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Vettel surprises everyone at Bahrain
Vettel surprises everyone at Bahrain
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Mar 2010   |  3:28 pm GMT  |  200 comments

We hoped that we were in for a season of surprises and it has certainly started well with Sebastian Vettel snatching pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix by a healthy margin over the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.

Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber could easily have made it an all Red Bull front row, but he lost a second in the middle sector, which features the fiddly new section of track. He set the fastest third sector time of all.

Pre-season testing made it look like Ferrari and McLaren were in front, although there were signs in Jerez and Barcelona that the Red Bull was quick over a single lap. But what happened today was that the margins between the cars were quite small in the early part of qualifying, but then in Q3 when the track got hot, it also became slippery and the Red Bull handled it better than the rest. McLaren didn’t handle it well at all.

They never looked on the pace today, particularly Jenson Button, who struggled to get into the top ten shootout and ended up 8th. Of course both cars were comfortably fastest through the speed trap, Button was 9kh/h faster than Vettel through there, indicating that the McLaren rear wing is really helping there and also how down on power the Renault is in the back of the Red Bull. If they had got a Mercedes deal I think we might be looking at a rather more one sided championship.

Hamilton’s time is about where the car is at the moment, according to team insiders. And yet the margin was a second, which again was far greater than at the start of qualifying and shows how well Vettel in particular and the Red Bull handled the loss of grip as the temperature went up at the vital moment near the end of the hour.

Mercedes were not quite there either. Rosberg qualified 5th with Schumacher in 7th, illustrating how a lay off of three years has made him “rusty”. I don’t think he expected to be behind Rosberg by as much as he was for most of the session. He was around half a second down most of the time, as he learned the best way to use these new generation tyres. In the end he got the deficit back to three tenths of a second.

Massa, who has led the most laps of any driver on this track, outpaced Alonso by quite a large margin – 4/10ths. Alonso had been the faster of the two in Q1 and Q2, but the Brazilian had a cleaner lap when the temperatures went up in the final part of the session.

Adrian Sutil and Force India look in good shape. Sutil was third in Q1 and was the only one of the top ten to set his time on the medium tyre, which is a good 6/10ths slower than the super soft. He starts tenth and has the luxury of the more durable race tyre to start with when the car is heavy and then the faster tyre at the end when the car is light and the track rubbered in. Watch out for him tomorrow.

Also Robert Kubica and Renault showed that they are there or thereabouts, getting the other available space in the top ten behind the four leading teams.

Red Bull were not perhaps expecting this performance advantage at this track. It only has one fast corner and they thought it would not play to their strengths. But it bodes well for them for the season. So we now know that the Red Bull goes well on hot tracks. If it is also quick in Melbourne, where the track will be quite cool, then they are in good shape. But Ferrari are stronger in race trim than they appeared in qualifying today and with their adjustable front wing working very well to manage the tyre wear, they are still a major threat to Vettel tomorrow.

It looks like the cars will stop before one third distance in the race to change to the medium tyre, which will see them through to the end. Pitting first gains you around half a second on any car you are racing against.

1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:55.029 1:53.883 1:54.101
2. Massa Ferrari 1:55.313 1:54.331 1:54.242
3. Alonso Ferrari 1:54.612 1:54.172 1:54.608
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:55.341 1:54.707 1:55.217
5. Rosberg Mercedes 1:55.463 1:54.682 1:55.241
6. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:55.298 1:54.318 1:55.284
7. Schumacher Mercedes 1:55.593 1:55.105 1:55.524
8. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:55.715 1:55.168 1:55.672
9. Kubica Renault 1:55.511 1:54.963 1:55.885
10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:55.213 1:54.996 1:56.309
11. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:55.969 1:55.330
12. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:55.628 1:55.653
13. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:56.375 1:55.857
14. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:56.428 1:56.237
15. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:56.189 1:56.265
16. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:56.541 1:56.270
17. Petrov Renault 1:56.167 1:56.619
18. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:57.071
19. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:59.728
20. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:59.852
21. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2:00.313
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2:00.587
23. Senna HRT-Cosworth 2:03.240
24. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 2:04.904

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This isn’t going to help Mclaren

McLaren must change diffuser before Australia

Saturday 13, 16:23 | Ryan Wood

McLaren must change their diffuser before the Australian GP, according to Auto Motor und Sport.

The FIA has informed the Woking based squad that the current diffuser has exploited the rules, by enlarging the hole used for the external engine starter, therefore gaining another diffuser level.

The rules surrounding the diffuser will be tightened up before the Australian GP to avoid anymore controversy after last years uproar which plagued the opening few races.

McLaren have intentionally kept quiet on the issue, immediately agreeing to scrap the diffuser before the next round of the championship.


Looks like FIA’s wars with McLaren were not Mosley-Dennis limited! It would be unfortunate to have a repeat of 2008 with an already slow McLaren in 2010 because racing will be very boring. I mean was it just me or was that a train out there in Bahrain today. The race was even more boring than 2009 races when Brawn was taking everything!

Hopefully, McLaren may consider a revival of KERS if FIA starts systematically chipping away at its technical innovations. On a light note, with this kind of regulatory framework that jumps to shoot down every McLaren innovation, you can’t blame the Woking outfit opting for the 2007 spy gate to ensure everything is FIA/Ferrari legal :=))


Massa is changing engines after quali. But he wont be penalised because you are allowed to use 8 engines per season.


Could you build 4 engines for qualifying and 4 for racing that were somehow different/more fuel efficient, and then just change them over after every qualifying?

I’m sure this mustve been covered off somewhere but a powerful one for qualifying and an efficient one for racing sure would be handy.


iam not suprise jenson still complains if he don’t deliver and plames the car.


I would rather not have them run the “endurance” circuit as this is one of the better layouts and did not need tinkering.I’m not into backing drivers or teams,and Michael Schumacher certainly isn’t my type of driver(the collisions,penalties,etc)but-he is Ross Brawn’s type.The most successful partnership ever in Formula One.Looking at the field,only one competitor has shown a “teutonic methodology”,a great quality to have over a race distance.As well as less mistakes,it has produced 91 victories and 92 cannot be far away.My apologies-I still believe these are the final hours before the new era of the Silver Arrows.


This could be fun…

Certainly made me laugh!


James, whats the word about Micheal? Why is he so slow? Whats he struggling with?


Getting the tyres to work at their peak on the single lap. He’s in much better shape on the long runs


Thanks for your reply James.

What specific skill does it take to get the tyres to work at their peak over a single lap?

Does his driving style have anything to do with it?

Is this issue he’s having similar to the one Kimi, Alonso, Kubica had in 2007? I remember that all of them had to tweak their driving style to get the 2007 Bridgestones to work better.

Also, are Nico’s and Michael’s driving styles similar or are they fundamentally different?


My first post ever, and must start with a big well done to James for this brilliant site – also the posters appear to be very balanced and informed individuals unlike on some other sites – your comments are generally a pleasure to read!!

Here in Malaysia we get our TV fix through Star Sports , with the main commentary by a chap called Steve Slater. During last night’s quali, he stated live on air that he had just received a text message from a good mate with the word ‘wooohhooooo’ – his good mate is one Karun Chandhok, who was clearly delighted in having got his F1 career off the ground – well done to both HRT and KC for making it happen!! KC used to support the TV coverage down here and came across as a very cool guy.

Sadly, the poor timing graphics were not limited to Aunty Beeb – I was as frustrated as most of you guys/gals that I had no idea who was where in quali until it was all over!!


James, with all the talk of ride height adjustment in the pits, do you think the McLaren wing bleed would contribute something useful in that area on track?


Has you seen the latest Bernie Ecclestone interview with Cole Moreton? Somewhat ill advised…..

Stephen Kellett

Pitting first gains you around half a second on any car you are racing against.

Unless the other car starts on the harder compound, in which case they are pitting so far later in the race than you are, they have an advantage.

(I Did not appreciate the sensorship of my posting relating to software complexity expressed as sheets of A3, I thought you were above sensorship. My posting was not rude or discourteous and did explain various valid, accepted, industry standard methods of expressing software complexity, none of which involve sheets of A3/4/etc).


It wasn’t censored, please resend it.


This will be a Ferrari romp tomorrow. Vettel will cook his tyres trying to fight the two red cars off in the early laps. By half distance it’l be a Ferrari 1-2 ( barring accidents )

As for those people jumping on Jenson for saying the car felt wrong on the last lap….were you in the car too? Are you calling him a liar? Get a grip. He wouldn’t say it if he didn’t feel it.


Great start to the season. Good to see my man Alonso doing so well, he’s been the measure of Massa all weekend but didn’t beat him where it really mattered in Q3, but what this means is that Ferrari has a strong lineup and have a good chance of fighting for the championship this season.


Hi James,

Whilst the media funnels its attention on Michael, do you agree that it could be the younger German drivers such as Vettel, Sutil and Rosberg that are the surprise factor in the 2010 season?


Well I don’t see Vettel surprising us in his driving as we learned last season that he is top class. Sutil I’m not sure about. Rosberg has this year to show exactly where he is in the scheme of things



Is it too hot for saubers tyre advantage on long runs this weekend?, they looked very strong in winter testing, but with the track being so hot here it looks like they have lost some of that, or will they be doing a Ferrari tomorrow and killing the competition in the race (RB)

Any ideas on the condition of the tyres on the RB and Ferrari after Quali (the ones they will actually start on that is) I think Vettel may have hurt his alot to get the pole and racing should be a different story. And for hearing Ted on BBC say during practice RB tyres were alot worse than the Ferrari’s its looking like Ferrari’s race


Looks like the supersoft tyres will be good for about 12-15 laps in the race then need changing.


Very disappointed with McLaren’s showing, the gap to Vettel was just too much.

No surprise to see Jenson 0.4 sec behind Lewis to my eyes he’s not in the same class as Hamilton.

I hope Massa beats Alonso as it’ll make the season more interesting & I reckon Schumacher won’t get on the top pace as as he improves so will the others.

We’ll see tomorrow which team(s) handle the race & I wouldn’t bet against McLaren coming away with something at least.

Pity the first crew member who messes up a wheel change.


Nobody has yet mentioned one thing about the race… overtaking!

Despite most of the modern tracks offering few overtaking opportunities coupled with the greater “turbulent air” effect last season, I can only hope that with the importance of tyre management that it’ll have the desired effect in improving overtaking.


If it doesn’t… then F1 really needs to take a good look at itself. The driver line-up this season is great, so no complaints there.


Is it just me or are the LG timing screens on the BBC coverage really annoying?

They’ve got some chevron thing going on which means the numbers don’t line up any more…makes it so awkward to read the times!

James, can you bend the ear of LG next time you speak to them for your technical articles?


But the new graphics are sharper which makes them much better for watching over the Internet or on iPhone. Last season because of the blocky font I could hardly read the numbers and I had to guess the three-letter driver acronyms. Big step forward, I say.


Yep. totally agree with this. The timing graphics are hard to read now they are not lined up, but rather on the diagonal. Also not enough timing info was shown in Q3 to know what was going on. The first set of laps by people weren’t really covered. I don’t think they showed the laps or the times. I can’t quite remember, but I think we were watching Buemi and some other minor player whilst it was happening.


Nope, not just you.

It was like watching a re-run of a classic GP with old fashioned and slow screen timings – they were fuzzy, slow to update and confusing (even Martin Brundle was at pains to point out the split times were for P10 not P1 – that should have been crystal clear, especially as they’ve managed it before.

Not sure if it’s FOM or LG or a bit of both, but it’s a big backwards step. It was so annoying I stopped watching Q2 and just waited until the end of that session.


I’m not going mad then, or losing my sight! I assumed it was LG that stylises it, but maybe you’re right, maybe its FOM.

Also last year there was a good graphic on the LHS showing the grid slots, and in the last few minutes it showed the drivers in the drop zones. Where’s that gone?


Yes but how will the Vettel a car with full tanks?



Can you shed any light on this?

Is it a wind up?

Good job asking the questions again by the way!!


I know McLaren have to change something at the back of the car, but I was told it wasn’t diffuser related. Will check


There seem to be lots of posts saying how disappointing the gap between Lewis/Jenson and Nico/Michael is… but unless I’m missing something, Michael is closer on pace to Nico than Alonso is to Massa and Button’s gap is just a tenth outside.

Yes they’d all love to be quicker than their team-mate but from the comments plenty seem to be jumping on emotion and forgetting;

a) the facts and

b) it’s the first session of a long season!


massa will win the race.

vettel will place on third and gap between 1th and 3rd will be 10 sec.

i bet on that.


I would like to win the million you’re going to lose by betting:-)


massa will win the race.

vettel will place on third place and gap between 1th and 3rd will be 10 sec.

i bet on that.


Massa was the only one faster in Q3, did he put on a compromised setup to go for pole?


Cars were in parc ferme for the whole of qualifying so they could not make any drastic,significant changes to set-up from the moment they went out in Q1.


I have to be honest and say I was disappointed with the way qualifying looks now with no refueling. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t mind there is no refueling, but I found that it was kinda slow now, and that cars weren’t on track as much as they used to be in the past. Most of the front runners did one flyer, and that’s that. Wasn’t the whole point of this type of qualifying for cars to be on track more??

But you know what really really ground my gears this morning when I was watching the start of this long awaited season?? The terribly poor job whoever was deciding what camera feed to put on tv. And the fact that there was no stats/graphics on who is in the lead, what the provisional grid is looking like and all that jazz we’re used to. It all looked very amateur! And I don’t get why they can’t get it right from the start. It’s not like this is the first F1 race ever. But it seems to be the case at the start of every season! It’s shame for the pinnacle of motor sport!


A lot of that was down to the enormous lap time that Bahrain has- basically a full two minutes. Add to that a 2:30 in and out lap and it’s 7 minutes just to do one quali lap (in a ten minute session). In Monaco that figure would be four minutes.

Once we get to some of the shorter tracks I’d imagine they will do more quali laps.


Firstly, congratulations to Vettel for getting Pole, Massa for beating Alonso by 4.6 s, Hamilton for beating Button by 3.6 s, Rosberg for wiping the smile off Schue’s face and Kubiza for getting the Renualt into Q1.

If the Redbull lasts 49 laps, Vettel will win, but that is a big “if” in my opinion. Also I would like to hear more about this adjustable ride height on the redbull, James – if true, with low fuel qualifying and full fuel start could it be a season-winning device?

The McClarens are clearly set up with hard suspension for a full fuel car, so I expect them to be much better in the actual race, and with Hamilton’s nerve and Buttons style could be much closer to the front than it seems now.

Ferrari look good, but if Massa continues to beat Alonso, expect fireworks by the time we get to Europe.

How long before Schumacher insists on team orders for Rosberg? Will Braun go along with that? What chance of an “old war wound” cutting his season short if things don’t change?

Suttil on hard tyres from the start – I can see him gaining a few places as well – maybe beating at least one McClaren and Mercedes?

Only one qualifying session, but things looking very interesting already!


old war wound, yes. And, if only it could be shown on hd, too.


easy pal! Massa qualified in front, there´s still a race to go!

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