Sebastian Vettel has taken the first pole position of the 2010 Formula One World Championship, setting the fastest time in qualifying ahead of tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix. With new teams, new drivers and a new layout being used at the Sakhir International Circuit, qualifying was always going to be interesting. It was the first time this year we have seen the cars turn wheels in anger and the true pace of the grid can now be seen.
The opening 20-minute qualifying session saw Karun Chandhok finally get a chance to drive his Hispania, the Indian driver failing to make it out in the practice sessions both yesterday and this morning. However, with the hydraulic issues solved, Chandhok finally made it out onto the track and although the Indian qualified at the very bottom of the timing sheet, his performance was expected, understandable and actually not that bad.
Bruno Senna, in the sister Hispania, fared a little better and managed a time 1.7s faster than his team mate. At the sharp-end, Ferrari impressed with Fernando Alonso taking the fastest lap in Q1, but conversely, McLaren appeared to struggle, failing to match the pace of the Ferraris and Red Bulls.
Those knocked-out of the first session were of little surprise, with both Hispania drivers, both Lotus pilots, the Virgin Racing duo and finally Jaime Alguersuari for Scuderia Toro Rosso. Alguersuari’s failure to get any further than Q1 was perhaps a little odd, but with seven drivers being relegated to the garage after the first 20 minutes, one of the established teams will always find themselves in this position.
Timo Glock heads the new teams with Virgin Racing, qualifying P19 and will start the race ahead of Jarno Trulli in the Lotus. Heikki Kovalainen will follow his team mate in P21 while Lucas Di Grassi qualified P22 and comfortably ahead of the Hispania pair.
The second session again saw little surprise although the McLarens again were struggling. For a while Jenson Button hovered in or around P10 and only a final push saw the Briton get through to Q1. Early on in the running Kamui Kobayashi impressed with a quick lap but unfortunately could not further improve and soon found himself falling down the table. Vitaly Petrov qualified P17 and showed himself as a steady hand, although team mate Robert Kubica was closer to the front.
Pedro De La Rosa in the second Sauber drove relatively well and managed to put the C29 in P14, just ahead of Sebastien Buemi and behind rookie Nico Hulkenberg. Vitantonio Liuzzi pushed his Force India into P12 while Rubens Barrichello, on the harder compound, qualified P11 and is in a very good position for tomorrow’s race. With the top-ten starting on the less-desirable soft tyre, Barrichello will be able to go further in the first stint and should be able to pick up a few points, all things going well.
The final session saw Sebastian Vettel mimic his Q2 performance by blasting in a supremely fast lap. So far this weekend, Vettel is the only driver to get into the sub-114s lap times, and in Q3 the young German edged out Felipe Massa by a tenth.
Ferrari showed good pace with Massa taking a front row grid position and Fernando Alonso lining up just behind in P3. Lewis Hamilton hauled his MP4-25 into P4 while team mate Jenson Button had to settle for a lowly P8.
Adrian Sutil impressed with a top-ten qualifying performance and will start the race behind Robert Kubica, who likewise showed reasonable pace in the Renault. Mark Webber couldn’t match his team mate and slots into P6 on the grid while the majority of talking from qualifying centres around the Mercedes duo. Nico Rosberg managed a fine P5, only made all the more sweet by beating his team mate, Michael Schumacher. The multiple world champion has looked a little off-colour all weekend and Rosberg has been consistently ahead in the practice sessions. Many thought Schumacher would be able to turn the wick up and pop in a special lap, but alas not. The most successful driver on the grid, statistically speaking, will start the Bahrain Grand Prix behind his lesser-experienced team mate in P7.
Of the drivers to watch tomorrow, Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Rubens Barrichello should prove to be the most interesting. You can never rule out Lewis Hamilton and at last year’s opening round the Briton put in a fine performance (prior to the safety car period) in an under-performing car. Michael Schumacher will also be worth watching, just to see if during the race he can reclaim the lost ground to his team mate and improve his stature in the team.