Despite the excitement qualifying was once again overshadowed by the new elimination style format, during each session the track was deserted well before the chequered flag dropped leaving fans and senior F1 members annoying and frustrated.
Hamilton prepared for Sunday’s race in the best possible way, by claiming pole position. He achieved it in fine fashion by edging out his teammate and finishing a full 0.5 seconds clear of the nearest Ferrari in P3. The pole position lap was a driving master class with even the man himself even labelling it as a “sexy lap”. Hamilton's lap of a 1:29.493 will go down in the record books as the fastest ever lap recorded at the Bahrain International Circuit beating Webber's 2005 record.
The two Ferrari’s went into qualifying looking strong after topping FP3 but the threat never materialised as they could not match the Mercedes outright pace and had to settle the second row on the grid. All is not lost, especially if they can repeat their flying starts from Australia.
Daniel Ricciardo was delighted to claim P5 and said it felt like pole position to him and his team. The two Williams drivers produced practically identically times with Bottas fractionally ahead of Massa as the pair qualified in P6 and P7; this was an especially impressive performance from the Finn as he was running an older-spec front wing and nose compared to his teammate.
Hulkenberg and Grosjean both produced stunning laps at the end Q2 with Hulkenberg edging through but was unable to further improve and will start from P8 on the grid. Grosjean’s lap continues Haas’ impressive start to the season and comes with the additional bonus that they will have free tyre choice for the start of the race.
Verstappen and Sainz are another pair of teammates who will start Sunday’s race side-by-side on the grid after being evenly matched throughout.
Vandoorne came into this weekend having won on his previous three trips to Bahrain, although another win this weekend will not be possible, his prowess was shown as he out out qualified his World Champion teammate to line up P12 whilst Button will start P14. Kvyat had another disappointing qualifying session for the second time this season and will start P15 and was concerned by his embarrassing lack of speed.
Both Renault drivers appeared to be lacking pace all weekend and this continued into qualifying. Magnussen beat his teammate but it was only good enough for P19 ahead of Palmer in P20. It looks unlikely that things will improve during the race for the new F1 constructers, especially with Magnussen starting Sunday’s race from the pit lane after ignoring a red light during practice.
Sergio Perez in P18 had a session to forget as he was humbled by his teammate and was out qualified by a Manor and a Sauber. Force India will be hoping that their straight-line speed and the overtaking friendly nature of the track will help Perez challenge for points on race day.
Bahrain GP Qualifying results:
1. L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:29.493
2. N. Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:29.570
3. S. Vettel, Ferrari, 1:30.012
4. K. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:30.244
5. D. Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:30.854
6. V. Bottas, Williams, 1:31.153
7. F. Massa, Williams, 1:31.155
8. N. Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:31.620
9. R. Grosjean, Haas, 1:31.756
10. M. Verstappen, 1:31.772
11. C. Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:31.816
12. S. Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:31.934
13. E. Gutierrez, Haas, 1:31.945
14. J. Button, McLaren, 1:31.998
15. D. Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:32.241
16. P. Wehrlein, Manor, 1:32.806
17. M. Ericsson, Sauber, 1:32.840
18. S. Perez, Force India, 1:32.911
19. K. Magnussen, Renault, 1:33.181*
20. J. Palmer, Renault, 1:33.438
21. R. Haryanto, Manor, 1:34.190
22. F. Nasr, Sauber, 1:34.388
*Magnussen to start race from pit lane