I wouldn’t have believed you!”
VER: “We had a good qualifying, the lap itself was fine. This track, the lap times are so close it could all depend on the start – it’s not going to be easy.”

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

[2020 calendar] [2020 line-up]

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