Formula 1: Sebastian Vettel takes pole for the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix

Ferrari score their first 1-2 lockout of the 2018 Formula 1 season with Sebastian Vettel taking pole in Bahrain in his 200th Grand Prix start.

Heading into qualifying for the 2018 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, Ferrari appeared to be the team to beat for pole, with both Mercedes cars struggling and Lewis Hamilton subjected to a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Red Bull are off the pace slightly despite grabbing P2 and P3 in the final practice session. However, it hasn’t been a completely issue-free weekend for the Prancing Horse, as Kimi Raikkonen had an issue with a loose wheel in FP2 and Sebastian Vettel had bargeboard bodywork hanging loose in FP3 and retired early from the last practice session with “engine drivability” issues.

The qualifying session should still provide a definitive answer to who has the outright pace when the engines are at maximum power.      

Qualifying 1

The Sauber pair of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson were out first with Leclerc taking the early top spot. Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas went out on the soft tire, while Hamilton took supersofts. Initially, Ferrari ran P1-P2 with the Mercedes pair P3-P4.

Max Verstappen lost the rear end on another flying lap in turn 2 and went into the wall, causing the session to be red-flagged and causing his qualifying to end abruptly.

At the time of Verstappen’s incident with five minutes left, those in the elimination zone were Romain Grosjean, Fernando Alonso, Sergey Sirotkin, Lance Stroll and Leclerc. The McLaren pair survived with Stoffel Vandoorne in P14 and Fernando Alonso in P15,. Interestingly, Alonso and Grosjean set identical times of 1:30.530, but Alonso finished before the Frenchman and took precedent.

Eliminated in Q1: Grosjean, Ericsson, Sirotkin, Leclerc, and Stroll.

Qualifying 2

Qualifying 2 saw Ferrari out first with Vettel, who on the supersoft tires set a 1:28.341 for P1. Hamilton took soft tires as part of a counter strategy to go longer and put in a 1:28.458 for P2. While Verstappen moved on to Q2, obviously due to the his accident, he set no time.

Of the midfield runners, both Renault cars made it into Q3, as did Pierre Gasly for Toro Rosso. Haas continued their “dark horse” status with Kevin Magnussen able to get into Q3. The McLaren pair, despite having the Renault engine, missed out on Q3 entirely.

Eliminated in Q2: Brendon Hartley, Sergio Perez, Alonso, Vandoorne, and Verstappen (no time).

Qualifying 3

Vettel, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Gasly took the track first. Vettel set the initial time but ran wide at the last corner, opening the door for teammate Raikkonen, who took provisional pole by 0.095 seconds after the first run.

During the second and final runs, Vettel took pole with a 1:27.958, with Raikkonen in P2 only 0.143 seconds behind. The 1-2 finish gives the Scuderia their first front row lockout of the 2018 season. Mercedes only managed the second row provisionally with Bottas in P3 and Hamilton in P4. Due to the Briton’s five-place penalty, he’ll start in P9.

Gasly managed P6 provisionally ahead of Magnussen in P7 but will move up one place after Hamilton’s penalty is applied. The result is Honda’s best start of the V6 Hybrid era.

The provisional starting grid for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix

RankDriverCar
1Sebastian Vettel#5, Scuderia Ferrari, Ferrari
2Kimi Raikkonen#7, Scuderia Ferrari, Ferrari
3Valtteri Bottas#77, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Mercedes
4Lewis Hamilton*#44, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Mercedes
5Daniel Ricciardo#3, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, Renault
6Pierre Gasly#10, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Honda
7Kevin Magnussen#20, Haas, Ferrari
8Nico Hulkenberg#27, Renault Sport, Renault
9Esteban Ocon#31, Sahara Force India, Mercedes
10Carlos Sainz Jr.#55, Renault Sport, Renault
11Brendon Hartley#28, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Honda
12Sergio Perez#11, Sahara Force India, Mercedes
13Fernando Alonso#14, McLaren, Renault
14Stoffel Vandoorne#2, McLaren, Renault
15Max Verstappen#33, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, Renault
16Romain Grosjean#8, Haas, Ferrari
17Marcus Ericsson#9, Alfa Romeo Sauber, Ferrari
18Sergey Sirotkin#35, Williams Martini Racing, Mercedes
19Charles Leclerc#16, Alfa Romeo Sauber, Ferrari
20Lance Stroll#18, Williams Martini Racing, Mercedes

* – five-place grid penalty for gearbox change

 

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With Ferrari on pole and Hamilton relegated to P9, it looks like the Bahrain Grand Prix is the Scuderia’s to lose. However, if Hamilton can stretch his first stint on the soft tires, he should make it interesting for the 57-lap race. Heading into the race, how much pace do Mercedes have with Bottas in P3 and could the Finn be key to Hamilton’s strategy? Tune in to the race at 11:00 am ET on ESPN2 on Sunday, April 8th to find out.