I was wondering what’s brought about the seeming turn-around in Mercedes’ fortunes. No, not the pace, I mean the fact that Schumacher was better in qualifying and the race (save for bad luck) in the first two grands prix but now Rosberg seems top dog. Maybe it’s because Schumacher can better handle a car that eats its tyres but Rosberg is better when it’s operating perfectly (a bit like Hamilton and Button).
Anyway, I must admit that I was relatively confident of my Rosberg tip and so was rather disappointed when it was significantly wrong. He only ended up 5th.
Q1 was more interesting than usual. Not only did Vergne again fail to make the cut, Schumacher was too complacent and soft tyres combined with the ever-improving conditions to enable Kovalainen’s Caterham to put in a sterling effort and make Q2. Hamilton and Button got lucky, and were very near to being put out themselves.
Massa failing to leave Q2 is no longer a surprise, but Raikkonen made a slight mistake (similar to Schumacher’s) and ended up 11th. However, that’s not necessarily too awful as he will get to pick his tyres and the medium compound seems very much the favoured choice for race pace. Also out were Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Senna, Kovalainen and Maldonado [who got a penalty, so Schumacher starts 17th].
Ah, Q3, which this year has been about as predictable as a drunk schizophrenic woman with a revolver and one bullet. I would never have bet on Vettel for this. Kudos to Mr. Slackbladder (on the main site) who did have covering bet at 14/1. Hamilton (who slightly tempted me) was second, a tenth behind Vettel and a tenth ahead of Webber. Interesting to see Vettel ahead of his team mate this time. I wonder if he’ll be able to beat Webber in the race. Button was next, followed by a disappointing Rosberg. Ricciardo had a great qualifying, bringing the Toro Rosso all the way to sixth (this may due to some upgrades) and he was followed by fellow young drivers Grosjean and Perez. Alonso and di Resta round out the top 10.
This is a bit irksome as I considered qualifying easier to predict than the race. Rosberg has said the team’s concentrated on race pace and sacrificed some qualifying pace, and Vettel has expressed surprise at getting pole. With Raikkonen and Schumacher out of position, tyre degradation expected to be high and the effectiveness of DRS unknown, the race could actually be exciting (a first for Bahrain).
Picking a winner is nigh on impossible. I’ve decided to back Raikkonen for a top 6 finish at 2.75 with Ladbrokes (no hedging). The reasoning is thus: he’s got the opportunity for starting on fresh tyres, as he’s 11th, and he’s got more fresh sets than anyone else. In a race with 3 pit stops likely and 4 possible that should prove an advantage. Plus, he’s got a quick car and is a pretty good driver.
I’m sure the race will be topsy-turvy and exciting, but let’s hope it’s profitable as well.