Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Bahrain, 2012

Red Bull race pace makes Vettel strong candidate for win

2012 Bahrain Grand Prix pre-race analysisPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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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