Vettel Bounces Back in Bahrain
By: James Musoke on April 21, 2012 | 8:45 A.M. EST
Vettel managed to out-run the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton in the closing seconds of Q3. (Photo: Getty Images)
Reigning Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel revived his slow start to the season on Saturday, earning his first pole position of the year on Saturday at the Bahrain International Circuit.
In a nerve-racking qualifying encounter, Vettel managed to out-run the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton in the closing seconds of Q3, qualifying with the winning time of 1 minute, 32.422 seconds.
“It feels great and I completely owe this one to the team,” Vettel said. It wasn’t an easy start to the season for us and there was a lot of expectation, but I think more than anything it was about what we expected from ourselves and we didn’t match it.”
Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber came in third, ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button in fourth and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg rounding out the top five.
Team Red Bull seems to be breathing a tentative sigh of relief, after a shaky start to the season that saw Vettel rebound from a 11th-place qualifying position in China to pole position in the space of a week. Although Red Bull proved to be very competitive during practice, the general consensus was top spot would not go beyond the ranks of Mercedes and McLaren. However, in a brilliant tire strategy conceived by Red Bull, the team reserved a new set of soft tires for the last flying lap of the session, which gave Vettel that extra tenth of a second he needed to surpass Hamilton.
“We’ve been working extremely hard on the car, trimming here and there and finding the right way to go forward," Vettel said. "The boys haven’t had much sleep the last few races - it was a tough race last weekend in China and now here, so it’s good to put the car on pole for them.”
Torro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo claimed a career-best sixth place finish, ahead of Lotus’ Romain Grosjean in seventh and Sergio Perez’s Sauber in eighth place. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with start in ninth place, with Paul De Resta of Force India rounding out the top 10.
The Bahrain International Circuit is proving to be a very challenging venue for engineers, as teams will fight severe tire degradation through-out the 57-lap contest. Many of the teams aborted their qualifying sessions early, for the sole reason of saving the tires for the race.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Force India’a Paul De Resta, did not even set times during the third and final qualifying session, with both drivers preferring to save a set of tires for the race on Sunday, with tire life expected to be a critical factor.
Tragedy struck the Mercedes team of Michael Schumacher once again as the seven-time world champion failed to reach the final qualifying session for the first time this season. The German ended up qualifying in 18th place after a technical problem kept the F1 legend from making a second run in Q1.
"I am obviously very disappointed to have qualified in 18th position on the grid for a race which looks to be quite competitive for us,” Schumacher said. “Unfortunately on my fast lap, which was looking quite good, my DRS broke in the last sector. We tried to fix it in the garage but were not able to go out again. Trying for a lap without DRS on different tires would not have made sense. We now have to try to see what we can do from here and push as much as possible."
Williams’s driver Pastor Maldonado qualified in 17th spot ahead of Schumacher, but will have to serve a five-place grid penalty for changing a gearbox.
The Bahrain Grand Prix is set to commence at 7:30 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.