F1 – Bahrain GP – Qualifying
Marhabaan, MiniFans! Formula 1 is back for 2022 with many new regulations, a new face on the grid and a few old friends returning. Zhou debuts in F1, Albon and Magnussen are back on the grid after some time away and Hulkenberg has once again been summoned to sub in for a driver that tested positive for COVID-19, in this case, it was Vettel.
Q1 started with, as usual, some of the midfielders going out first, but Verstappen soon joined in the fun, as did his teammate Pérez. By the 12 minute to go mark, only Mercedes hadn’t made an appearance on track yet. Verstappen set the pace quite early, and not even his own teammate managed to get close until Magnussen got within four tenths of a second. His teammate, Schumacher, settled in fourth until the other cars powered by Ferrari engines made an appearance. The official team settled in first and second with Leclerc and Sainz, while Bottas and both Haas were all in the top eight.
In a turn of events, Hamilton couldn’t manage to go in front of his old teammate, and needed to settle behind him, four tenths away, in his first run. Some other teams that would have been expected to be in front in other situations were struggling at the back, namely McLaren and Aston Martin. Only one of the Williams was shining a bit, as Albon was 14th, but Latifi was, once again, last. Hulkenberg, in his usual fashion, adapted ridiculously fast to a car he tried for the first time on Friday, and managed to settle in front of his brand new teammate for the weekend.
The last runs didn’t change much in terms of the order, except for Albon saving himself at the last second from not going through to Q2, and Ricciardo’s struggles due to not having been able to take part in last week’s test were made apparent in his timed laps. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Tsunoda (P16), Hulkenberg (P17), Ricciardo (P18), Stroll (P19) and Latifi (P20)
Seeing both Haas in Q2, after a couple years of clear struggles, was a sight for sore eyes. However, Albon was the first on track, to try and improve his 15th position on the timing tower, but he didn’t set a time. Getting very close to Verstappen was almost a dream, but Magnussen managed to be less than a tenth away from Pérez.
At the back, things seemed a bit more normal, with Williams, AlphaTauri or Alfa Romeo each having a car at risk, but both Ferraris split the Red Bulls. Sainz was three hundredths of a second away from his former teammate, while two other cars sporting Ferrari engines squeezed through. Bottas would be the one that could somehow be considered not that surprising, but the big news was Magnussen, who was seventh without even needing to do a second run. The drivers eliminated in Q2 were Ocon (P11), Schumacher (P12), Norris (P13), Albon (P14) and Zhou (P15).
With all the data in our hands prior to Q3, Verstappen would need to make a mistake in order to lose first place, but Sainz had proven himself to get close enough that just one tiny error could propel him to pole position. The weirdest sight, however, was seeing Mercedes needing to run used tyres in Q3, as they would have struggled to make it through otherwise.
The first run sent Sainz into first, while his teammate was second. Verstappen couldn’t overtake them, but the three of them were separated by less than six hundredths of a second. In the second run, Leclerc and Verstappen improved their times, overtaking Sainz, but the Ferrari 1-2 was mostly only avoided due to a mistake by Sainz. Still, the three of them were in barely a tenth of a second, promising a good fight for tomorrow.
For the first time in a very long time, cars that made it to Q3 won’t have to start with the tyre that got them into the fight for pole, and drivers showed that it allowed them to fully hit the accelerator. Even if the race is tomorrow, we saw an incredible fight for pole position today, as well as incredible pace by many unexpected cars, and we can only hope to see a repeat of it tomorrow.