Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bahrain GP Return Results in Red Bull, Vettel Return to Pole

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

Slated on 2011 Formula 1 series schedule, the Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled following an massive civilian uprising in the country. While the political turmoil is far from resolved in the small Persian Gulf country, the 24-car 2012 Formula 1 tour arrived for the Grand Prix of Bahrain.

As unrest in the country is prevalent during this major national event, the race in Bahrain on the 5.412 kilometer (3.363-mile) road course held Saturday qualifying. Taking to the Bahrain International Circuit (characterized for its large, forgiving run-off areas), the Red Bull Racing team prevailed in qualifying ending a three-race streak where the team went without a pole position (the longest since the 2009 Formula 1 season). Taking top of the grid honours is reigning Formula 1 World Driver Champion Sebastian Vettel who stormed around the race course in a 1 minute, 32.422 seconds in the final Q3 session. Vettel fended out McLaren's Lewis Hamilton by just under 1/10th of a second and the second Red Bull-Renault of Mark Webber by more than 18/100ths in qualifying. Red Bull Racing's Chris Horner summed up the team's first-time in 2012 triumph in Saturday time trials by saying, “A great team performance today and pretty unexpected to get pole and third on the grid here. It’s testimony to all the hard work that’s going on here trackside and back in the factory to deliver that kind of performance during what was a really exciting and tight qualifying session."

Photo Credit: Nissan/Infiniti

The two McLaren-Mercedes cars continue a relatively solid 2012 season so-far (compared to the rest of this year's shaky Formula 1 paddock) at the Bahrain International Circuit. With Lewis Hamilton qualifying second-fastest for the second straight race, the 2008 World Champion will not have to relinquish grid position unlike at last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix. Finding success in qualifying in the early four races of 2012, Hamilton the only driver who has left Saturday time trials with front row performances. Jenson Button starts 4th allowing the McLaren F1 team to sandwich the Red Bull-Renault of Mark Webber.

New Formula 1 winner Nico Rosberg qualified 5th for the Bahrain Grand Prix for Mercedes GP. "In general, I felt very comfortable during qualifying today. However, as we have been focusing on our race pace, there is always a compromise in the qualifying set-up." said the German driver once again set to stare at the rear ends of McLaren-Mercedes and Red Bull-Renault race cars on the starting grid Sunday. Teammate Michael Schumacher qualified 18th after being surprised by a mechanical gremlin on his Mercedes GP W03 race car during the Q1 grouping. "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 tyres would not have made sense." said Schumacher, the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix winner when the Formula 1 first visited the country in 2004. 

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

Other than Vettel's masterful performance in bringing life back to the Red Bull Racing team in Formula 1, the quote/unquote satellite team Scuderia Toro Rosso drew some real attention at the end of Saturday's qualifying. Fastest in the Q1 session, driver Daniel Ricciardo maintained momentum in order to proceed into the faster pace Q2 and Q3 groups at Bahrain. Less than 1/10th of a second slower than the Mercedes GP car of Rosberg, the Australian Ricciardo qualified 6th for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The second top-10 start for Scuderia Toro Rosso this year, the car is powered by customer Ferrari engines that were also used by Sauber and driver Sergio Perez to place 8th on Sunday's race grid. Splitting the Ferrari-powered STR and Sauber race car is Lotus F1's Romain Grosjean. While only finishing his first Formula 1 race of 2012 last weekend in China, Grosjean's qualifying performances have seen him place a Lotus-Renault in the top-10 of qualifying for every event after four grand prixs this year.

The Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and a Force India-Mercedes wrapped up the top-10 in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Deep in the grid, honourable mention goes to the HRT F1 team who started the season too slow to make the Australian Grand Prix season opener. After qualifying at the Bahrain International Circuit, the HRT-Cosworth of Pedro de la Rosa outrun the Marussia-Cosworth of Timo Glock for 22nd spot. Though not significant compared to the front of the Formula 1 grid, this feat is major for the HRT F1 team as they were able to qualify fast enough to win a position above the final row on a race grid this season.

2012 Formula 1
Bahrain Grand Prix
Qualifying Results

1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
2 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
3 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
4 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
5 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
6 16 Daniel Ricciardo Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
7 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
8 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari
9 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
10 11 Paul di Resta Force India
11 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
12 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
13 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
14 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari
15 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault
16 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
17 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault
18 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
19 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
20 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault
21 25 Charlie Pic Marussia-Cosworth
22 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth
23 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth
24 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth

The #7 Mercedes GP car of Michael Schumacher and #18 Williams-Renault of Pastor Maldonado be deducted five grid positions for an unapproved gearbox change. 

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