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.”


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. Vettel1992 (@vettel1992) said on 21st April 2012, 21:40

    Finally! The People’s Champ has come back to Formula 1!

  2. As a an of F1 since 1976 I find it hard to get interested in the results of qualifying for the first time in my life. The Bahrain GP 2012 should be forgotten. No on should die for a sport we love. Don’t watch, send a message for human rights.

    • BaKano (@bakano) said on 21st April 2012, 23:59

      MW, have you watched all of the South African GPs between 76 and 85?
      It’s not the first comment I see here on this site about this being the first time someone will not watch a GP since the 70’s or 80’s and it makes me wonder about the South African GP during the apartheid.
      I don’t want to be cynical, but as far as I know no one died for the sake of F1. Last year there was no GP and there were still deaths and injuries inflicted to the people protesting!
      I even have to say that the fact F1 is in Bahrain brings a new level of media focus to the country situation, because for some months, the international media had forgotten about it and moved on to other hot topics. Now that F1 is there, some people are realizing that there are still issues in Bahrain for more than 1 year now!
      Had not been for F1 and a lot of people would not be talking about Bahrain these days.

    • BaKano (@bakano) said on 22nd April 2012, 0:05

      I just want to clarify that with my previous comment I don’t mean that the F1 GP is actually good for the all Bahrain situation. Of course is not, it is adding fuel to the fire, but I have no doubts that F1 coming here brought again attention to what is going on, and to some degree it is a good thing that the world eyes are set on the cruel way the people are still treated by the regime there, abeit a lot of promises of change announced last year.

    • Mash27 said on 22nd April 2012, 0:23

      For a time I was considering not wathcing this race on account of the human rights issue there but let’s not kidd ourselves; if we cared that much for human rights we wouldn’t watch the sport at all considering the murder of millions of babies per year is considered a human right in about ALL of the countries formula one is held in. If the voice of more than 40 million tiny defenceless human beings can be ignored year after year with no protest, so can the voice of one million Bahrainee adults.

  3. mr ROSSI (@mr-rossi) said on 21st April 2012, 22:45

    Lewis WILL emerge victorious,if not tomorow(with the massivelely increased competition)Then,defianately/triumphantly @ season`s end,to take what has almost been his,since first getting his name inscribed on it.

  4. GeorgeDaviesF1 (@georgedaviesf1) said on 21st April 2012, 22:48

    Lewis is saying about challenging Seb into turn 1, could be a bit like Korea with the straight after the first couple of corners with slipstream + KERS

  5. HoHum (@hohum) said on 21st April 2012, 23:10

    Meanwhile, last Monday at Torro Rosso ; Helmut Marco :” Just thought I’d let you know that the Red Bull guys have some old bodywork that they won’t be using again, maybe you could do something with it.”

  6. guido (@guidof1) said on 21st April 2012, 23:27

    There were several times last year when we expected degradation to be very high, and then it turned out that it actually wasnt that bad…To be honest I think we are in for a 3 stop strategy race easily, but still, lets see what happens. Some cars seem to work better on the harder compounds, they might just do a few laps on the soft, get rid of them and do the rest of the race on mediums, similar to what some tried to pull last week in china. who knows? the track did improve a lot through the sessions. hopefully we will see different strategies by different teams, again. difficult to call

  7. Pamphlet (@pamphlet) said on 21st April 2012, 23:34

    Calling it now, if Vettel dominates in 2011-like fashion, people will be like “OH, HE WASN’T THE BEST ON THE TRACK, ALL HE DID WAS RUN AWAY WITH IT FROM POLE” and conveniently forget about Rosberg in the process…

    • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 22nd April 2012, 0:16

      Everyone loved China because it was Rosberg’s first win. Similarly, everyone loved Monza 2008, as it was Vettel’s first win. Nobody really acknowledged that both of them easily won pole-to-flag. We loved it because we had a new winner, something fresh.

      Nowadays, we hate it when Vettel is on pole, and we hate it when he wins. The reason behind that is because we’re all tired of Vettel. Simple as that. We’re all sick and tired of Vettel and him constantly winning. He’s been shoved down our throats for the past 2 years, and we’re sick and tired of him. In 2011, almost every single race weekend was the same crap. Vettel pole! Vettel win! Vettel has became the John Cena of Formula One. He keeps winning, and the vast majority of fans hate him because of it.

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 22nd April 2012, 0:52

        The first paragraph is good, but that second paragraph says more about the jealousy of those fans than the man doing the winning.

        • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 22nd April 2012, 3:31

          Nothing to do with jealousy. I’m simply stating the truth – nobody is enthusiastic about Vettel being on pole, because we know how the race always turns out to be.

          Vettel is a good driver though, no doubt; but he simply wins too often. Remember Schumacher in 2004? Well, that was Vettel in 2011. He simply wins too often.

          I don’t mind Vettel winning races, as long as he has to fight for it. Sadly, 90% of the time that’s simply not what happens.

          I don’t “hate” Vettel, I’m simply bored of him.

          • Alfred (@afya) said on 22nd April 2012, 7:21

            Well, provided the car and the close grid this year, I won’t expect him to be as dominant as last year. And his races so far weren’t so good this year also. Mclaren and Mercedes have very good cars this season and also don’t forget Webber! Webber is in very good shape and will post a challenge to him. Combine all thse, I think Vettel will have to fight for the win.

      • Matt (@superf1fan) said on 22nd April 2012, 2:07

        Anyone would think Formula One was about winning….

      • Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 22nd April 2012, 3:29

        Speak for yourself, which I’m sure you’re doing. I like the boy. I enjoyed golf when Tiger was winning everything he was in. I have no problem watching the worlds best and potentially starting a golden age.

      • ALL4IT said on 22nd April 2012, 9:57

        Don’t mind whoever win just not too many of those bloody finger pointing in your face every bloody race!!! that would be good…

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd April 2012, 10:06

        @kingshark Speak for yourself! Some of us enjoyed Vettel’s domination last year. We should take pleasure in watching a driver so comfortable and confident in his car. It was only one season, you’re not exactly talking Schumacher style dominance here.

  8. HoHum (@hohum) said on 21st April 2012, 23:39

    With LHs time being so close SVs it seems highly unlikely that SV will be able to open a 1 second + gap in the first two laps and with an extra 10Kph I expect Hamilton to be leading on lap 3, then it’s all up to tyre wear and pitstops, Hamilton should use his tyres up faster than Vettel but if Hamilton pits first his outlap should be faster than Vettels inlap, interesting. Webber and Jenson? Jenson is running more downforce than Lewis but still has more than 6kph over Webber on the straight so it would seem to come down the first corner position and we all know how that is going to go so the questions are, can Lewis keep it together all race long, can Vettel hold of Button for 2nd., can Webber amaze us again with a thrilling fight back from 7-11th. to get on the podium, and finally, who is going to be the Joker in the pack to upset the natural order. I think it is a little early to writing the season of, after all “1 finger does not a summer make”

  9. Ant said on 22nd April 2012, 0:05

    I think Grosjean deserves a mention..
    Great qualy effort…….

  10. rpiian (@rpiian) said on 22nd April 2012, 2:32

    I was enjoying a season without the finger.

    Now Webber winning Bahrain, THAT is something I would like to see!

  11. mw12 said on 22nd April 2012, 4:56

    Looking forward to the race. Happy to see anyone else win but fingerboy! Go Webber

  12. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd April 2012, 10:03

    Last year I think we all grew accustomed to Vettel pulling out enough of a gap to negate any chasing drivers DRS. This year, I’m not so sure if he can do it. That Red Bull is mighty slow in a straight line, which of course it was last year, but given how the EBD restriction hit Vettel in the last race I don’t see how he will be able to do it so easily. That said, it means that Hamilton still has to get passed regardless.

    I just hope we have a clean couple of opening laps so we can see how things pan out between Hamilton and Vettel.

    Surprised by Mercedes lack of straight line speed through the speed trap. I swear they were less than 2kph out yesterday, a change in strategy? Didn’t seem to work out too well for Rosberg in qualifying. I just hope that their tyres can cope with any additional downforce that might be thrown at them.

    I’m looking forward to Schumacher and Maldonado. Two attacking drivers right at the back ought to make for a great challenge up the field.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 22nd April 2012, 10:22

      @andrewtanner, you’r right on both counts Andrew, the Maclarens are equal to or better than the Bulls this year, and Merc are using the double DRS to add extra wing rather than going for top speed, although if they can I wouldn’t be surprised if they reduced wing on Schuis car to give him a better chance to pass the mid-field in the DRS zone, don’t think they can do it without him starting from the pits though. Actually the extra downforce is good for the tyres, less slip equals lower temps.

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd April 2012, 12:52

        @hohum Perhaps they can’t with Schumacher due to Parc Ferme. I imagine with qualifying badly and changing his gearbox they would have made changes and started from the pit lane if they could, so maybe they can’t change that in Parc Ferme?

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