ferrari-logo-2011Bahrain GP – Good pace and good fortune

Sakhir, 20 April – If you don’t have time to read a full qualifying report, then the short story is that Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will share the second row of the grid for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix. However, it didn’t quite happen in the normal way.

For the entire weekend, both Ferrari men declared themselves more comfortable on the Hard Pirelli than the Medium, but despite this, the Spaniard used the softer of the two to set a time good enough for third place on the final Q3 time sheet this afternoon. Fernando was delighted, as he pointed out that the one-lap performance was the team’s Achilles Heel. Clearly the Scuderia is making slow but steady progress in this area and might hope to eventually fix the problem that was beyond the ability of writers of the Greek Classics!

As for Felipe, he and his engineers decided to go for a brave gamble: as the Brazilian was not convinced about the worth of the Medium, feeling that, come what may, he would not be in the fight for the front rows, he tackled Q3 on the Hards, on which he set the sixth fastest time. This is where some good fortune came his way, because while in life, it’s considered in poor taste to benefit from the misfortunes of others, sometimes in sport, it can be out of one’s control. Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber were faster than Felipe in fourth and fifth places respectively, however the English Mercedes driver had to take a five place gearbox penalty, while the Australian in the Red Bull had to drop three places for being deemed to have caused an accident in China last week. This promptly promotes Felipe to fourth, so that the two F138s now line up side by side.

There were other surprises today: even if Lewis Hamilton had taken his Mercedes to pole in Shanghai, the silver cars did not look so dominant in practice here and yet, his team-mate Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time of the day to claim the top spot. He shares the front row with Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull. The penalties have turned the third row into an all-Force India Affair, with Paul di Resta fifth and Adrian Sutil sixth. Another title contender – if you can have such a thing after just four races – Kimi Raikkonen, will start from eighth alongside Webber.

The opening stages of tomorrow’s fourth round of the World Championship should produce plenty of excitement, while in general fewer pit stops are expected than in China last week. Felipe’s decision to do Q3 on the Hard tyre and therefore have to start the race on this compound, points to an intriguing first stint, as the Brazilian will be the only top ten driver to go for this choice.

Bahrain GP – An all-Red second row

Fernando Alonso: “It’s really good news that once again we managed to do well in qualifying, which is our Achilles Heel! This is now the third time this year that we end up in the top three and, even if usually Sunday goes better thanks to our race pace, I am really pleased to see our potential already maximized on Saturday. The data seen from Friday’s long runs means we can be optimistic about a race in which our main adversaries are represented by Vettel and the Red Bull in front and the Lotuses which might be behind us on the grid, but they will definitely be in the game. Because of the penalties for Hamilton and Webber, Felipe will start from fourth: I think it’s much better that I find myself alongside my team-mate’s Ferrari than Lewis’ Mercedes! We won’t discover which is the best strategy until tomorrow and it’s impossible to make predictions. But I think the best tyre for the race will be the hard and that could work in our favour, given it’s the one we have been most comfortable on all weekend”.
Felipe Massa: “I am very pleased with the outcome of this qualifying, because in the end, the decision to take a risk in Q3, going in a different direction to the one we had originally planned, turned out to be the best one. On the Medium compound, I didn’t feel able to fight for the top places, the car had little grip and suffered a lot at the back. Even with the Hard tyres, the chances of ending up further down the order was extremely high, but I still opted to stay with the tyres I felt most comfortable on. The penalties for two of the drivers ahead of me – Webber and Hamilton – mean I now move up the grid to fourth place, a point from where I can race with the leaders. Starting on the Medium will definitely be an advantage, but to have a good race it will be vital to find the best strategy and ensure everything runs perfectly”.
Pat Fry: “It was reasonably straightforward to interpret this qualifying session and the good start positions we now have mean we are optimistic for tomorrow’s race and they also reward the entire team for all their efforts in improving our performance during qualifying. Of the updates brought here to Bahrain, we have decided to use only the most significant ones, while we will introduce the others in the upcoming races. We are not yet where we want to be, but the gaps seen today tell us that our work is going in the right direction and we must continue like this. Tomorrow, for the third consecutive time, Fernando will start from third place, which is on the clean side of the track here and we hope that could be an advantage at the start. Felipe’s fourth place is a great basis from which to build a race that he will run on a different strategy to his team-mate, having opted to use the Hard tyres in Q3. Once again, we can expect a Sunday on which drivers will have to pay close attention to tyre degradation, while the pit wall will have to make the right calls”.

ALONSO – Chassis 299 MASSA – Chassis 300
Q1 P1 1:32.878 New Hard – 3 laps P7 1:33.780 New Hard – 4 laps
Q2 P5 1:33.316 New  Medium –  3 laps P8 1:33.358 New  Medium – 3 laps

New  Medium – 3 laps

Q3 P3 1:32.667 New  Medium – 3 laps

New  Medium – 2 laps

P6 1:33.207 New Hard – 3 laps
Weather:  air 36 °C, track 45 °C. Covered skies

Bahrain GP – Alonso and Massa on the second row

Manama, 20 April – At the end of yet another very closely contested qualifying, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa set the third and sixth fastest times. However, they will start alongside one another on the second row tomorrow, as Felipe gets promoted to fourth because of penalties for the two drivers directly ahead of him, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton. It was yet another boiling hot afternoon at the Sakhir circuit, as the ten drivers took to the track for Q3. The Spanish Ferrari man made a slight mistake, giving up on his final run, thus saving tyres for the race.

Felipe’s sixth place was better than it looked given that he was on the harder of the two Pirelli compounds, which could be to his advantage tomorrow, as all the other drivers that got to Q3 will be starting the race on the Medium tyre.

Alonso was fastest in Q1, with Massa a comfortable seventh, with both cars behaving very well on the Hards. In Q2, everyone switched to Mediums, with Alonso doing just a single run to take a solid fifth place. Massa was eighth having done two runs.

In the end, pole position went to Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes in a time of 1.33.364.

Bahrain GP – Ferrari slithers to the top

Sakhir, 20 April – Fernando Alonso ended the third and final practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix at the top of the time sheet. The Spaniard took his F138 round in 1.33.247, after taking a harmless trip through the gravel earlier, on his second run on Hards. Second and third respectively were the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel (1.33.348) and Mark Webber (1.33.380.) In the other Ferrari, Felipe Massa set the eleventh fastest time of 1.33.949, on the dusty Sakhir circuit, which is constantly under attack from sand and wind. Both Ferrari men did a final run on the Medium tyre at the end of a session given over mainly to checking updates introduced yesterday, looking for the best possible set up for qualifying and the race.