The 2012 Formula One season has been full of action, and Saturday’s qualifying session for the Bahrain Grand Prix was no different.
Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the first time this season. The Red Bull has looked strong all weekend, and Mark Webber’s third place underlines the improved pace of the RB8.
The McLarens of Hamilton and Button continued to be strong in qualifying, taking second and fourth places respectively. Four races into the season, Hamilton has qualified on the front row for every race. A grid penalty in China pushed him back to seventh, but his qualifying time was second fastest.
Six different constructors feature in fifth to tenth place. Rosberg’s Mercedes is followed by Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso, a superb performance from the Australian driver in a car that has not looked that quick so far this season. Grosjean in the Lotus and Perez in the Sauber make up the fourth row of the grid, followed by Alonso’s Ferrari and di Resta’s Force India. Alonso and di Resta chose not to set Q3 times, presumably to save new tyres for the race.
The major surprises of the session happened in Q1. The track has been evolving quickly throughout the weekend, and laptimes fell significantly during the 20-minute Q1 session. As a result, Heikki Kovalainen managed to get his Caterham into Q2, with a quick lap right at the end of the session. Michael Schumacher was the big loser of qualifying, the team reporting that a technical issue with the rear wing of his Mercedes cost him some time in Q1. Schumacher ended up 18th, just a second off the fastest Q1 time, but slow enough to be out of Q2. Jean-Eric Vergne was soundly out-performed by team-mate Ricciardo. Vergne qualified 19th, not proceeding into Q2, while Ricciardo starts sixth.
The grid is very mixed. No two cars from the same team qualified in successive places, which is unusual. The grid is so close in terms of performance that anything could happen in the race. Any one of the top five is a good bet for victory, and behind them the action promises to be close.