Sakhir, 2 April 2016: Lewis Hamilton set the fastest ever lap of the Bahrain International Circuit to take pole position for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The champion was pushed hard by team-mate Nico Rosberg, however, and with the competition tight at the front of the grid, the second instalment of the sport’s elimination-style qualifying format saw the top drivers take to the circuit for a second run, which saw Hamilton post a blistering lap of 1:29.493 to beat his team-mate.
It was an impressive lap from the champion, as on the first run in Q3 he had run wide and found himself in fourth place as Rosberg put in a faultless sub-1:30s lap to seize the initiative. Hamilton dug deep, however, and as the clock counted out Ferrari’s fourth-placed Kimi Raikkonen, the three-time champion found enough pace to edge Rosberg by just under eight hundredths of a second.
“The car felt great. It’s quite incredible to think that we are quicker now to the V10 days. It just shows how far technology has come,” said Hamilton of the lap. “It’s obviously not been a smooth-sailing weekend in terms of pace. Nico’s been right on it all weekend and I was just generally struggling to put laps together,” he added. “Luckily the one lap I did put together was the last lap. That was actually the only lap probably the whole weekend so far. I hope that’s the first of many.”
Sebastian Vettel took third place for Ferrari, just under half a second off Rosberg’s pace.
Behind Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo took a solid fifth place for Red Bull Racing. His lap of 1:30.854 put him ahead of both Williams drivers and confirms that the Milton Keynes squad currently have the upper hand over the Grove outfit, at least with one car.
Ricciardo’s team-mate Daniil Kvyat scraped through to Q2 but couldn’t improve and was the first man out in second session that proved the most lacklustre of the three, with few drivers managing to get in ‘survival’ runs. Neither McLaren drove managed a second run, though Stoffel Vandoorne though, managed to edge McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, and Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez was also ruled out while sitting in the garage.
Nico Hulkenberg did manage to get in another hot lap, however, and with his team having timed his track time right, the German driver did his part by vaulting into P8 to secure the last place in Q3.
His success meant Romain Grosjean was ruled in P9 ahead of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz.
In the opening phase of the session, the big casualty was Force India’s Sergio Perez, who qualified in 18thposition. The best performance of the opening segment came from Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, who final hot lap in the session saw him climb from the bottom of the order to a very respectable P16. His time of 1:32.806 was 1.3s better than that of his 21st-placed team-mate Rio Haryanto.
Behind Wehrlein were Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, the hapless Perez, Kevin Masgnussen of Renault – who completed just one run as a penalty means he will start from the pit lane tomorrow – team-mate Jolyon Palmer, Haryanto and Sauber’s Felipe Nasr.
2016 Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.391 1:30.039 1.29.493
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:31.325 1:30.535 1:29.570
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.636 1:30.409 1:30.012
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:31.685 1:30.559 1:30.244
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:31.403 1:31.122 1:30.854
6 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:31.672 1:30.931 1:31.153
7 Felipe Massa Williams 1:32.045 1:31.374 1:31.155
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:31.987 1:31.604 1:31.620
9 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:32.005 1:31.756
10 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:31.888 1:31.772
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:31.716 1:31.816
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:32.472 1:31.934
13 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:32.118 1:31.945
14 Jenson Button McLaren 1:31.976 1:31.998
15 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:32.559 1:32.241
16 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Racing 1:32.806
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:32.840
18 Sergio Perez Force India 1:32.911
19 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:33.181
20 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:33.438
21 Rio Haryanto Manor Racing 1:34.190
22 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:34.388
eom/FIA press release