Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bahrain Grand Prix Race Review

It has been one of the most controversial stories coming out of F1, but the Bahrain Grand Prix is going ahead. After the cancelation of the Grand Prix in 2011, Bernie Ecclestone decided that it was safe to go to the Gulf state, despite the on-going civil unrest.

All images (C) Sky Sports F1
Protestors and police have clashed numerous times over the last few years, but the unrest has been turned towards F1. Protestors threatened to disrupt the race and march to the gates of the Sakhir circuit but F1 drivers and Teams are just thinking about the race.

The F1 and Bahraini world collided when a car containing 4 Force India mechanics was caught up in a clash between protestors and police, where petrol bombs exploded near to the car. It forced 2 of the team to head home, read more here.

Bahrain has been the biggest f1 question mark for some time. After Rosberg’s stunning win in China there was just 1 week to celebrate for the German before the teams flew to Bahrain. The circuit has not been on the F1 calendar since 2010 when they raced on a long, extended track. Now the track layout returns to the 2004-2009 specification and with high temperatures, tyres will be crucial in Bahrain.

FP1
Lewis Hamilton topped the first Bahrain Grand Prix practice session in 2 years. The Mclaren driver put the British team in to the mix with a lap time of 1m33.572, 3 tenths ahead of reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Paul Di Resta finished the session in 3rd after changing to the softer Pirelli tyres at the end of the session, one of the only drivers to do this. Nico Rosberg went 4th, with the Mercedes Super DRS helping them on this circuit.
Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg finished 5thand 6th respectively, 7 tenths off the front running time of Hamilton. Hulkenberg vaulted up the order, like team mate Di Resta, after they changed to the soft tyres. The rest of the field spent the entire session on the white marked harder tyres, mixing short and longer runs. It was seen that the higher track temperatures, around the 27 degree mark, meant that degradation was higher than normal.
Drivers also had to deal with a slippery and dusty track. The circuit often has dust layered over it due to its location in desert surroundings. This meant that many drivers had off track excursions or spins, mainly at turn 1 or turn 10.
Ferrari had a poor session, Alonso in 13th and Massa in 15th. They were 1.8 and 2.1 seconds off the pace, mixing it with the Toro Rosso and Williams drivers. There were variation in lap numbers, Leader Hamilton doing as few as 11. This contrasted with the two Force India drivers who lapped the Bahrain circuit 26 times each.
FP2
Chinese Grand Prix victor Nico Rosberg topped the 2ndfree practice session of the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. The main news, however, was that Force India did not make it out in FP2 after deciding to skip running and get ready for FP3 early, so the team could leave the circuit before it went dark. This is after a petrol bomb exploded near a car carrying 4 of their mechanics, causing 2 of their team members to leave Bahrain and head back to England.

Nico Rosberg topped the session when the chequered flag fell, with a lap time of 1m32.816. This time meant he was well clear of Mark Webber in 2nd, 4 tenths behind. The Mercedes was extremely fast in the final sector, made up of 2 corners and 2 straights. Vettel and Hamilton were 7 and 9 tenths off Rosberg’s leading pace.
Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button completed the top 6. The track conditions were better than in FP1, with temperatures more or less the same and increased grip on the circuit after the removal of the dust.
Sauber finished 7th and 10th, with Kobayashi and Perez sandwiching 2005 and 2006 world champion Alonso and Chinese Grand Prix point’s scorer Romain Grosjean. Cars ran between 26 and 38 laps, bar Force India who completed none.
Caterham will be encouraged by their pace, with Petrov and Kovalainen in 16th and 17th positions. Despite being 3 seconds off the pace they were just 4 tenths behind Maldonado and ahead of Bruno Senna in the Williams.
FP3
Free Practice 3 is the last chance for teams to test and get their data, ready for Qualifying and the race. The 60 minute session was set under hazy and sandy conditions and drivers struggled primarily with locking.

Nico Rosberg topped the times on the soft tyre, the teams switching to low fuel, soft tyre qualifying simulations towards the end of the session. His best lap time of 1m33.254 was just under 2 tenths faster than Sebastian Vettel in the improving Red Bull RB8. Webber and Hamilton were around 5 tenths behind Rosberg in 3rd and 4th, with Schumacher and Button behind them.
Alonso and Massa finished the session in 10th and 16th, with Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta in the Force India behind each of them respectively. After missing FP2, the Force India drivers had a busy session and could only finish 15th and 19th, Hulkenberg behind Kovalainen in 18th.
The field spread from Rosberg (1st) to Karthikeyan (24th) was around 6 seconds, so HRT closing slightly.
Q1
The first qualifying session of the Bahrain GP saw the usual suspects fall out. The 20 minute stint on the race track saw the front runners run once on the harder tyre, while the midfield and “newer” teams switch to the softs in an attempt to miss that dreaded 18th place.
By the chequered flag it was Jean-Eric Vergne and a surprise of Michael Schumacher missing out on the cut into Q2. Schumacher felt he was safe and stayed in the pits, but a stunning lap from Angry Birds powered Heikki Kovalainen meant that Caterham moved into Q2 for the first time in 2012.
Perez topped the times on a 1m33.814 ahead of Ricciardo, Webber, Grosjean and Kobayashi. Both Red Bull’s had to go out again while the midfield pack moved onto softs, with the track evolution and step up in grip from the soft tyres meaning the midfield made the difference up. Rosberg, Alonso, Button, Hamilton and Schumacher were the ones who went for 1 run, with the latter missing out on the cut.
It was an extremely impressive performance for Heikki Kovalainen as he mixes it with the midfield, where Caterham want to be.
Q2
The 15 minute session, Q2, are some of the most hotly contested minutes of a race weekend. With only 10 slots available in Q3, 7 people will be left disappointed.
Lewis Hamilton topped the times on a 1m33.209 and was only 0.010 seconds ahead of Nico Rosberg. Grosjean, Webber, Alonso, Button, Di Resta and Vettel were safe with Romain, Alonso and Di Resta improving later on with their 2nd runs. Ricciardo and Perez just made it into Q3, with the Sauber driver eliminating his own team mate.
Raikkonen, Kobayashi and Hulkenberg were eliminated, contrasting with their team mate’s fortunes. Massa and Senna were also out, Felipe knocked out in Q2 for the 4th time in a row. Kovalainen finished the session 16th, with Maldonado not even completing a time as he faces a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
It is clear to see that the race track evolution is higher than we all predicted, making for an interesting Q3.
Q3
10 minutes of racing action saw Webber, Hamilton, Button and Vettel lead out as the green light went on at the pit exit. These top teams started their first runs, most likely of 2.
After using 3 sets of new soft tyres each, Ricciardo, Grosjean and Di Resta were on tyre saving mode. After the first runs Hamilton led from Button, on 1m32.6 and 1m32.7 respectively. Webber and Vettel were 3rdand 4th and close behind them. Alonso emerged from the pits to set some sector times, before moving back to the pits.
Rosberg and Grosjean joined the circuit as the evolution started. The top 4 soon followed for their second runs, as did Di Resta, Perez and Ricciardo.
At the flag Sebastian Vettel took his first pole of 2012 with Hamilton just behind. Webber went 3rd and Button went 4th, backing out of his final lap. Rosberg took 5th on the grid while Ricciardo, Grosjean, Perez, Alonso and Di Resta rounding out the top 10.
Pos Driver                          Team                       Time
1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       1m32.422s 
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes       1m32.520s  +  0.098
3.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault       1m32.637s  +  0.215
4.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       1m32.711s  +  0.289
5.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               1m32.821s  +  0.399
6.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1m32.912s  +  0.490
7.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault          1m33.008s  +  0.586
8.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari         1m33.394s  +  0.972
9.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                No time
10.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes   No time
11.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault          1m33.789s  +  1.367
12.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari         1m33.806s  +  1.384
13.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes   1m33.807s  +  1.385
14.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                1m33.912s  +  1.490
15.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault       1m34.017s  +  1.595
16.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault       1m36.132s  +  3.710
17.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes               1m34.865s  +  2.443
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1m35.014s  +  2.592
19.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault       1m35.823s  +  3.401
20.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth      1m37.683s  +  5.261
21.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth           1m37.883s  +  5.461
22.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault       No time
23.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth      1m37.905s  +  5.483
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth           1m38.314s  +  5.892
The Race
After years of controversy, doubt and unrest the Bahrain Grand Prix of 2012 arrived. Racing in the desert is a rare affair, with hot track temperatures and mixed corner styles hopefully producing an exciting Grand Prix.
After an impressive qualifying session, which saw a Red Bull on pole again, the grid looked interesting, always key for a good race. Impressive performances from Mclaren, Caterham, Lotus and Sauber meant there were lots of drivers to keep an eye on at the start.
After the uncertainty of the race, it was finally the day people had been waiting for, some wanting it to be over and put back into the past.
The engine rev’s rose, the red lights came on, the tension increased and the lights went out. Go, Go, Go in Bahrain. Off the grid Vettel streaks away, with Hamilton and the rest getting away cleanly. Button drops back behind Alonso, Grosjean and Rosberg but it’s clear at turn 1, dust being kicked up. Rosberg drops back too, yellow flags being waved as Kovalainen slows. Another one who went backwards was Daniel Ricciardo, falling from 6thto 16th.
After the first lap Vettel had an impressive lead, with the midfield vying for position. Kovalainen pits after an impressive qualifying, with a puncture. By lap 2 it’s Vettel from Hamilton, Webber, Grosjean, Alonso, Button, Raikkonen and Massa. However the latter two change around after a move on the Iceman at turn 1.
With DRS activated on lap 3, Grosjean takes Webber for 3rd. Without DRS help though, Raikkonen re-takes his position. Vettel had a massive lead by nearly 4 seconds, just 5 laps in as he streaks away from Hamilton.
Grosjean was a man on the move in the early stages. After taking Webber for 3rd he overtook Hamilton for 2nd, the Lotus finding some pace. Further back Button was takes by Raikkonen, DRS being very effective on the Sakhir circuit.
Ricciardo is the 2nd person to pit, after Kovalainen, on lap 8. He changed his front wing and tyres, getting some fresh rubber on as Button radios complaining about his rear tyres. By lap 9 Button, Massa and Rosberg pit for new tyres. The former comes out in clear air, while Rosberg gets stuck behind Pic in the Marussia. Up front Raikkonen takes Alonso in the DRS zone, turn 1 being the favourite overtaking place.
The rest of the teams respond, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso and a few midfield drivers pit. Hamilton has a problem in his stop, meaning its 9.6 seconds long and sees him he lose out to Alonso and Webber, plus his own team mate. Hamilton is involved in a high speed incident as Lewis is forced onto the sandy AstroTurf by Rosberg, the Brit desperate to get past.
By the time the leaders of Vettel, Grosjean and Raikkonen pitted the order had calmed down. Jenson Button sets a new fastest lap but is displaced by Sergio Perez, Hamilton and Rosberg being investigated for their incident.
Alonso is past by Button on lap 12, Hamilton just behind after that poor stop. After Raikkonen’s impressive pace on older tyres, he leap frogs the Mclaren/Alonso fight. The next lap Raikkonen passes Webber into turn 11, Lotus finding some good speed. The next pass is Hamilton, Alonso falling back.
Di Resta pits on lap 14 from 2nd, the Force India finally getting some airtime after not being shown on TV in qualifying. Moving on to lap 21, as the drivers settle down, Di Resta passes Maldonado and Perez in 1 move. Up the front, Raikkonen moves in on Grosjean and they both close in on Vettel.
Hulkenberg and Perez pit for the second time, with Button the first of the front runners on lap 23. Rosberg and Massa follow suit, just as they did in the first stops. At the front Raikkonen takes Grosjean, both on different tyres, in an easy move. Lap 24 see’s Webber, Hamilton, Alonso and Schumacher pit again. However Hamilton has an identical left rear problem at his stop, this time stationary for 12.2 seconds. He moves behind Massa, what is the problem? They had an identical problem in China too.
Rosberg and Alonso were in an aggressive duel, Nico already under investigation. After turn 3 Alonso made the move and swept to the right to overtake, but Nico moved over and forced him onto the sandy edge of the track. Maldonado has a 360 spin after a puncture, just behind the Alonso incident.
There were 2 retirements in the space of 2 laps; Maldonado pitting and being pushed into the garage. Charles Pic also stopped out on track.
Moving on to lap 33 Raikkonen caught Vettel, just 1.1 seconds between them. The Iceman and the “finger boy” were going head to head on the same tyres.
Rosberg and Hamilton pit for their 3rd stops on lap 37. Mclaren had a slightly faster stop on Lewis’s car but will they have to pit 1 more time? The next lap Button, Alonso and Schumacher pit, Alonso emerged from his pit box in the way of one of Perez. He was then subsequently emerged into the path of Schumacher.
On lap 40 Vettel and Kimi pit together, both going on to the medium tyre. Raikkonen has a slower stop and lost a few tenths to the German. Webber comes in after Vettel, Red Bull double stopping.
With just 10 laps to go, Vettel was extending his lead to Raikkonen. Despite a strong showing from both Lotus drivers, Raikkonen in 2ndand Grosjean in 3rd, they were both unable to keep up with Vettel. However as the laps count down Raikkonen begins to close in, did he save his tyres?
Unfortunately, as the laps counted down, Raikkonen fell back, leaving Vettel to streak away. Meanwhile Di Resta and Rosberg were involved in a great fight for 5th as Paul tried to keep Nico behind him, the Scotsman on a 2 stop strategy.


With 4 laps left Button pitted with a puncture, a 4thand unscheduled stop. That dropped him down the field to 13th, giving Di Resta some breathing space. Not to be Mclaren’s day in Bahrain, after a strong 2nd and 3rd place finish in China.
Bruno Senna retires from 14th position with just 2 laps remaining, a double retirement after the success of China. Rosberg and Button both report problems with their engine and Jenson Button ends up retiring from the race with an ill sounding engine.
After a winless opening to the 2012 season, Vettel takes the win in Bahrain. The German takes his 21st win of the season as Mclaren falter.

Sebastian Vettel wins in Bahrain


Vettel wins from Raikkonen and Grosjean in the Lotus. This makes it 4 different drivers winning the 4 races of the 2012 season so far. Raikkonen returns to the podium on his return to F1, while Grosjean takes his first podium. Webber finishes 4th and Rosberg takes 5th. Paul Di Resta takes 6th place in the Force India after a 2 stop strategy and is closely followed by Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, after a poor race. Massa and Schumacher round out the top 10, the latter finishing in the points after starting 22nd.

Vettel and Rosberg stop at the end of the pits with low fuel, but the "number 1" finger is back in the F1 paddock. A poor showing from Mclaren compared to Red Bull means that Vettel and Red Bull take the lead of the championships.

Pos Driver       Team                        Time
1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h35:10.990
2.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +     3.300
3.  Grosjean      Lotus-Renault              +    10.100
4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    38.700
5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    55.400
6.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +    57.500
7.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +    57.800
8.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    58.900
9.  Massa         Ferrari                    +  1:04.900
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:11.400
11.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:12.700
12.  Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes       +  1:16.500
13.  Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:30.300
14.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:33.700
15.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +     1 lap
16.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +     1 lap
17.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +     1 lap
18.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +     1 lap
19.  Glock         Marussia-Cosworth          +    2 laps
20.  De la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth               +    2 laps
21.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +    2 laps
22.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +    3 laps

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:36.379

Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap
Maldonado     Williams-Renault             26
Pic           Marussia-Cosworth            25

Driver Reaction:

Jenson Button: "I didn't have a very good balance today: I was struggling all afternoon with oversteer. We were taking front wing out of the car all the way through the race, in fact. However, my final stint was a long one, and, if I hadn't struck trouble, I reckon things would have got quite interesting in the final laps. In the last few laps, the car sounded really noisy. I think the initial problem was an exhaust failure, then my puncture, and then a differential failure; so I had to retire. It's been a pretty difficult weekend for the whole team."

Lewis Hamilton: "There are good times and bad times in motor racing. I guess this was just one of those days. By rights we should have been fighting to finish in the top four today, but it didn't work out like that in the end. The delays in the pits were a big part of that, of course. For the driver sitting in the car, that's always frustrating, because you're just waiting and there's nothing you can do to help."

Nico Rosberg: "I had a pretty bad first lap today, but after that I was able to recover and get the most of our race. We had a good strategy and the pace of the car was pretty strong compared to the start of the season, although it was difficult to make progress as there were a lot of cars fighting for the same positions. Overall I'm happy with our weekend as fifth place gives me a few more points and I can see that we are making progress.

Paul di Resta: "The result today is massive for us. The team did an amazing job all weekend, the strategy came together and the pit-stops were perfect. We knew it would be a big ask to make only two stops and it was a close run thing at the end because my tyres completely went away on the final lap. I had Fernando [Alonso] very close behind me, but I saved a bit of KERS coming out of the final corner and managed to stay ahead. Apart from that, the car has been awesome. So we go away from here as a very happy team with a few weeks to reflect on things and determined to arrive in Barcelona in fighting form."

Heikki Kovalainen: "I had a good start but then had contact with a car behind in turn 10 which caused a rear left puncture. We pitted immediately and from then on it was basically about putting in as strong a race as I could. I passed Glock quickly and pulled out a good gap to him and then went after my team mate and Ricciardo. It's obviously a bit frustrating to have had the puncture on the first lap, but we can take a number of positives from this weekend, particularly from the pace we showed in qualifying and from the way we were able to look after the tyres, so overall it's been pretty good."

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