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Qualifying analysis - can Rosberg stay ahead? 20 Apr 2013

Pole sitter Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06 locks up.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8 locks up.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 19 April 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02 locks up.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013

With Pirelli opting to bring their hard and medium compounds to Bahrain, the tyre situation has been slightly less precarious in Sakhir than it was last week in China, but tyre conservation was still the name of the game in qualifying on Saturday. Mercedes' Nico Rosberg confirmed his first pole of the season on his second run in Q3, while team mate Lewis Hamilton only did one run, and McLaren's Jenson Button aborted his final run without setting a time. Once again, as well as pace the race is set to be about the postponement of tyre degradation, and the individual strategies that teams apply. We break down Saturday's action team-by-team...

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 32.330s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 32.762s, P4, will start P9

Rosberg admitted that he was surprised by his own pace, but said that changes wrought by the team overnight had made the F1 W04 a nicer, more balanced car to drive. Both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso conceded that the German was beyond their reach, however Rosberg expects Sunday's race to be much more difficult. Hamilton was within two-tenths of his team mate after their first runs, but didn’t do a second as he will receive a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change after a puncture/left rear suspension problem at the end of FP3 caused damage to the Mercedes’ transmission too.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 32.584s, P2
Mark Webber, 1m 33.078s, P5, will start P7

Vettel said there was no way he had enough to challenge Rosberg, but was happy to have saved some tyres for the race. Webber did only one run to conserve rubber, and though he had a three-place grid penalty for his Chinese clash with Vergne, that actually became two as Hamilton got a larger drop. Red Bull might have lost qualifying, but they look confident for the race.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 32.667s, P3
Felipe Massa, 1m 33.207s, P6, will start P4

Alonso said he was extremely pleased with third on the grid, especially as the Ferrari races better than it qualifies. He aborted his last run when it was clear he was already a tenth of a second down on his first run, thus saving rubber. Massa qualified a great sixth on the hard tyre, and is nicely placed in fourth after the penalties were applied to Hamilton and Webber. Ferrari thus have their bets covered both ways, and will undoubtedly be very strong on Sunday.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 33.235s, P7, will start P5
Adrian Sutil, 1m 33.246s, P8, will start P6

Force India came here brimful of confidence on a track that they expected to suit the VJM06, and that confidence was not misplaced. The drivers said that they lost a little bit of pace when the track gripped up ahead of qualifying, but both were delighted to get on to the fourth row, which became the third after the penalties that Hamilton and Webber incurred. Force India now have their best chance to realise the potential that has been evident all season.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 33.327s, P9, will start P8
Romain Grosjean, 1m 33.762s, P11

Grosjean was much happier with his new chassis compared to the one he drove in the opening three races, but Raikkonen said he had trouble getting a good balance in his car yesterday and the problem persisted in FP3 and qualifying. Nevertheless, the black and gold cars usually have great race pace, so they will bear watching closely on race day.

McLaren
Jenson Button, No time, P10
Sergio Perez, 1m 33.914s, P12

Neither Button nor Perez were really happy with their MP4-28s all weekend and both spoke of difficulty getting the best from them. Button, however, did a great job to make the top 10 and by aborting his Q3 lap he was able to save tyres and give himself the option of starting on the hards or the medium tomorrow. He still thinks points are possible.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 33.974s, P13
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 34.284s, P16

Ricciardo reckoned he got the best out of his car and was pleased to be close to a McLaren and ahead of the Saubers and Williams's, but Vergne was puzzled by his STR8’s performance on the medium tyre as he struggled to reproduce the Q1 form he’d had on the hards.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 33.976s, P14
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 34.730s, P18, will start P22

Hulkenberg hadn’t expected to make Q3, but at the same time was surprised not to be closer to the top 10. He complained about the brakes on his C31, while Gutierrez did his race preparation in FP3 after problems yesterday, and generally tried to have a clean qualifying after the clash with Sutil in China which gave him his five-place grid penalty.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 34.105s, P15
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 34.425s, P17, will start P16

Bottas and Maldonado set identical times in Q1 – 1m 34.425s - but the Finn’s was set first and so he progressed through to Q2. Maldonado consoled himself that he saved a set of tyres for the race.

Caterham
Charles Pic, 1m 35.283s, P19, will start P18
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 36.304s, P21, will start P20

The improved performance of the ‘halfway house’ CT03 was once again evident as Pic confidently outpaced bogeyman Bianchi in the Marussia which had had the upper hand in the opening three races. Pic was happy with his car’s performance, while Van der Garde jumped Chilton’s Marussia on his last lap. Both then moved up a place when Gutierrez’s penalty from China was applied.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 36.178s, P20, will start P19
Max Chilton, 1m 36.476s, P22, will start P21

Marussia had a tough day. Chilton experienced a KERS water-pump problem in FP3 then locked up in Turn 11 and lost fractions in Q1, while Bianchi has struggled with his car’s balance all weekend, and then it required fire extinguishant when he pitted at the end of Q1. The speed of Pic’s Caterham was a cause for concern after the way the MR02 had gone in Australia, Malaysia and China, but both drivers moved up a place because of Gutierrez’s penalty.

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