Bahrain Grand Prix – day two


Mercedes has sealed pole position for the second Grand Prix in a row. This time, however, it was Nico Rosberg who did the honours for the team. “Yes! That’s how it’s done!” he shouted after hearing the news. “I was a little bit surprised that I was on pole today, but I’m really happy – it’s a fantastic result. Tomorrow will be a tough race, though.”

The second pole position of Rosberg’s career is great news for him and the team, but judging by the race pace of the Mercedes in practice he will struggle to hold onto the lead much like Hamilton did last weekend. Behind Rosberg sits Vettel, whose Red Bull also hasn’t looked too strong in race trim, and Alonso.

The Spaniard may well have been higher up the order if it wasn’t for a mistake-strewn final lap – which led to him pitting in order to save a lap on the tyres – but it could well be Ferrari’s race to lose especially since Hamilton and Webber behind him have both been handed grid penalties. A tyre failure in third practice for Hamilton damaged his car’s suspension and consequently his gearbox, which has since been changed, demoting him five places. Webber, meanwhile, was given a three-place grid penalty for causing an avoidable accident in the Chinese Grand Prix.

This leaves Massa to line up in fourth, behind his team-mate, on the hard compound. With all other Q3 runners using the faster medium compound it could well prove to be an interesting race for Massa because not only will the team get valuable information for Alonso on how the hard compound is performing, but it will also be able to cover two different strategies.

Behind Massa on the grid will be di Resta and Sutil who both looked quick throughout Saturday – it will be interesting to see whether either of them can match the Scot’s sixth-place finish here last year. Räikkönen, who was fast in all three practice sessions, couldn’t manage better than ninth, but the Lotus’ race pace has looked good all weekend.

At the back of the grid Caterham had rushed through updates due for the next race in order to make up some ground on the fast-starting Marussias. Only Charles Pic had the updates, but for the first time this season he out-qualified Jules Bianchi.

Bianchi has made a strong start to his Formula 1 career and has impressed despite fighting at the back of the grid. It has prompted some people to compare him to Alonso when he was at Minardi. It’s perhaps too early for that, but Bianchi’s feet are quite firmly on the ground. “It’s difficult to compare,” he tells me when I ask for his thoughts on the comparison, “it’s a different situation, but I’m pleased to hear it.” We are in the Marussia hospitality building after qualifying and Bianchi, despite having better things to do than speak to me, is leaning forward and thinks carefully before answering each question.

“Qualifying is still important these days despite the tyre situation in the race,” he says when asked whether it was better to just focus on race pace in practice. “In China we were quicker than Pic in the first two stints, but I was stuck behind him and couldn’t overtake. You lose a lot of time and your tyres also go off quicker.”

The air conditioning is whirring in the background and outside TV anchors and pundits constantly dab their foreheads with tissues. Pushing an F1 car to its limits in the 35-degree heat must require a huge amount of preparation. “The heat is not easy to cope with, but it’s easier here than it was in Malaysia,” says Bianchi after lining up his ‘phone with the edge of the table. “It’s part of the job – it’s just something you have to work at before the race. I did some training before the race outside in Dubai just to get used to it. It’s OK.” He’s not one to get worked up is Bianchi, but for the time being all the talk he needs to do is being done on the track.

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