Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso set the sixth and tenth fastest times in the final part of the first ever night-time qualifying session held in Bahrain.
Sakhir, 5 April – The Scuderia Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso set the sixth and tenth fastest times in the final part of the first ever night-time qualifying session held in Bahrain. However, the Finn and the Spaniard will start tomorrow’s 57 lap race from fifth and ninth places respectively, thus gaining the clean side of the track advantage. That’s because Daniel Ricciardo, third today in the Red Bull, takes a 10 place grid penalty handed out in Malaysia last Sunday.
The strongest team of the moment monopolised the front row, with Nico Rosberg piloting his Mercedes to pole, ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The second row tomorrow will see Valtteri Bottas promoted to third with Force India’s Sergio Perez alongside him. This was the first Bahrain night time qualifying, but the organisers today confirmed that the after dark format will continue in future years, as the late start is proving popular for spectators for whom Sunday is a working day in this part of the world. Those who come tomorrow will hopefully be treated to an interesting race, as this is the first venue of the season where fuel saving should play an important role. Plus, tyre performance suggests that best strategy involves making three trips down pit lane to take on new rubber is quickest, unless degradation is low enough to try for just two.
Fernando Alonso: “We tried our best as usual today and now we need to wait for the car to come back from parc ferme to work out why there was a drop in power in Q3. In winter testing here we had already seen that this circuit is particularly suited to the Mercedes powered cars, because the long straights allow them to use their top end performance. But given how free practice and the first two parts of qualifying had gone, maybe we could have hoped to be a bit higher up the order.
Now, we must think only of doing well tomorrow, especially at the start, given we are on the clean side because of Ricciardo’s penalty. Then we must work out the best strategy, choosing between two or three stops. A lot will depend on how the tyres perform: I think that, in lower temperatures than we have seen so far, the Medium could throw up some surprises.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “I am reasonably pleased with my qualifying, because up until this morning, I did not feel completely comfortable in the car, but the faith I put in what we had at our disposal was paid back with this result. We are improving in all areas, on the engine, data acquisition, electronics and the new parts fitted to the car have given me a better feeling from the front end. Sure, we are not yet where we want to be, but I think we are on the right path and we have the right people to give us every possibility to continue to move forward.
It’s hard to say how tomorrow’s race will go, because in the simulation done yesterday, I was struggling on the Medium tyre, while the balance was better on the Soft. We know we can’t fight with Mercedes, but today’s result gives me more confidence than at the previous races and I will do my best to bring home a good result.”
Pat Fry: “The results we’ve seen so far here are not a surprise because we knew we would be racing on the defensive and that we would see a bigger gap to the Mercedes, who are currently on their own out in front. The track characteristics do not highlight the potential of our car and the long straights favour the teams that can get the highest top speed. To do a perfect lap here is always difficult and today, Fernando and Kimi found themselves fighting four teams, all within a few tenths.
Qualifying was complicated for both drivers and Kimi did a good lap, confirming the improvement we’ve been looking for, while with Fernando, we didn’t manage to exploit all our potential. Because of Ricciardo’s penalty, both drivers start on the clean side of the track and we must try and make the most of it. It looks like being a tough race, fighting all the way, with reliability and fuel consumption playing a very important role.”