April 21, 2012

F1 Quals: Bahrain 2012

Teams are bunkering in their hotels.  F1 personnel are commuting to the track in convoys and are being instructed to move in groups only.  The government is preventing journalists from entering the country.  Protest groups are calling for a massive march on the circuit for race day.  Must be Bahrain, which means it's time for Quals!  Here's the provisional grid for tomorrow's Grand Prix of Bahrain:
 

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:34.308 1:33.527 1:32.422
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.813 1:33.209 1:32.520
3 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:34.015 1:33.311 1:32.637
4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:34.792 1:33.416 1:32.711
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:34.588 1:33.219 1:32.821
6 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:33.988 1:33.556 1:32.912
7 Lettuce Grosjean Renault Lotus 1:34.041 1:33.246 1:33.008
8 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.814 1:33.660 1:33.394
9 HWMNBN Ferrari 1:34.760 1:33.403 No time
10 Paul di Resta
1:34.624 1:33.510 No time
11 Kimi Räikkönen Renault Lotus 1:34.552 1:33.789
12 Gandalf Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.131 1:33.806
13 Nico Hulkenberg
1:34.601 1:33.807
14 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:34.372 1:33.912
15 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1:34.466 1:34.017
16 Heikki Kovalaineninnie Lotus Caterham 1:34.852 1:36.132
17 Dean Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:34.639 No time
18 Slappy Schumacher Mercedes 1:34.865

19 Jules Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:35.014

20 The Red Menace
Lotus Caterham 1:35.823

21 Charles ToothPic Marussia-Cosworth 1:37.683

22 Pete Rose
HRT-Cosworth 1:37.883

23 Tim O'Glockenspiel Marussia-Cosworth 1:37.905

24 Narain Kittylitter HRT-Cosworth 1:38.314


Q1 107% Time
1:40.380


Yup, Sebby Vettel is back on pole, but don't panic; this quals session wasn't exactly what you would call normal.  We've got a confluence of factors going on this race: the heat of the track, mixed with the grippy asphalt (originally imported from a quarry in England) and the new rubber compounds Pirelli has used has made the soft tires a little fragile.  How fragile?  How about "you get three hot laps before they fall off the cliff" fragile?  Everybody was using used, or "scuffed", tires for their first runs in Q3 or not doing the first run at all.  Then during the second hot runs (or only hot run in some cases), everybody made errors during the lap, locking up a tire, going off-track... nothing horrible, but just enough to let someone with a clean lap get pole.  That was Vettel, for the first time during the day showing good pace. 

HWMNBN didn't even bother to set a time in Q3, electing to protect his tires for the race.  The same can be said for Force India's Paul di Resta who kept it in the garage.  Undoubtedly the big surprise of the session was Mercedes making a strategic error in Q1 with Slappy Schumacher.  He had a decent but not great time, but the team decided to keep him in the pitlane to protect tires instead of sending him back out.  And then the track "came alive," and the times began to plummet.  At the last moment, Caterham's Heikki Kovalainninninninnie pushed him below the bubbleline and out of Quals.  Later, Slappy said the car had problems with the "mystery vent" on the Mercedes' rear wing, but that seems too convenient.  Nope, they just screwed up.

Speaking of screwing up, it's time to call out Formula One Management, or FOM.  They're the people in charge of television coverage, and their boss Bernie Ecclestone has apparently decided to show Force India what happens when you express legitimate concerns about your safety in a country in the middle of extensive unrest.  Not once did we see a Force India car on screen (save for the tail of one disappearing offscreen left while the camera focused on another team) during the entire Quals session... despite Paul di Resta getting his Force India into Q3.  This strategy, of course, has backfired and actually drawn more attention to Force India and their very real concerns.  A round of sarcastic applause for FOM... I wonder if they'll stick with the policy during the race?

Ah, the race.  This could turn out to be very interesting with the tire situation being so awful... and of course, there's the spectre of the protests hanging over everything.  I don't know what Sunday will bring, but F1U! will be all over it.  Keep your fingers crossed, and we'll see you there!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:01 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 Do the Bahrainis have a legitimate complaint with F1 racing, or are they protesting the race as a vehicle for some other grievance?  A quick search didn't turn up any reason behind the protests.

Posted by: RickC at April 21, 2012 09:57 PM (WQ6Vb)

2 The protestors are trying to "win their political freedom, equality for the Shia minority, and an end to the monarchy of King Hamad.

Said monarchy responded with swift and brutal applications of violence, even stricter lockdowns on free speech, and kicked the media out of the country.

The protestors view the Grand Prix, quite correctly, as a plaything of the royal family, a highly politicized event that makes the Monarchy look good.  They don't appear to have anything against F1 in general, except for that.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 21, 2012 10:32 PM (PVVuW)

3 It's also an event that attracts world attention, so if they can disrupt it, the world will see.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 21, 2012 11:53 PM (+rSRq)

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