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After his promising form in practice, Sebastian Vettel has snatched Red Bull’s first pole position of the 2012 season at Sakhir. The Champion shares the front row with Lewis Hamilton, with their respective team-mates third and fourth. Mercedes is left highly disappointed, with Rosberg and Schumacher only fifth and 17th.
On another hot and dusty day in the Bahraini desert, tyres remained very much the talking point; grip is proving a real problem for all of the teams, not least as the sandy track surface induces wheelspin and damages rear tyres at a rapid rate of knots.
Following the off-track incidents of earlier this week, all in the Formula 1 paddock were pleased to see that colleagues had arrived at the track safely this morning.
Fernando Alonso may have felt the need to use Soft tyres immediately in Q1, but it was Mercedes generating headlines as Michael Schumacher sensationally fell out of the session at the very first hurdle; sitting in his garage with a DRS problem, the seven-time World Champion was knocked out as Heikki Kovalainen switched to the quicker compound and improved his lap time by 1.4 seconds. As Pastor Maldonado has a penalty, Schumacher will start from 17th. All cars made the 107 percent cut.
Hamilton set the pace early doors in Q2, looking to stamp his authority on the field by picking up a third pole from four races. It looked briefly as though Felipe Massa may have passed into the top ten shootout for the first time this year, but the Brazilian was duly demoted to 14th place in the cumbersome Ferrari F2012. Fernando Alonso did enough to move up, as did Romain Grosjean, but as the Franco-Swiss improved to third this pushed team-mate Kimi Räikkönen down to 11th on Sunday’s grid.
On F1’s last visit to Bahrain two years ago, race organisers elected to use the full-length Endurance Circuit. Back on the Grand Prix configuration today, its more flowing nature made for a dramatic end to the session as a number of contenders vied for the top spot. Hamilton led Button after the first Q3 runs, but Rosberg and both Red Bulls were also battling for the best place on the starting grid.
Jenson Button will set off from fourth; he compromised his chances by locking up at the ever difficult and tightening Turn 10. Rosberg did the same thing, compounding this by running deep at the final corner – he ended up fifth when another pole had been a genuine possibility. Webber snatched P1, only for Hamilton to beat him before Vettel followed suit.
Behind, Daniel Ricciardo proved why he is currently favourite for a 2013 Red Bull seat by putting his Shanghai problems behind him and managing sixth place; the achievement is highlighted by the fact that Jean-Éric Vergne, in the second Toro Rosso, was eliminated in Q1 for the third consecutive race. The top ten is completed by Grosjean, Sergio Pérez, Alonso and Paul di Resta; after Force India skipped second practice, this was a commendable performance but the team’s cars were not shown on the FOM television feed for the duration of qualifying.
Vettel’s first pole of 2012 is the 31st of his career, moving to just one behind 1992 title winner Nigel Mansell and the top five of all-time pole sitters. The result also marks a second successive Bahrain pole for the German.
Sunday’s 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix begins at 3pm local time (BST +2) and all events can be tracked through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live report
|1.||S. Vettel||Red Bull||01:32.422||18|
|3.||M. Webber||Red Bull||01:32.637||17|
|6.||D. Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||01:32.912||17|
|9.||F. Alonso||Ferrari||no time||11|
|10.||P. di Resta||Force India||no time||15|
|15 May||Tost: Drivers need to perform exceptionally|
|15 May||Mixed feelings over penalty points system|
|14 May||Mateschitz: Nothing to do with racing|
|12 May||We can be happy with fourth, says Vettel|
|2012 Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix|
|26 Apr '12||Ricciardo not yet refreshed after disappointment|
|25 Apr '12||Di Resta hails Force India’s best performance|
|25 Apr '12||Interview with Force India’s Paul di Resta|
|23 Apr '12||No doubts about Grand Prix, says Bahrain boss|
|11 May||Vettel not dejected after missing pole|
|11 May||Video: Vettel swaps job with race engineer|
|10 May||Vettel expects similar number of pit-stops|
|10 May||Vettel moves ahead in second practice|
|19 May||Video of the Day: LEGO Ferrari Formula 1 car|
|18 May||Rosberg hopes to capitalise on one-lap pace|
|18 May||Video of the Day: A closer look at braking|
|17 May||Video: Caterham's Spanish GP review|
|More Sebastian Vettel photos|