Bahrain GP: Shaping up to be another dramatic weekend.

Qualifying: The controversial format proves unpopular once more while the young guns prove their worth.

With Mercedes and Ferrari locking out the front two rows, the attempt to shake up the grid with the new format failed to deliver once more. While Lewis’s blistering lap broke all records, it came at the end of another dull uninspiring session.

Indeed, Q2 was settled early on, and as the countdown continued another empty track prompted Claire Williams sent her boys back out.

Further down the grid, some drivers found themselves caught out. Sauber can’t be happy to have Nasr bringing up the rear and Perez in 18th will be a blow to Force India especially given that Hulkenburg took the last slot in the new 8 place Q3. And Red Bull will be rueing losing Danii Kvyat to Q2 with Ricciardo usurping the Williams team to take 5th on the grid.

No one seems happy with the new format, Team Principles thought they had voted to revert back to 2015’s format, only to be told, no, it stays. The GPDA’s open letter regarding the governance of F1 and the decisions regarding qualifying left no one in any doubt how the drivers felt. This was met with ridicule by Bernie Ecclestone,

Sadly in mocking the drivers, he also mocks the fans, as it’s the drivers they pitch up/tune in to see. Something has to be done, for the good of the sport, but with 2 of the most important elements of the sport being ignored and mocked it doesn’t look like a sensible conclusion will be reached soon.

Young Guns (Go for it)

As the Torro Rosso boys showed us last year, the sport is in good hands. Verstappen and Sainz came in and showed no fear. Their performances outshone their big sister Red Bull many a time. They may be disappointed with 10 and 11 on the grid, but they’re racy enough to improve from there.

They set us up well for the inclusion this season of a host of new F1 talent. By no means lacking in experience these drivers have brought a breath of fresh air to the grid. Pascal Wehrlein 2015 DTM champion (and from the Mercedes junior driver programme) showed true skill lining up his newly Mercedes powered MRT behind the Red Bull of Kvyat. During Practise he’d shown tenacity trying to race Hamilton. He doesn’t care who’s driving what, they’re all fair game. Jolyon Palmer may be disappointed with 20th, but given how close he came to scoring points for Renault in Australia, he’ll be looking forward to race day.

With Fernando Alonso sidelined with rib injuries following his spectacular crash in Oz, the FIA refusing permission for him to drive, Mclaren reserve drivel Stoffel Vandoorne hot footed it to Bahrain from Japan, where he was preparing to compete in Super Formula, and promptly out qualified his team mate. Jenson Buttons’ 3rd place in FP2 must have seemed a distant memory as he struggled with first understeer then oversteer, finishing 14th on the grid, a whole 2 places behind the young 2015 GP2 champion.

Talking of youngsters..

We can’t talk about the young drivers without discussing the true baby in the Paddock. It was thought at the time that Grosjeans’ exit from Enstone to sign for the brand new Haas team was risky to say the least. Surely wait to see if Renault would eventually buy out Lotus and give a firmer footing to the struggling team.

Even this early, it seems like an inspired move. Grosjean’s 6th place finish in Australia and now qualifying 9th in Bahrain with his team mate Gutierrez in 13th, splitting the Mclarens,  defies convention. New teams are supposed to sneak in at the back of the grid, struggle there for a couple of years and with a bit of luck progress to mid field eventually. Fighting with the big boys in their first race? Wonderful! The cynics will complain about the unrivalled testing they were allowed in preparation. And powered and supported by Ferrari? You have to believe, even this early on, this young team are here to stay. Clever then, signing Grosjean and Gutierrez, both experienced drivers, but young enough to be with the team through it’s fledgling years.

 

Inconsistencies prevail once more

Kevin Magnussen will start the race from the pit lane after failing to stop at a red light for a weight check during FP2. Contravening article 29.1 of the FIA sporting regulations, he pays the penalty for his error. However, Lewis Hamitons’ breach of Article 28.3 reversing in the pit lane, usually resulting in a hefty penalty, was met with a reprimand only. He keeps pole position. The rights and wrongs of the situation don’t actually matter. it’s the discrepancy between the two. Is it any wonder the governance of the sport is being called in to question?

 

Lights out for the Bahrain Grand Prix is at 4PM BST

 

 

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