2015: Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying Report

Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton all topped a practice session ahead of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Raikkonen led the way in Free Practice 1 ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, while Mercedes concentrated on heavy fuel runs. Rosberg was fastest in Free Practice 2 while Hamilton was ahead in Free Practice 3. Going into qualifying it looks once again like Mercedes have the upper hand but Ferrari are not close behind. Behind them the midfield looks close – especially the gap between getting through to the pole position shoot-out.

Q1

Kimi Raikkonen was the first driver out on track for the start of qualifying, using the medium compound tyres. His first flying lap was compromised by a lock-up at turn one resulting in a 1:36.731. This was beaten by Valtteri Bottas with a 1:36.268 and then Nico Rosberg with a 1:35.657. Jenson Button compounded what has already been a difficult weekend by pulling off at the side of the track on his out-lap, revealing everything had shut down and there was a “loud bang”. His team-mate Fernando Alonso went straight out on the soft tyres and his first flying lap was good enough for ninth. Sebastian Vettel came out with just six minutes of the session remaining on the soft tyres. His first flying lap was a 1:34.919. At the end of the session, in the dropzone were Pastor Maldonado who encountered an engine problem in his Lotus, Daniil Kvyat, Will Stevens, Roberto Merhi and Button.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:33.928
  2. Valtteri Bottas 1:34.161
  3. Nico Rosberg 1:34.398
  4. Felipe Massa 1:34.488
  5. Kimi Raikkonen 1:34.568
  6. Daniel Ricciardo 1:34.691
  7. Sebastian Vettel 1:34.919
  8. Romain Grosjean 1:35.007
  9. Fernando Alonso 1:35.205
  10. Felipe Nasr 1:35.310
  11. Carlos Sainz 1:35.371
  12. Marcus Ericsson 1:35.438
  13. Sergio Perez 1:35.451
  14. Max Verstappen 1:35.611
  15. Nico Hulkenberg 1:35.653
  16. Pastor Maldonado 1:35.677
  17. Daniil Kvyat 1:35.800
  18. Will Stevens 1:38.713
  19. Roberto Merhi 1:39.722
  20. Jenson Button No Time Set

Q2

The Mercedes duo and Sergio Perez were the first drivers out for the start of Q2. Nico Rosberg’s initial time was a 1:33.878 which was quickly smashed by Lewis Hamilton who went 1.2 seconds faster. Rosberg was warned to save his tyres because they would be the tyres he would start the race on. Felipe Massa slotted into second between the two Mercedes while Ferrari went 2nd and 4th on their first runs, Kimi Raikkonen leading Sebastian Vettel. Fernando Alonso ventured out onto track with two and a half minutes remaining in McLaren’s first Q2 appearance of 2015. He set a lap-time of 1:35.039 going 12th, before being dropped down to 14th. Nico Hulkenberg crept into the top ten going ninth, and was nearly joined by team-mate Perez who was knocked down by Carlos Sainz.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:32.669
  2. Kimi Raikkonen 1:33.540
  3. Felipe Massa 1:33.551
  4. Sebastian Vettel 1:33.623
  5. Nico Rosberg 1:33.878
  6. Valtteri Bottas 1:33.897
  7. Romain Grosjean 1:34.123
  8. Daniel Ricciardo 1:34.403
  9. Nico Hulkenberg 1:34.613
  10. Carlos Sainz 1:34.641
  11. Sergio Perez 1:34.704
  12. Felipe Nasr 1:34.737
  13. Marcus Ericsson 1:35.034
  14. Fernando Alonso 1:35.039
  15. Max Verstappen 1:35.103

Q3

Going through to the pole position shoot-out were two Mercedes, two Williams, two Ferraris, a Lotus, a Red Bull, a Force India and a Toro Rosso. The Ferrari pair were first out on track and were soon joined by Daniel Ricciardo. Sebastian Vettel’s first effort was a 1:34.552 which was 0.013s better than Kimi Raikkonen’s time. Ricciardo’s first flying lap was a 1:33.850 while Nico Rosberg completed a 1:33.854. Lewis Hamilton took provisional pole with a 1:33.522 – three tenths faster than Ricciardo. Vettel improved his time by six tenths to take pole position with Valtteri Bottas going second. Raikkonen then took second before losing it to Rosberg. Ultimately it was Hamilton who secured pole position, going four tenths faster than his provisional pole time.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:32.571
  2. Sebastian Vettel 1:32.982
  3. Nico Rosberg 1:33.129
  4. Kimi Raikkonen 1:33.227
  5. Valtteri Bottas 1:33.381
  6. Felipe Massa 1:33.744
  7. Daniel Ricciardo 1:33.832
  8. Nico Hulkenberg 1:34.450
  9. Carlos Sainz 1:34.462
  10. Romain Grosjean 1:34.484

FP2 in Bahrain sees Nico Rosberg top the times

Following a free practice session spent focusing on long runs and tyre evaluations, Mercedes returned to the top of the times in FP2.

Nico Rosberg lead the way just a tenth of a second faster than his team-mate. Earlier pacesetter Kimi Raikkonen ended the session third – continuing Ferrari’s impressive showing – four tenths down on Lewis Hamilton’s time. With a top 11 separated by under a second in FP1 the gap increased in FP2. The top eight were within a second while the gap to eleventh crept up to one and a half seconds.

Romain Grosjean returned to his car after Jolyon Palmer’s appearance in free practice one. The Frenchman – who scored his first points of the year in Malaysia – ended up 13th just behind the McLaren of Fernando Alonso. After grinding to a halt after just a few minutes in the first practice session, Jenson Button again came to stop early on. This time he managed three laps before stopping on the back straight. He did get out again later in the session, however, ending up 19th fastest and completing 15 laps.

A number of drivers struggled as the conditions turned from day to night. The lock-ups from earlier in the day continued while a number of drivers ran wide. In the closing stages of practice Sebastian Vettel picked up front wing damage as well as suffering from braking failure. He later apologised for hitting Sergio Perez which was what resulted from his brake failure. Raikkonen found himself in hot water, being investigated for not leaving the pit-lane correctly. He was reprimanded but no further action was taken.

Free practice two results:

  1. Nico Rosberg – 1:34.647 – 31 laps
  2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:34.762 – 33 laps
  3. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:35.174 – 30 laps
  4. Sebastian Vettel – 1:35.277 – 26 laps
  5. Valtteri Bottas – 1:35.280 – 36 laps
  6. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:35.449 – 27 laps
  7. Pastor Maldonado – 1:35.474 – 34 laps
  8. Felipe Nasr – 1:35.793 – 27 laps
  9. Daniil Kvyat – 1:35.883 – 23 laps
  10. Felipe Massa – 1:35.884 – 35 laps
  11. Marcus Ericsson – 1:36.148 – 34 laps
  12. Fernando Alonso – 1:36.191 – 22 laps
  13. Romain Grosjean – 1:36.334 – 31 laps
  14. Carlos Sainz – 1:36.471 – 32 laps
  15. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:36.805 – 30 laps
  16. Max Verstappen – 1:36.917 – 26 laps
  17. Sergio Perez – 1:37.062 – 33 laps
  18. Will Stevens – 1:39.131 – 21 laps
  19. Jenson Button – 1:39.209 – 15 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:40.592 – 26 laps

2015: Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

In the first back-to-back races of the year, the Formula One circus has moved on to Bahrain after the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend.

Following Ferrari’s time at the top of the podium in Malaysia it was business as usual for Mercedes in China as they recorded a 1-2 finish. There were post-race rumblings of another falling out between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the latter accused the race winner of holding up his progress by driving too slowly. Both made their feelings perfectly clear in post race interviews and things are set to heat up again in Bahrain, where Hamilton won last year. It was yet another Mercedes 1-2 with Force India’s Sergio Perez finishing 20 seconds behind them on the podium.

Whilst Mercedes once again dominated proceedings in China – both on and off the track – Ferrari were the team closest to them, finishing third and fourth. They were followed by the two Williams, Romain Grosjean scoring his and Lotus’ first points of the year, Felipe Nasr, Daniel Ricciardo and Marcus Ericsson. At the back of the field there were reasons to celebrate for both Manor and McLaren as both teams got two drivers to the finish. Jenson Button was handed a five second post-race penalty following a collision with Pastor Maldonado, meaning McLaren were classified 12th and 14th. Manor were classified 15th and 16th of 17th classified finishers, although Max Verstappen pulled off four laps before the end of the race.

Bahrain Stats

Circuit: Bahrain International Circuit
Number of Laps: 57
Circuit Length: 5.412km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:31.447 Pedro de la Rosa (2005)
Previous Bahrain winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (4 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Soft

Bahrain has been on the Formula One calendar since 2004. It has been held on ten occasions having been cancelled in 2011 due to political unrest. It hasn’t always been in the current format either. In 2010 the race flirted with a longer endurance circuit but it reverted to the Grand Prix circuit for 2012 onwards. The Bahrain Grand Prix became a twilight race in 2014 – starting in daylight and ending in darkness.

Due to the differences in conditions teams and drivers have a lot to take into consideration when setting up the cars. There will be a discrepancy between temperatures during the ‘day’ and ‘night’ parts of the race, resulting in changes in balance and grip levels. It is also a track which gives brakes a good workout as there are a number of slow-speed corners at the end of straights. Qualifying has proven to be of particular importance in Bahrain in the past with the race having never been won from further back than fourth on the grid. Ferrari challenged Mercedes in China during qualifying but ultimately the Silver Arrows came out on top. Rosberg narrowly missed out on pole position, taking the fight to his team-mate.

It is a race where Kimi Raikkonen has performed well in the past but never won. Most recently he finished on the podium for Lotus in 2012 and 2013. He is yet to get a podium in 2015 but has finished in fourth. He has encountered problems, including a loose wheel which forced him to retire from the Australian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel has been demonstrating what the Ferrari is capable – being the only driver to so far beat a Mercedes this year – so Raikkonen could be one to watch out for this weekend. For Grosjean – who has also finished on the Bahrain podium – it will be an opportunity to maintain the momentum from last weekend when he got his first points of the season. McLaren will be hoping to build on the progress they made by getting both cars to the finish and they are set to turn their engines up a bit more for this weekend ahead of further updates in Spain. Red Bull and Toro Rosso both had engine problems in China while Maldonado retired following rear brake failure and an accident with Button who collided with the Lotus driver.

Lewis Hamilton continues at top in China as Ferrari close the gap

Following his dominant FP1 performance in China, Lewis Hamilton continued at the top of the times in FP2 but Ferrari managed to reduce the gap. It was Kimi Raikkonen who ended the session second just four tenths down on the Silver Arrow.

Roberto Merhi was first out on track for Manor as the team continued to get more running under their belt. They will be hoping to get both cars onto the starting grid on Sunday following Will Stevens’ failure to start the Malaysia Grand Prix due to a fuel pump problem. He was quickly joined by team-mate Stevens and Raikkonen in the Ferrari. Romain Grosjean also got his first running of the weekend having given his car to Jolyon Palmer for FP1.

Raikkonen reported to his team that he was struggling with brakes in the early phases of FP2. Team-mate Sebastian Vettel suffered a spin but continued on his way. Force India driver Sergio Perez encountered rear brake issues during the session. Another team experiencing brake problems were Red Bull who returned to Brembo brakes this week following issues in Malaysia. Daniil Kvyat was asked to return the car slowly to the pits following a smoking rear brake, however he did not make it to the pit-lane following complete brake failure. He made light contact with a wall and brought out a yellow flag. Another driver whose running was brought to an early end was Stevens, following just six laps, due to a power unit problem.

After the initial early running it was Nico Rosberg who led the order ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel and Grosjean. Hamilton soon headed the times, however, going a tenth faster than his team-mate. When the soft tyres went on the cars Raikkonen was the first to set a flying lap. Rosberg and Vettel could not better his time but Hamilton could. There was a brief red flag period following an off by the Williams of Felipe Massa. It hampered Daniel Ricciardo’s first run of the session but his eventual first flyer was enough to see him go seventh fastest. Following the soft tyre flurry attention turned to longer runs.

Free practice two times:

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:37.219 – 32 laps
  2. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:37.662 – 35 laps
  3. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:38.311 – 24 laps
  4. Sebastian Vettel – 1:38.339 – 30 laps
  5. Nico Rosberg – 1:38.399 – 35 laps
  6. Daniil Kvyat – 1:38.737 – 10 laps
  7. Valtteri Bottas – 1:38.850 – 27 laps
  8. Felipe Nasr – 1:39.032 – 26 laps
  9. Romain Grosjean – 1:39.142 – 32 laps
  10. Jenson Button – 1:39.275 – 29 laps
  11. Pastor Maldonado – 1:39.444 – 30 laps
  12. Fernando Alonso – 1:39.743 – 27 laps
  13. Marcus Ericsson – 1:39.751 – 33 laps
  14. Max Verstappen – 1:39.894 – 32 laps
  15. Carlos Sainz – 1:39.971 – 28 laps
  16. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:40.151 – 28 laps
  17. Felipe Massa – 1:40.423 – 7 laps
  18. Sergio Perez – 1:40.868 – 24 laps
  19. Roberto Merhi – 1:42.973 – 27 laps
  20. Will Stevens – 1:44.564 – 8 laps

Lewis Hamilton overcomes engine problems to top FP2 in Malaysia

Lewis Hamilton topped the second free practice session after suffering an engine problem in FP1.

His lap-time of 1:39.790 was four tenths quicker than the lap set by Nico Rosberg in the morning. Rosberg’s time, however, was on a used set of the hard compound tyres while Hamilton’s was on a new set of the medium tyres. Kimi Raikkonen continued Ferrari’s impressive form by going second quickest once again, once again just under four tenths shy of the Mercedes pace. His fastest time was on a used set of medium tyres. The morning pacesetter Rosberg was third fastest.

The heat and humidity of Malaysia always creates its own unique challenges and track temperatures peaked at 56 degrees during the second practice session. This contributes to tyre degradation with the medium compound suffering more than the hard tyres. Despite this Valtteri Bottas reported over the team radio that track conditions had improved since the first practice session. After getting their first running of 2015 in the morning, Manor caused a red flag in FP2 when Roberto Merhi ended up in the gravel following a spin. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel also had a spin in the same place but did not end up in the gravel. Hamilton did not get out in the session until after the red flag with fifty minutes remaining.

Hamilton’s first run saw him go fifth fastest before improving late in the afternoon. He was forced to box due to the team losing telemetry completely. Romain Grosjean’s session came to an early end after suffering from a loss of power. Red Bull also encountered their own problems with Daniil Kvyat only completing 17 laps and Daniel Ricciardo eight laps. Free practice two times:

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:39.790 – 16 laps
  2. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:40.163 – 29 laps
  3. Nico Rosberg – 1:40.218 – 26 laps
  4. Daniil Kvyat – 1:40.346 – 17 laps
  5. Valtteri Bottas – 1:40.450 – 31 laps
  6. Felipe Massa – 1:40.560 – 27 laps
  7. Sebastian Vettel – 1:40.652 – 29 laps
  8. Max Verstappen – 1:41.220 – 30 laps
  9. Marcus Ericsson – 1:41.261 – 30 laps
  10. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:41.799 – 8 laps
  11. Pastor Maldonado – 1:41.877 – 15 laps
  12. Felipe Nasr – 1:41.988  – 30 laps
  13. Sergio Perez – 1:42.242 – 24 laps
  14. Carlos Sainz – 1:42.291 – 31 laps
  15. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:42.330 – 28 laps
  16. Fernando Alonso – 1:42.506 – 25 laps
  17. Jenson Button – 1:42.637 – 24 laps
  18. Romain Grosjean – 1:42.948 – 7 laps
  19. Will Stevens – 1:45.704 – 12 laps
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:47.229 – 6 laps

Clean sweep for Mercedes in Australia as Lewis Hamilton wins first race of the season

Lewis Hamilton has won the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. He beat team-mate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s new recruit Sebastian Vettel to get his title defence off to the best possible start.

Hamilton started from pole position and only lost the lead in the pit-stop phases. This comes after Mercedes were fastest in all three practice sessions as well. They secured a front row lock-out on a much depleted grid which, by the race start, featured just 15 cars. The day started with Valtteri Bottas being declared unfit to race after he failed a part of the extraction test due to a back injury. Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat both stopped on the way to the grid after Magnussen’s engine gave up and Kvyat lost fifth gear.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez, and Marcus Ericsson started the race on medium tyres while everyone else started on the soft compound. A safety car was deployed on the first lap following a collision which resulted in Pastor Maldonado’s car ending up in the barriers. There was contact between the Ferrari drivers and Felipe Nasr was squeezed, causing Maldonado to get tagged and be sent into a spin. Lotus had had a positive qualifying session but their race came to an end after just a lap when Romain Grosjean also had to retire. His race ended due to a loss of power. The safety car remained on track for three laps and then racing got going again.

The Mercedes duo unsurprisingly pulled away from the rest of the grid, eventually finishing 33 seconds clear of Ferrari in third. Just five drivers finished on the lead lap including impressive rookie Nasr. Williams’ sole representative Felipe Massa finished fourth after starting the race in third. Daniel Ricciardo finished a distant sixth for Red Bull – a lap down – ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Jenson Button. There were some sticky wheel nuts in the pit-stop which cost drivers such as Raikkonen, Sainz, and Perez time. Raikkonen eventually retired due to a tyre which was not fitted correctly. Perez had a difficult race – overtaking Ericsson under the safety car, colliding with Button, and his slow stop – but recovered to score one point. McLaren had a positive afternoon to finish the race, albeit two laps down. Expectations were already low at the team and this was further compounded by Magnussen’s car expiring before racing. Verstappen pulled over to retire at the pit entrance due to an engine failure.

Mercedes’ pace was an ominous sign for the rest of the grid as Hamilton also set the fastest lap on his way to winning the race. The pair were once again in a race of their own. Behind them it looks like Ferrari have leapfrogged Williams, although the latter only had one driver on the grid today. There were impressive debuts for all three rookies – in particular Nasr – but disappointment eventually for Verstappen. It was an odd day for Formula One with so many drivers dropping out before the lights went out. Hopefully Manor will be able to run in Malaysia and there will be a fuller grid in two weeks time, with Fernando Alonso also set to return.

F1 2015 Preview: Lotus

2014 Statistics

Constructors Championship: 8th
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Pole positions: 0
Points finishes: 3

For a team who finished fourth in the championship with 315 points, it was a surprise to see Lotus languish at the lower end of the table with just 10 points to their name in 2014. Hampered by the troublesome Renault engine, the team – who were accustomed to podium finishes and even the occasional win in 2012 and 2013 – suffered a season to forget as well as having to deal with losing the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and James Allison who moved to Ferrari.

A double ERS failure in Australia was a sign of what was to come in the season. Various mechanical problems put paid to a number of their races including power unit failures, rear wing problems and exhaust issues. New recruit Pastor Maldonado didn’t even make the start of the Monaco Grand Prix due to a fuel pump problem. Their best result over the course of the year was 8th, which Romain Grosjean achieved on two occasions. The Frenchman was vocally at odds with the cumbersome E22, expressing his frustration on more than one occasion over team radio. The team’s season came to an end in a cloud of smoke when Maldonado’s power unit failed on lap 26 of the Abu Dhabi GP while Grosjean finished outside the points.

The former ‘first lap nutcase’ has mellowed in recent years but Grosjean is no doubt hoping that Lotus will provide him a car more like the one he enjoyed in 2012 and 2013. He has shown he has the speed – he dragged the car up to fifth in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix – but he was not able to put it to full use last season. Lotus have made the switch to Mercedes engines and signs in testing have so far been positive. He has challenged for race wins before so is more than capable he just needs the car beneath him to do it.

Proven race winner Maldonado has picked up a bit of a reputation over his time in Formula One for crashing but realistically it has not been a regular occurrence in recent times, with most of his incidents and retirements due to car failures. The Venezuelan’s biggest high in Formula One came at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. Promoted to pole position following Lewis Hamilton being disqualified, he held his own and kept Fernando Alonso behind him to take his maiden GP win. He has never quite reached those heights again but if the Lotus can take a step forward this year then no doubt he will be challenging for points.

The team have also added GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer to their driver line-up as reserve driver. He made his testing debut for the team at the first test in Barcelona where they topped three of four days of running. Lotus certainly appear to have made positive steps forward but as always it won’t be until they are on track with everyone else in race trim to see where they really stand.