“I don’t always sympathise with rivals but I do feel a little bit for Esteban,” grinned Smiley Dan. “But, he did have two sets (of softs) for Q3 and I’d had to use two in Q1 and only had one set for Q3.” So the sympathy was measured.
Looking ahead to the race battle, Ricciardo figured that it is important for the Renault pair to drive an aggressive opening lap and hopefully relegate Perez because the Racing Point’s long run pace looks good. “If he’s able to run in free air it might be tough for us,” Daniel admitted.
Renault’s third place chances took a hit a fortnight ago in Istanbul and they now find themselves 13 points behind McLaren and 18 adrift of Racing Point, but sixth and seventh on the grid is a good outcome, with their rivals only boasting one car each in the top 10.
For McLaren, qualifying was disappointing after Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris finished FP3 fifth and seventh respectively. Bahrain has always been something of a bogey track for Sainz, from a bad fortune rather than a performance standpoint, with Carlos yet to score a point in Sakhir. This time, when he hit the brakes at 300km/h into Turn One on his first Q2 run, a mechanical problem locked the rear axle and the McLaren immediately swapped ends. With all the front runners opting to run the medium in Q2, not only did it mean that Sainz starts 15th, but he also rubbished a set of the yellow-walled rubber that he needed for tomorrow.
Another tenth and a half for Lando Norris, meanwhile, would have qualified a McLaren best of the rest behind Mercedes and Red Bull, but such is the closeness of the midfield that he lines up ninth, splitting the Alpha Tauris of eighth-placed Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat.
Gasly called his Istanbul performance “embarrassing” but attributed it to an even more extreme case of the inability to generate tyre temperature that afflicted everyone. It was, he believed, an outlier, and Franz Tost’s men were again in the thick of the action with both cars in the top 10.
Ferrari’s strong showing on the Turkish ice rink all but nixed Alpha Tauri’s hopes of almost unthinkably overhauling Ferrari in the final teams’ classification but, back in more representative conditions, Faenza was once again ahead of Maranello as neither red car made Q3. Sebastian Vettel missed Gasly’s Q2 time by 0.14sec but, if it was any consolation – and I’m sure it was – he did pip Charles Leclerc by two hundredths. That pole position time here 20 months ago, which would have put him fourth on tomorrow’s grid, must seem an age away to Charles.
The aforementioned Stroll starts immediately behind both Ferraris after what Lance called a ‘miscommunication.’ When Q2 was red-flagged for the removal of Sainz’s stranded McLaren, everyone bar Stroll took a fresh set of mediums on resumption. Lance, on his used set, was not quick enough. “I thought we had time for two runs but we only had time for one,” he explained.
All is not lost though. Stroll’s performance drop-off in Turkey after leading so convincingly has been put down to front wing damage, noticeable on the team data from around lap 17. Team principal Otmar Szafnauer confirmed that a strake was lodged in the wing and that the team did not change the wing at Stroll’s pit stop because the strake was not discovered until after the race. With overtaking feasible in Bahrain and decent race pace, the second Racing Point will be a car to watch tomorrow.
For the ninth time in 15 races George Russell put his Williams into Q2 and once again bested team-mate Nicholas Latifi.
Although Mercedes is the class of the field as ever, the race is no foregone conclusion. Hamilton will again start favourite but overtaking opportunities, tyre degradation and the likelihood of at least two stops for everyone, will present him with more banana skins than usual.
2020 Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying results
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1min 27.264sec|
|2||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1min 27.553sec|
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1min 27.678sec|
|4||Alex Albon||Red Bull||1min 28.274sec|
|5||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||1min 28.322sec|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||1min 28.417sec|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Renault||1min 28.419sec|
|8||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||1min 28.448sec|
|9||Lando Norris||McLaren||1min 28.542sec|
|10||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri||1min 28.618sec|
|11||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||1min 29.149sec|
|12||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||1min 29.165sec|
|13||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||1min 29.557sec|
|14||George Russell||Williams||1min 31.218sec|
|15||Carlos Sainz||McLaren||No Q2 time set|
|16||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1min 29.491sec|
|17||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo||1min 29.810sec|
|18||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||1min 30.111sec|
|19||Romain Grosjean||Haas||1min 30.138sec|
|20||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||1min 30.182sec|