The question on everyone’s mind entering round three of the championship is ‘will Mercedes carry their early form into the Bahrain weekend?’ Free Practice appeared to suggest that this would be the case, with Hamilton consistently recording very competitive times in all sessions.
Tyre choice was a key factor in Q1, with teams making the call on tyre choice. It was Hulkenberg who topped out the timesheets for the session: only the Mercedes drivers and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finished the session on the harder option tyre, saving a set of the medium option.
A potential blocking incident – Sutil cutting across Grosjean while he was on a hot lap – was referred to the stewards for investigation.
Q2 saw the improving Williams out early and it was Bottas who set the early benchmark. Tellingly, Williams opted to send both drivers out on the medium tyre. Despite Hulkenberg setting the early pace on the options, it was not long before the Mercedes stamped their authority on the session, with both drivers confident of their Q3 places. The biggest casualty of the session was reigning champion Sebastian Vettel eliminated, having complained of problems shifting down the gears.
Q3 again saw Williams leading the way at the start of the session. It was a bonanza for the Mercedes-powered teams, with excellent showings from all four teams. It was, however, the works team that dominated, with a lockup by Hamilton at turn 8 ruining his final flying lap. Rosberg topped the session for pole, with Ricciardo delivering a creditable third place. With his penalty for his unsafe release in Malaysia shuffling everyone from P4-P13 up one place, the pressure will be on both Red Bull drivers to recover the dominant form the team has enjoyed in previous seasons. With Raikkonen sixth and Alonso tenth, Ferrari have a stiff challenge if they wish to score good team points tomorrow.