Michael Schumacher was overshadowed by team mate Nico Rosberg on his return to F1.
Elsewhere Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton drew first blood as they began a new season alongside highly competitive team mates.
Yesterday we got our first glimpse of how many of the intriguing team mate battles will play out in 2010. Take a look at each team and drivers’ performances below.
In this first in a new series of articles we compare the performances of the drivers in each team. You can get a more detailed breakdown of their qualifying and race statistics including a graph of their lap times by following the ‘Compare…’ links below.
Despite their much-vaunted and controversial F-duct, which helped them enjoy higher straight line speeds than their rivals, McLaren never looked at home on the Bahrain circuit – especially over the bumpy new section.
The weekend seemed to be going Button’s way after final practice, where he completed his programme while Hamilton lost time with a brake duct problem. But Hamilton out-qualified him to the tune of 0.4 seconds.
Starting eighth, Button was consigned to a race stuck in traffic, and losing a place to Mark Webber who drove around the outside of him at turn nine on the first lap didn’t help. His team gained him the place back in the pits.
The cameras didn’t catch exactly what happened between Hamilton and Felipe Massa at turn four on the first lap. But we know they went in side-by-side with Hamilton only slightly on the track, and came out with Massa ahead and Hamilton trying to fend off Nico Rosberg, so we can make an educated guess.
Hamilton spent 15 laps tucked up behind Rosberg which cost him in the region of ten to 12 seconds. Without that he would have at least been closer to the Ferraris, though probably not quick enough to pass them.
Hands up how many people expected Nico Rosberg to be consistently ahead of Michael Schumacher this weekend? I certainly didn’t, but Rosberg consistently headed the returning seven-times champion at Bahrain.
Right from the off Schumacher trailled Rosberg by a couple of seconds and that picture didn’t change much until Sunday.
In the race Schumacher’s fastest lap was a couple of hundredths quicker than Rosberg’s. But the damage had already been done and he finished the Grand Prix in his team mate’s wheel tracks.
Schumacher pronounced himself satisfied with his weekend’s work. Is he putting a brave face on it – or has he figured out where he was losing time to Rosberg?
Rosberg revived his 2009 tradition by being quickest in practice on Friday afternoon. He out-qualified Schumacher but said he was struggling to keep his tyres from overheating.
He kept Hamilton behind him in the early stages but the McLaren driver passed him at the first round of pit stops. With a couple of laps to go Rosberg caught Vettel’s ailing Red Bull but, according to Mercedes, “was unable to pass in the turbulent air.”
After a difficult day on Friday Red Bull came on strong in qualifying with Sebastian Vettel taking pole position.
Vettel went quickest in Q2 and used just a single lap in Q3 to set pole position. He led the race up until the moment a faulty spark plug in his Renault engine slowed him down. Despite that he still finished fourth and ahead of his team mate.
The size of the gap to his team mate in qualifying – 1.1s – must have hurt Webber, who admitted:
[I] did my worst lap at the most important time. It was going well until Turn 16, but it wasn’t so good from there on.
He put a smart pass on Button on the first lap of the race but slipped back to eighth in the pit stops, where he finished.
The F10s looked quick all weekend and it was a surprise to see them lose pole to Vettel. Concerns over their engines lead them to change the units in both cars before the race.
The Ferrari drivers did two laps each in Q3 and Alonso was the quicker of them at first. But Massa turned the tables to claim second on the grid for the race.
Less-than-robust defending from Massa at turn one let Alonso by into second – unsurprisingly he did a much more thorough job against Hamilton three corners later. Towards the end of the race the team urged him to reduce his pace to save engine life.
Having worked his way past Massa at the start Alonso inherited the lead from Vettel later on.
He then let rip with a series of fastest laps, finishing up a full second faster than anyone else. This was a fascinating moment because Alonso had no need to show his hand by pushing that hard.
His team must have known Massa was having to conserve his car and there was no pressure from behind. So why give away so much about what the F10 is capable of?
Was this his way of saying to his team mate ‘look what I can do’? Or was he just enjoying not having to stare at Vettel’s rear wing for the first time in the race?
Williams expected to reach Q3 but neither of their drivers made it.
Barrichello missed the cut for Q3 by less than 0.2s, being bumped out by Jenson Button in the dying moments of Q2.
Despite picking up some damage during the race Barrichello set the sixth fastest lap, suggesting there’s more to come from the FW32.
Rookie Hülkenberg was quicker than his team mate in practice but Barrichello delivered when it mattered – out-qualifying the GP2 champion by half a second.
Hülkenberg spun his car at turn two on lap six, and made an early pit stop immediately afterwards to switch to medium tyres. He opted not to try to complete the remaining 47 laps without another stop, making a second on lap 25.
Bad luck and unreliability cost Renault a shot at the points.
Kubica declared himself happy with reaching the top ten in qualifying but believed he’d have been 0.4s faster but for a mistake at the hairpin. That would have put him ahead of Schumacher’s Mercedes and Button’s McLaren.
His collision with Sutil on the first lap destroyed his tyres and his race – without it he felt a points finish was on the cards.
A mistake at turn nine spoiled Petrov’s first qualifying effort in F1 and left him 17th in Q2, a painful 1.6s slower than his team mate.
But he made up a lot of places on the first lap and was running 11th when he suffered a suspension failure which ended his race. Renault said Kubica only avoided suffering the same problem because he chose to run a different ride height.
An encouraging first run for the VJM023 saw the team break into Q3 and score points.
An excellent lap by Sutil in Q2, beating his team mate by over 0.6s, earned him a place in the top ten.
Sutil was blameless for the his first-lap collision with Robert Kubica which was triggered by the eruption of smoke from Mark Webber’s Red Bull. He fought back through the field, setting second fastest lap on the way.
Liuzzi was happy with the balance of his car in Saturday morning practice but after qualifying he was complaining about poor traction in the VJM03.
In the race he profitted from the incident which delayed his team mate and came home ninth and leading runner outside of the ‘big four’. It looked like Sutil had better pace, though.
Their one-lap pace in pre-season testing didn’t look bad but after problems in practice the Toro Rosso drivers were well down the grid.
Buemi said he felt he could have gone two-tenths faster on his qualifying lap but still made it through to Q2, beating his team mate. An impressive showing given the time he lost on Friday due to technical problems.
Too much wheel-spin at the start meant he lost two places, though he recovered them over the next two laps. Buemi felt he took his pit stop too late, costing him further places. His car came to a halt three laps from the chequered flag with an electrical problem while running 14th behind Alguersuari.
With the bottom six places in qualifying likely to be occupied by the six new cars for most of the early races at least, only one driver from the established teams is likely to be eliminated in Q1. This time it was Jaime Alguersuari and it could prove an easy and dangerous way to call attention to himself if he makes a habit of it.
He blamed a mistake during his flying lap on super-soft tyres for his elimination. He made a good start and raced in front of his team mate in the midfield.
Lost out to Virgin in the fight to be quickest of the new teams in qualifying, but had the last laugh in the race by having both cars classified while neither of the black-and-red cars finished.
Always a strong driver in qualifying, Trulli beat his team mate by the comfortable margin of over half a second on Saturday. But his race was spoiled by understeer and, later, hydraulic problems.
Kovalainen enjoyed a trouble-free first race for the T127 and finished as best of the runners in new cars.
Trying to compare HRT’s drivers at this stage is a waste of time given how little running they got. Chandhok only appeared on track for the first time in qualifying. Both cars started the race from the pit lane.
After making his F1 debut in qualifying Chandhok’s race ended on the second lap when he hit an unfamiliar bump and swiped the barriers.
Senna retired 18 laps into his F1 debut after suffering a mechanical failure.
Some people had been talking up Sauber’s potential before the race but their lack of pace in Bahrain led some to wonder whether their car had been running light in testing.
But the feedback from the drivers was that the car was performing poorly on the new sequence at Bahrain and designer Willy Rampf said they had targetted a slot in Q2, so let’s not write them off just yet.
Pedro de la Rosa
De la Rosa said the C29 was ill-suited to the bumpy infield and felt he lost several tenths of a second through it on his fastest qualifying lap.
He was crowded out at the start and dropped down the order but pulled of the race’s few passes on his team mate to move up to 12th. Both eventually retired.
Started the race on medium tyres and said afterwards the super-softs would have been the best way to go. Like his team mate he retired with an hydraulic failure.
More reliability woes for the VR-01 with limited running in practice.
Timo Glock was at least able to get his practice programme done on Saturday morning despite a wheel gun problem causing one of his wheels to come off, fortunately not at high speed.
Glock was the fastest of the drivers for the new teams despite using the medium compound tyre in qualifying instead of the super softs. He passed Kovalainen to lead the newbies’ race but retired with a broken gearbox a few laps later.
Lucas di Grassi
More reliability problems with the VR-01 meant di Grassi did very little running. Given that, qualifying within a second of his more experienced team mate on his debut was a respectable effort.
He pulled off on the second lap of the race with an hydraulic failure.
|Team||Driver||Lap time||Gap||Lap time||Driver||Rround|
|McLaren||Jenson Button||1’55.672||+0.455||1’55.217||Lewis Hamilton||Q3|
|Mercedes||Michael Schumacher||1’55.524||+0.283||1’55.241||Nico Rosberg||Q3|
|Red Bull||Sebastian Vettel||1’54.101||-1.183||1’55.284||Mark Webber||Q3|
|Ferrari||Felipe Massa||1’54.242||-0.366||1’54.608||Fernando Alonso||Q3|
|Williams||Rubens Barrichello||1’55.330||-0.527||1’55.857||Nico Hülkenberg||Q2|
|Renault||Robert Kubica||1’54.963||-1.656||1’56.619||Vitaly Petrov||Q2|
|Force India||Adrian Sutil||1’54.996||-0.657||1’55.653||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Q2|
|Toro Rosso||Sebastien Buemi||1’56.189||-0.882||1’57.071||Jaime Alguersuari||Q1|
|Lotus||Jarno Trulli||1’59.852||-0.461||2’00.313||Heikki Kovalainen||Q1|
|HRT||Karun Chandhok||2’04.904||+1.664||2’03.240||Bruno Senna||Q1|
|Sauber||Pedro de la Rosa||1’56.237||-0.033||1’56.270||Kamui Kobyashi||Q2|
|Virgin||Timo Glock||1’59.728||-0.859||2’00.587||Lucas di Grassi||Q1|
This table compares the best lap times achieved by each teams’ drivers in the latest stage of qualifying both their drivers reached.
Race – fastest laps
|Team||Driver||Fastest lap||Gap||Fastest lap||Driver|
|McLaren||Jenson Button||1’59.970||+0.410||1’59.560||Lewis Hamilton|
|Mercedes||Michael Schumacher||2’00.204||-0.032||2’00.236||Nico Rosberg|
|Red Bull||Sebastian Vettel||2’00.218||+0.731||1’59.487||Mark Webber|
|Ferrari||Felipe Massa||1’59.732||+1.445||1’58.287||Fernando Alonso|
|Williams||Rubens Barrichello||1’59.833||-1.568||2’01.401||Nico Hülkenberg|
|Renault||Robert Kubica||2’00.474||-3.833||2’04.307||Vitaly Petrov|
|Force India||Adrian Sutil||1’59.393||-0.513||1’59.906||Vitantonio Liuzzi|
|Toro Rosso||Sebastien Buemi||2’00.080||+0.116||1’59.964||Jaime Alguersuari|
|Lotus||Jarno Trulli||2’02.930||+0.229||2’02.701||Heikki Kovalainen|
|HRT||Karun Chandhok||2’34.479||+25.352||2’09.127||Bruno Senna|
|Sauber||Pedro de la Rosa||2’01.650||-3.394||2’05.044||Kamui Kobyashi|
|Virgin||Timo Glock||2’07.062||-2.299||2’09.361||Lucas di Grassi|
NB. Drivers in italics were not classified finishers (did not complete 90% of the race distance or more)
Race – average laps
|Team||Driver||Average lap||Gap||Average lap||Driver|
|McLaren||Jenson Button||2’02.565||+0.451||2’02.114||Lewis Hamilton|
|Mercedes||Michael Schumacher||2’02.542||+0.081||2’02.461||Nico Rosberg|
|Red Bull||Sebastian Vettel||2’02.433||-0.154||2’02.587||Mark Webber|
|Ferrari||Felipe Massa||2’01.969||+0.329||2’01.641||Fernando Alonso|
|Williams||Rubens Barrichello||2’02.916||-2.892||2’05.808||Nico Hülkenberg|
|Renault||Robert Kubica||2’03.051||-2.791||2’05.842||Vitaly Petrov|
|Force India||Adrian Sutil||2’03.334||+0.611||2’02.723||Vitantonio Liuzzi|
|Toro Rosso||Sebastien Buemi||2’03.726||+0.194||2’03.532||Jaime Alguersuari|
|Lotus||Jarno Trulli||2’09.373||+2.158||2’07.215||Heikki Kovalainen|
|HRT||Karun Chandhok||2’34.479||+19.907||2’14.572||Bruno Senna|
|Sauber||Pedro de la Rosa||2’05.114||-1.245||2’06.359||Kamui Kobyashi|
|Virgin||Timo Glock||2’10.233||-4.005||2’14.238||Lucas di Grassi|
NB. Drivers in italics were not classified finishers (did not complete 90% of the race distance or more)
Analysing the drivers
This is the first in a new series of articles after each race comparing how the drivers have done. Please give your feedback on what you would like to see from these articles in future and how they can be improved.
Images (C) Ferrari spa, Renault/LAT, Williams/LAT, Bridgestone, www.mclaren.com, Getty Images/Red Bull, Force India F1 Team, Lotus F1, Virgin Racing, BMW Sauber F1 Team, Motioncompany