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Qualifying analysis - the smart money is on silver 05 Apr 2014

Mercedes AMG F1 W05 nose detail.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB10.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW36 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India VJM07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Caterham and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari at the autograph session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Adrian Sutil (GER) Sauber C33.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Lotus E22.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Caterham CT05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2014

For the first time in 2014 conditions during a qualifying session were predictable, with dry road, an ambient temperature between 24 and 23 degrees Celsius and a track temperature between 28 and 27. That meant that everybody could focus on when to run their soft Pirellis in Q1, before everyone who got through took either used or new sets of them in Q2 and Q3. The track was getting a little difficult towards the end of Q3, however. We take a look at how each team fared in Sakhir on Saturday…

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 33.185s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 33.464s, P2

Once again Mercedes had the front row all wrapped up, and maintained as near as dammit a second advantage over their closest opposition. Rosberg pulled the rabbit out of the hat to best Hamilton on their first Q3 runs, and when the latter messed up early in his second run it was all over. He said that he felt less comfortable in the car during qualifying than he had in the three practice sessions.

Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 34.051s, P3, will start P13
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 34.985s, P11, will start P10

Red Bull had a tough time, especially after Vettel spun off in FP3 and didn’t get a run on the soft tyres. In Q2 his RB10 was again suffering from downshift problems, and also lacked straight-line speed. Ricciardo did a fine job to get within a second of the Mercedes, but his 10-place grid penalty from the unsafe release in Malaysia drops him to a 13th place start.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 34.247s, P4, will start P3
Felipe Massa, 1m 34.511s, P8, will start P7

Despite deliberately minimising their mileage all through practice, Williams did a great job and Bottas was happy that he got the most from his FW36. Massa admitted that some oversteer-induced mistakes had cost him a couple of tenths. The team are finally well placed to get the most out of the car’s clear potential in the race.

Force India
Sergio Perez, 1m 34.346s, P5, will start P4
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 35.116s, P12, will start P11

Perez was delighted with the pace and behaviour of his VJM07, but thought that he might have been even faster had he warmed his brakes better during his out lap. That prevented him from improving on his second run in Q3. Hulkenberg, unusually, wasn’t as quick as normal and blamed running wide in Turn 11 on his quick lap in Q2. He has two new sets of softs harvested for the race, however.

Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 34.368s, P6, will start P5
Fernando Alonso, 1m 34.992s, P10, will start P9

Raikkonen attributed his sixth place in the pre-penalty line-up to improvements in his F14 T thanks to upgrades for this race, and said he now felt more comfortable, especially with the front end. Alonso had looked quite racy in Q1 and Q2, but was hit by a loss of power in Q3 that the team won’t be able to investigate until they get his car out of parc ferme.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 34.387s, P7, will start P6
Kevin Magnussen, 1m 34.712s, P9, will start P8

Neither driver was overly impressed with his grid position. Button felt that the team had made the perfect weekend thus far and that his lap got the most from the car; Magnussen didn’t think he quite got that. Both go into the race looking for another decent haul of points to keep them in second place behind the dominant Mercedes.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 35.145s, P13, will start P12
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 35.286s, P14

No Q3 this week for Toro Rosso, and that came as a surprise to both drivers after their performance in all three practice sessions. Both believed the STR09 should have had the pace, but it just wasn’t quite there when it mattered.

Sauber
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 35.891s, P15
Adrian Sutil, 1m 36.840s, P18, will start P22

Gutierrez was happy with the balance that he and his crew developed for qualifying, but Sutil had a tough time and had qualified only 18th when he was hit with a five-place drop for an incident with Grosjean at the end of Q1. The German said he’d been struggling with an overweight car that also lacked straight-line speed.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 35.908s, P16
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 36.663s, P17

Getting through to Q2 was about the only thing Lotus had to be happy about - and then not a lot. Both drivers reported that the E22 was tricky to drive, and out on the track there was ample evidence to back that. Grosjean had a run-in with Sutil right at the end of Q1 which might have prevented him from going quicker than 16th, and for which the German was penalised five grid places.

Caterham
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 37.085s, P19, will start P18
Marcus Ericsson, 1m 37.875s, P21, will start P20

Both drivers were reasonably happy. Kobayashi was a little surprised to get more out of his car on his second run after thinking he’d extracted the maximum on the first, and said that four-tenths of a second shy of Q2 was a more realistic assessment of the CT05’s potential after the team’s first reliable weekend of the season. Ericsson admitted that a big lock-up on his first run hurt his time, but was happy with everything about his second apart from an out lap that he felt cost him a few tenths.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 37.310s, P20, will start P19
Max Chilton, 1m 37.913s, P22, will start P21

Chilton was a little disappointed by his time, but Bianchi thought he could have matched Kobayashi’s Caterham if his MR03’s balance had been a little better.

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