Sakhir, 20 April – If you don’t have time to read a full qualifying report, then the short story is that Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will share the second row of the grid for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix. However, it didn’t quite happen in the normal way.
For the entire weekend, both Ferrari men declared themselves more comfortable on the Hard Pirelli than the Medium, but despite this, the Spaniard used the softer of the two to set a time good enough for third place on the final Q3 time sheet this afternoon. Fernando was delighted, as he pointed out that the one-lap performance was the team’s Achilles Heel. Clearly the Scuderia is making slow but steady progress in this area and might hope to eventually fix the problem that was beyond the ability of writers of the Greek Classics!
As for Felipe, he and his engineers decided to go for a brave gamble: as the Brazilian was not convinced about the worth of the Medium, feeling that, come what may, he would not be in the fight for the front rows, he tackled Q3 on the Hards, on which he set the sixth fastest time. This is where some good fortune came his way, because while in life, it’s considered in poor taste to benefit from the misfortunes of others, sometimes in sport, it can be out of one’s control. Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber were faster than Felipe in fourth and fifth places respectively, however the English Mercedes driver had to take a five place gearbox penalty, while the Australian in the Red Bull had to drop three places for being deemed to have caused an accident in China last week. This promptly promotes Felipe to fourth, so that the two F138s now line up side by side.
There were other surprises today: even if Lewis Hamilton had taken his Mercedes to pole in Shanghai, the silver cars did not look so dominant in practice here and yet, his team-mate Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time of the day to claim the top spot. He shares the front row with Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull. The penalties have turned the third row into an all-Force India Affair, with Paul di Resta fifth and Adrian Sutil sixth. Another title contender – if you can have such a thing after just four races – Kimi Raikkonen, will start from eighth alongside Webber.
The opening stages of tomorrow’s fourth round of the World Championship should produce plenty of excitement, while in general fewer pit stops are expected than in China last week. Felipe’s decision to do Q3 on the Hard tyre and therefore have to start the race on this compound, points to an intriguing first stint, as the Brazilian will be the only top ten driver to go for this choice.