Bahrain GP | Elimination qualifying once again a failure as Hamilton takes pole

Attempt two for elimination qualifying saw another failed session as Lewis Hamilton claimed pole at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton had been behind his team-mate in every session going into qualifying, but when it counted he set the fastest lap ever at the Bahrain Grand Prix. His 1:29.493 bettered the lap times from the monstrous V10 era and bettered Rosberg by 0.77 seconds. Yet his moment of history was not enough to hide the fact elimination qualifying was once again a disaster.

Through Q1, Q2 and Q3 the first drivers eliminated in each of the sessions all went out without a chance to reply. This was one of the biggest issues to emerge from qualifying in Australia, yet without the chance to remove the format it was kept for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The teams did have the choice to adopt an adapted version of the format which kept the elimination format in Q1 and Q2 but with the previous Q3 format, however even this would not have improved the show under the night sky. The reason this was not adopted was because it did not receive a unanimous favour after McLaren and Red Bull rejected the FIA’s proposal.

Teams will now meet on Sunday morning to further discuss the qualifying format for future races.

In term’s of today’s qualifying, the show may have been a disaster with one-shot qualifying for most drivers. But it did result in some fantastic performances from the likes of Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein and McLaren’s debutante Stoffel Vandoorne.

Q1

As the second chance for elimination qualifying began, Sebastian Vettel lead the pack onto the track after sitting at the line for two minutes. Despite his colder tyres, the German along with team-mate Raikkonen and the Mercedes duo all set times to lead the field.

At the other end of the leaderboard, a poor initial lap from Vandoorne saw the Belgian slide down the order while Pascal Wehrlein sawed his Manor into 14th. While Vandoorne himself improved to make it through to Q2, Wehrlein had a session to remember in his Manor after eliminating the Force India of Sergio Perez.

Force India had sent Sergio out to set another lap time but a shock improvement by Wehrlein, to send the Manor just outside the Q2 positions, meant Perez would not be able to set another lap before he was eliminated.

Similarly, Wehrlein’s team-mate was not able to attempt another lap when he was eliminated as the second man following the farewell of Felipe Nasr.

Despite his pit-lane start for tomorrow’s race, Kevin Magnussen out-qualified his team-mate, Jolyon Palmer, in the Renaults. Magnussen missed a weight check during FP2 which saw him hit with a pit-lane start by the FIA, yet K-Mag went out in Q1 to set a few laps and beat his Brit partner by two tenths of a second.

Q2

Come Q2, the light at the end of the pit lane failed to turn green when it should have which cost the drivers 30-seconds off their session. And with the time it takes to turn a car around following a run, Q2 became a one-lap shoot-out for most of the drivers.

When the light did turn green, Hamilton was the first to set a lap which left him with a half second lead over Rosberg. His lap interestingly was actually the first time this weekend he has held a lead over Rosberg with the German topping Fp1 and Fp2. Despite not leading FP3, Rosberg still finished ahead of his team-mate but a lock up and lifting at the end of his out-lap in Q2 left Rosberg behind Hamilton this time round.

While Vettel and Raikkonen sandwiched Nico in the top four, Daniil Kvyat was being pushed down the order as his poor first lap left him 2.2 seconds off Hamilton’s benchmark.

As Daniil coasted back to the pits, others began posting their first laps, all of which bettered the time set by Kvyat. Without a chance to reply, the Russian was eliminated along with Button, Gutierrez and Vandoorne. A 0.064 second gap split the McLaren duo with Alonso’s replacement out-qualifying Button on his Formula One debut.

Unlike the other drivers competing in Q2, Nico Hulkenberg returned to the empty Bahrain International Circuit to set a second lap time. After watching the others eliminated, Hulkenberg had the track to himself as he improved on his personal best to eliminate Carlos Sainz and move into Q3. Nico did however lock up his front left tyre on that lap, which will see him start the race with a black-spotted tyre.

Q3

For the final session of qualifying in Bahrain, Vettel took the initial lead for provisional-pole position with a 1:30.065. His time could not be bettered by Raikkonen as he followed his German team-mate across the line for p2.

While Kimi crossed the line, Hamilton ran very wide at the final corner. A big mistake looked to have cost Hamilton a lot of time and potentially end his session, yet when he crossed the line, he was just half a second down on Vettel and still in the top four.

Rosberg swiftly flowed around the final corner as Lewis crossed the line. But unlike his team-mate, Rosberg once again flew around the track to take provisional-pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

For the battle not to be the first eliminated in Q3, Hulkenberg was leaving it late with the clock already ticking next to his name as he crossed the line. He even left it so late that he crossed the line with just 18 seconds remaining before the first elimination. Unfortunately for him though, he was unable to beat Massa’s first time and was the first man out.

Massa followed him in the eliminations along with Bottas and Ricciardo as the Red Bull beat the Williams duo in their one-lap shoot-out session. But with more time to turn the cars around, both Mercedes and Ferrari sent both of their cars back out to battle for pole.

Back in Australia when elimination qualifying was already being slated, Vettel and Raikkonen did not return to the track. This time though they did as they fought for pole although Raikkonen could not improve and Vettel could not overtake Rosberg despite closing the gap.

As for the Silver Arrows, Rosberg improved on his previous best but on his second flyer, Hamilton made up three tenths through sector two and a further tenth by the line. This meant Lewis would claim pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix after setting the fastest lap ever at the Bahrain International Circuit during a Formula One event.

Pos Driver Q1 Q2 Q3
POLE Hamilton 1:31.391 1:30.039 1:29.493
2 Rosberg 1:31.325 1:30.535 1:29.570
3 Vettel 1:31.636 1:30.409 1:30.012
4 Raikkonen 1:31.685 1:30.559 1:30.244
5 Ricciardo 1:31.403 1:31.122 1:30.854
6 Bottas 1:31.672 1:30.931 1:31.153
7 Massa 1:32.045 1:31.374 1:31.155
8 Hulkenberg 1:31.987 1:31.604 1:31.620
9 Grosjean 1:32.005 1:31.756
10 Verstappen 1:31.888 1:31.772
11 Sainz 1:31.716 1:31.816
12 Vandoorne 1:32.472 1:31.934
13 Gutierrez 1:32.118 1:31.945
14 Button 1:31.976 1:31.998
15 Kvyat 1:32.559 1:32.241
16 Wehrlein 1:32.806
17 Ericsson 1:32.840
18 Perez 1:32.911
19 Magnussen 1:33.181
20 Palmer 1:33.438
21 Haryanto 1:34.190
22 Nasr 1:34.388

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