Red Bull race pace makes Vettel strong candidate for win

2012 Bahrain Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Bahrain, 2012Is the 2012 season about to go all 2011 on us? Sebastian Vettel is on pole position and his Red Bull has looked good over a race distance this year.

The start

The man who started 15 races from pole position last year is back at the sharp end of the grid. But will Sebastian Vettel be able to translated pole position into victory?

The key to so many of his wins last year was building up enough of an early lead to keep away from his DRS-equipped rivals.

Lewis Hamilton, who shares the front row of the grid with him, fancies his chances of getting ahead: “The start could be key ?ǣ we?ve had good launches all season so I expect us to be able to challenge Seb down to turn one.”

However starting off-line on this dusty track could be a disadvantage, as Jenson Button notes: “A good launch tomorrow will be very important ?ǣ both Lewis and I will be starting on the dirty side of the grid, which makes things more difficult, so we?ll need to get it right.”

Strategy

The worry for McLaren is that Red Bull have looked quicker in race trim this year. Mark Webber said: “We haven?t been too strong on Saturdays until now, but we have on Sunday.

“We can have a good race from there tomorrow; tyre strategy will be very, very important ?ǣ a lot of drivers, including us, have used a lot of tyres already in qualifying.”

One driver who hasn’t used all his tyres yet is Nico Rosberg: “I think that I’m in a good position for the race for tomorrow,” he said.

“I am the only driver in the top five who has a set of new option tyres which can be very useful at this circuit. It will be very important to drive carefully, and find the right tyre management in the race, as the conditions are very tough out there.”

This gives his team mate Michael Schumacher some cause for cheer. He may be starting down in 17th but will have plenty of fresh tyres at his disposal.

As Lotus director of trackside operations Alan Permane explains, starting further back with more fresh tyres could be an advantage. His driver Kimi Raikkonen starts 11th after being knocked out in Q2:

“We knew it was a risk not running him again, but the performance penalty of not making Q3 was is not as great as it could have been due to the benefits of the fresh tyres saved for the race.

“It?s better to be starting in P11 with four new sets of tyres available for the race than further up the grid with fewer new sets.”

Keeping life in the tyres will be crucial in the punishing heat of Bahrain. In this afternoon’s GP2 race Nigel Melker had a front-left tyre de-laminate, tearing itself apart and ripping his front wing off.

Pirelli expect most front-runners to lean towards three-stop strategies.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’34.308 1’33.527 (-0.781) 1’32.422 (-1.105)
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’34.813 1’33.209 (-1.604) 1’32.520 (-0.689)
3 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’34.015 1’33.311 (-0.704) 1’32.637 (-0.674)
4 Jenson Button McLaren 1’34.792 1’33.416 (-1.376) 1’32.711 (-0.705)
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’34.588 1’33.219 (-1.369) 1’32.821 (-0.398)
6 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’33.988 1’33.556 (-0.432) 1’32.912 (-0.644)
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’34.041 1’33.246 (-0.795) 1’33.008 (-0.238)
8 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’33.814 1’33.660 (-0.154) 1’33.394 (-0.266)
9 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’34.760 1’33.403 (-1.357)
10 Paul di Resta Force India 1’34.624 1’33.510 (-1.114)
11 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’34.552 1’33.789 (-0.763)
12 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’34.131 1’33.806 (-0.325)
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’34.601 1’33.807 (-0.794)
14 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’34.372 1’33.912 (-0.460)
15 Bruno Senna Williams 1’34.466 1’34.017 (-0.449)
16 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’34.852 1’36.132 (+1.280)
17 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’34.865
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’35.014
19 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’35.823
20 Charles Pic Marussia 1’37.683
21 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’37.883
22 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’34.639
23 Timo Glock Marussia 1’37.905
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’38.314

One of the surprises of qualifying was Heikki Kovalainen taking Caterham into Q2. Although he was aided by Schumacher’s DRS problem, he did beat Jean-Eric Vergne on merit.

Kovalainen said: “It’s a real bonus for us getting into Q2 but we’d already seen this morning that we were close to a few cars and we thought that with the conditions today, being hot and pretty windy, we might be able to use the option tyres to get us into Q2, and it worked out.”

Another driver who impressed was Daniel Ricciardo. While his team mate went out in Q1, he reached Q3 and qualified an excellent sixth.

“We had a below average week in China with some updates we brought,” Ricciardo explained.

“We persisted with them and we made them work significantly better here, which is down to the hard work of the whole team. My communication with the team was also very good and it has helped us get into Q3.”

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel 29.413 (2) 40.003 (1) 23.006 (3)
Lewis Hamilton 29.474 (4) 40.131 (4) 22.912 (1)
Mark Webber 29.405 (1) 40.073 (2) 23.137 (7)
Jenson Button 29.532 (5) 40.102 (3) 23.077 (6)
Nico Rosberg 29.439 (3) 40.235 (6) 23.147 (8)
Daniel Ricciardo 29.790 (11) 40.165 (5) 22.957 (2)
Romain Grosjean 29.540 (6) 40.409 (9) 23.047 (4)
Sergio Perez 29.731 (7) 40.374 (8) 23.265 (13)
Fernando Alonso 29.926 (13) 40.310 (7) 23.167 (9)
Paul di Resta 29.750 (8) 40.687 (15) 23.073 (5)
Kimi Raikkonen 29.834 (12) 40.616 (11) 23.205 (11)
Kamui Kobayashi 29.782 (10) 40.630 (12) 23.376 (15)
Nico Hulkenberg 29.770 (9) 40.645 (13) 23.235 (12)
Felipe Massa 29.995 (15) 40.510 (10) 23.370 (14)
Bruno Senna 29.952 (14) 40.656 (14) 23.409 (16)
Heikki Kovalainen 30.195 (18) 41.244 (18) 23.413 (17)
Michael Schumacher 29.999 (16) 41.290 (19) 23.196 (10)
Jean-Eric Vergne 30.442 (20) 41.129 (17) 23.443 (18)
Vitaly Petrov 30.366 (19) 41.711 (20) 23.708 (20)
Charles Pic 31.040 (24) 42.452 (21) 24.142 (21)
Pedro de la Rosa 30.991 (22) 42.599 (23) 24.293 (22)
Pastor Maldonado 30.062 (17) 41.066 (16) 23.511 (19)
Timo Glock 31.027 (23) 42.504 (22) 24.374 (24)
Narain Karthikeyan 30.979 (21) 42.984 (24) 24.351 (23)

Timo Glock said he had a “massive mistake” at turn 13, which left him behind his team mate and Pedro de la Rosa on the grid.

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Romain Grosjean Lotus 318.1 (197.7)
2 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 317.9 (197.5) -0.2
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 317.2 (197.1) -0.9
4 Paul di Resta Force India 316.9 (196.9) -1.2
5 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 316.7 (196.8) -1.4
6 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 315.5 (196.0) -2.6
7 Sergio Perez Sauber 314.9 (195.7) -3.2
8 Jenson Button McLaren 313.4 (194.7) -4.7
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 313.4 (194.7) -4.7
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 312.8 (194.4) -5.3
11 Bruno Senna Williams 312.3 (194.1) -5.8
12 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 311.2 (193.4) -6.9
13 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 311.1 (193.3) -7.0
14 Pastor Maldonado Williams 311.1 (193.3) -7.0
15 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 310.7 (193.1) -7.4
16 Felipe Massa Ferrari 310.2 (192.7) -7.9
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 308.1 (191.4) -10.0
18 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 307.8 (191.3) -10.3
19 Mark Webber Red Bull 307.0 (190.8) -11.1
20 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 306.9 (190.7) -11.2
21 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 306.6 (190.5) -11.5
22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 306.4 (190.4) -11.7
23 Charles Pic Marussia 300.6 (186.8) -17.5
24 Timo Glock Marussia 300.4 (186.7) -17.7

In a straight-line speed battle you have to favour the McLaren over the Red Bull – Vettel is giving away over 10kph to Hamilton.

But as we saw last year, that doesn’t necessarily mean Hamilton will have an easy time passing him.

2012 Bahrain Grand Prix


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73 comments on Red Bull race pace makes Vettel strong candidate for win

  1. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 21st April 2012, 16:12

    Keith – historically how bad has it been, starting off line? How did the GP2 folk get along with starting on the dirty side?

  2. Alehud42 (@alehud42) said on 21st April 2012, 16:21

    RIP 2012, you were fun for a while.

    • James (@goodyear92) said on 21st April 2012, 20:21

      Umm it’s just one quali session and the gap was a measly 0.098 seconds. I’m a Lewis fan, but I’m not getting depressed. I think he has the best chance to win tomorrow.

    • david said on 21st April 2012, 20:38

      I hate people who rain on someone else’s parade. Vettel dominated for a bit, now the field is getting bunched up. This year has been spectacular and just because Vettel’s on pole, some people want to go crybaby.

    • Alehud42 (@alehud42) said on 21st April 2012, 21:42

      Notice the tongue-in-cheek.

  3. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 21st April 2012, 16:23

    Is the 2012 season about to go all 2011 on us?

    For fear of this, I have greeted every misfortune of Vettel so far with more enthusiasm than perhaps was nice to him (or more importantly, his fans on F1Fanatic, as the man himself may not be reading), hoping his time away from the front would be long enough to ensure a different champion in 2012.

    For tomorrow, I guess the odds are in favour of Vettel, as we haven’t seen many instances of Hamilton beating Vettel on tyre management.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 21st April 2012, 17:22

      We’ve seen how sensitive the field order has been in 4 different tracks. Merc was far ahead in China, now they are behind.

      So I think it’s more of a 2010 repeat than 2011: different tracks and conditions being better for certain teams and not just Vettel ahead no matter what…

      • Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 21st April 2012, 21:17

        Don’t think it was the case in 2010 either in terms of Qualifying, at this stage in 2010 we had 2 different pole-sitters, who were clearly in the fastest car at the time. Given the circumstances of Vettel & Red Bull dominating almost every single qualifying session in 2011 & what we’ve seen from this season so far, It was nice to see Seb as the 3RD different pole-sitter of the season for a change, variation in performance & results obviously does the Sport some essential good.

        As for which season 2012 replicates, i think personally it would be probably the 2005 or 2003 season, one car having an edge on the other in terms of qualifying pace whereas came the race it was a completely different story (take BAR and Button for example in 2005)

  4. Andrew81 (@andrew81) said on 21st April 2012, 16:32

    It will be interesting to see if Vettel can pull out a 2-second lead on the first lap like he did last year, or whether that was some car trick. If Hamilton can remain close enough to use DRS I think he has the straight-line speed to overtake, especially as the DRS zone looks quite long. It will also be interesting to see the benefit of having new tyres. But I can’t see anything past a Red Bull-McLaren lock out of the top 4 places.

    • latina (@latina) said on 21st April 2012, 20:07

      ” If Hamilton can remain close enough to use DRS..”
      That is the problem. Lewis has not (in previous races) been able to close the gap when the guy in front pulls away. In fact what happens is that the gap tends to be on the increase by the 10th lap. So if Vettel makes it safely through the first corner, the race tomorrow becomes his. I am more worried about Lewis being able to maintain his second position. I pray he understands that so far he’s been doing well and that he doesn’t blow the crucial extra points he stands to gain if he finishes the race.

      • Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 21st April 2012, 21:29

        Results when Lewis has started in P2 alongside Vettel:
        Abu Dhabi 2010 – 2nd
        Australia 2011 – 2nd
        Malaysia 2011 – 8th
        Hungary 2011 – 4th
        Belgium 2011 – DNF
        Italy 2011 – 4th
        India 2011 (qualified P2, 3 place grid penalty) – 7th
        Abu Dhabi 2011 – Won

        Hamilton has only managed to equal or better his grid position on 3 occasions & it’s valid to grow doubts whether he will make the podium given the history of starting alongside pole-sitter Vettel. Hardcore statistics & anything can happen, just like this season has proven so far but once Vettel has gone into Turn 1 leading & Lewis has had a poor start then……..

        • latina (@latina) said on 21st April 2012, 21:48

          Thanks for the stats. Twice has he finished 2nd and only once has he won out of 8 races. Doesn’t look good. Well it’s gonna be a long and interesting race tomorrow. Anything can happen.

        • Alehud42 (@alehud42) said on 21st April 2012, 21:49

          But all those occasions have been when Vettel in the Red Bull has had a clear race pace advantage over the McLarens.
          From experience of the first few races, Macca seems to have the best starting car, while RBR one of the worst, and their overall race pace seems less clear cut.

          • Bogz said on 21st April 2012, 23:40

            Agree, Its totally different machine now. So it would be nteresting to watch. Can’t wait to see the race started. :)

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 9th May 2012, 1:41

            But all those occasions have been when Vettel in the Red Bull has had a clear race pace advantage over the McLarens.

            Not Malaysia 2011 and Italy 2011, where the Mclarens got stuck behind slower cars through their own fault, not Belgium 2011, where one of them qualified 13th and the other crashed and not Hungary 2011, where Mclaren were faster.

  5. TED BELL said on 21st April 2012, 16:34

    Another bad day for Pirelli, another bad day for Formula One.

  6. Andy G (@toothpickbandit) said on 21st April 2012, 16:39

    Don’t the top 4 also have a fresh set of options? I thought they did their first Q3 stint on their used Q2 options.

    • Nigel said on 21st April 2012, 18:43

      Didn’t look like it on the BBC coverage.

    • Aussie Fan said on 22nd April 2012, 9:59

      I think you are right andy, all of the others around ROS ran a used set of options for their 1st Q3 run. James Allen picked up on this also, although from Rosberg’s post qualifying comments he seems to think that because he only did the one run the others must have used a new set on their 1st run, which im 99.99999% sure they didn’t…

  7. Shimks (@shimks) said on 21st April 2012, 16:55

    Should be another cracking race tomorrow. So many drivers in the fight this year – fantastic stuff! Watch out for Romain Grosjean tomorrow. He looks like he’s out to prove something.

    By the way, I just watched last week’s race again and I take back what I said about Hamilton looking second to Button. Both drivers look very strong with Hamilton stronger in qualifying, as usual, and Button as fast but probably kinder on his tyres in races, although Hamilton seems to have closed the gap there too. At this point in the season (too early of course) you’d bet on McLaren winning the Constructor’s trophy.

    There’s going to be so much rubber on that track tomorrow after the first third of the race, it’s going to look like 24 Moses crossing the Red Black Sea together.

  8. THe Pirellis don’t rubber the track well as the bridgestones

  9. Akın Aslan said on 21st April 2012, 17:14

    well im afraid that vettel could repeat a dominant 2011 victory. I base this comment on the top speed of ham, by the looks of it he has a pretty agressive set up(less wing compared to but) so I think his tyres could be dead fast.

    • Adam said on 21st April 2012, 17:19

      Swings and roundabouts. When you set your car up for top speed that’s a race tactic generally, not about optimising the 1 lap speed.

    • Snafu (@snafu) said on 21st April 2012, 18:12

      I guess they figured they eventually have to fight traffic after their pit stops so they need straight line speed to overtake midfielders…should be interesting!

  10. Rahim.RG (@rahim-rg) said on 21st April 2012, 18:31

    Raikkonen for Podium.. :P

  11. Highstoned (@highstoned) said on 21st April 2012, 19:26

    Some of you write about last years race but you don’t mean Bahrain I guess since it was cancelled? I hope Hamilton beat finger-boy to the first corner!

  12. AlexNK said on 21st April 2012, 19:37

    2011? You’ve got to be kidding, right? There were two McLaren 1-2s in qualifying for the first two events of this year, and yet I don’t recall anyone crying out ‘Are we back in the 1992?’. Vettel has done a great lap and got his hard-fought pole, but McLaren has a car to beat this season, so he will have to pull something special out of the bag to convert his position to win. Still, it’s funny how some people fear him – only a week ago he was ‘rubbish’ missing the Q3, and now, after a pole, the same people are really scared that he will dominate this season in the inferior RB8.

    • Aditya said on 21st April 2012, 19:43

      You mean “back to 1988″,i suppose??? …and yes,its very sad to see a double world champion not getting his due here…had either of hamilton or button waltzed away to victory at each of the first 3 races,im sure no one would have complained…am alarmed at all this hatred of vettel. Give the guy a break!!!!

    • Mads (@mads) said on 21st April 2012, 20:03

      I agree.
      The guy is well down the championship table, so far he has been trounced by his team mate in qualifying and hasn’t really been that good in the races either, although his drive in Melbourne was superb, it was hardly fantastic.
      If anyone is looking dominant this year it is McLaren, I think it will make the season a lot more exciting if the McLaren’s can’t run away with it from front row like they did in Australia.

  13. djdaveyp85 (@djdaveyp87) said on 21st April 2012, 19:51

    The one thing that can give us some hope that this won’t be another bore-rain is that so far only one pole sitter has won a race this season. McLaren did alot of long run work and seemed to also find pace overnight into saturday. That Mercedes could have gone faster in qualifying, there are a few potential victors!

  14. Jack said on 21st April 2012, 20:08

    So basicly, we have got a boring circuit, not good for overtaken, plus a red bull plus Vettel on pole….oh yeah I can’t wait to watch a 58 odd lap race, Vettel prossesion. Urgh, just when I thought, we got away from Seb and Christian Horner, talking to the F1 coverage 24/7, I was starting to like the mix of team principals/drivers! But I guess all good things must come to an end! I really hold no hope for Hamilton, getting passed, it is simply going to be a Vettel win, whilst his team mate probably goes backwords at the start, as per usual!

    • BaKano (@bakano) said on 21st April 2012, 21:03

      Last week race had little fight for P1 as Rosberg did a Vettel, but the race was still hard-fought for all the other positions and load of people were excited with the result. True that we can have a repetition of that tomorrow, the difference being Vettel leading the pack, but will that immediately brand the race as a boring Vettel procession?
      Sure that he has done it a lot in the past, so it is nothing new, but I won’t discard a race just because Vettel gets away with it (even if it happens)!

    • ALL4IT said on 22nd April 2012, 9:22

      Bahrain TRACK going to be Boraing race even with the DRS it is not going to be easy to pass amongst the top 3 teams if anyone managed to get away at the start!, e.g fingerboy, the second car is going to hold up the rest of the field for a few laps then you know what happen… (a run away). it would be great to see top 6 cars can stay close at least the first few laps until DRS activation are allow. well it just my prediction! hate to see just one car run away!!! most boring thing to see…

  15. Alonso (@alonsomanso) said on 21st April 2012, 21:33

    i just saw the Q3 becuase i fall asleep, really impress me the Red Bull’s, more Vettel because in Australia and Malaysia struggle with the car.
    in a moment believe Webber had the pole, Rosberg too. but Vettel impressed with that pole maybe can get the win or maybe not.

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