Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Bahrain International Circuit, 2015

Mercedes and Ferrari to resume battle in Bahrain

2015 Bahrain Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Bahrain International Circuit, 2015Lewis Hamilton won a spirited battle with team mate Nico Rosberg in last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix. But his sternest opposition looks likely to come from a different quarter this year.

The growing threat from Ferrari since the start of the season has prompted questions whether Mercedes might have to vary their strategies in order to maximise their chances of getting at least one car home ahead. But ironically it was a strategic move by Nico Rosberg in qualifying which opened the door for Ferrari.

Preoccupied with ensuring he had the freshest possible tyres for the race, Rosberg paid a price for not pushing his car to the limit earlier in qualifying when he found he couldn’t get the best out of it when it mattered most in Q3. The result is the front two rows each contain one Mercedes and one Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel lines up second on the grid, from where Hamilton launched his attack on Rosberg which turned last year’s race into a humdinger. But Friday’s running indicated Ferrari may have the pace to pressure their rivals in the race even if they don’t improve their position on the run to turn one.

As usual all of the drivers who reached Q3 will start the race on the softer of the two available tyre compounds. Mercedes, Ferrari Williams and Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jnr each has one unused set of these soft tyres available.

Although Bahrain’s long straights exposes the weakness of Renault’s power unit, Daniel Ricciardo has planted his Red Bull an impressive seventh on the grid. Inevitably straight-line speed will be his greatest weakness in the race.

Ricciardo’s mystified team mate Daniil Kvyat is struggling to understand how he failed to progress beyond Q1, having spun into a gravel trap during the morning sessions. “I’m not sure what was going on,” he said, “it was a strange session for me”.

Ricciardo shares row four of the grid with Nico Hulkenberg who did a great job to qualify the under-developed Force India VJM08 in eighth place. That will give him a shot at the points, but he expects to come under pressure in the race. “It won’t be easy,” he said, “because there are a lot of quick cars behind us and they will put pressure on us.”

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’33.9281’32.669 (-1.259)1’32.571 (-0.098)
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’34.9191’33.623 (-1.296)1’32.982 (-0.641)
3Nico RosbergMercedes1’34.3981’33.878 (-0.520)1’33.129 (-0.749)
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’34.5681’33.540 (-1.028)1’33.227 (-0.313)
5Valtteri BottasWilliams1’34.1611’33.897 (-0.264)1’33.381 (-0.516)
6Felipe MassaWilliams1’34.4881’33.551 (-0.937)1’33.744 (+0.193)
7Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’34.6911’34.403 (-0.288)1’33.832 (-0.571)
8Nico HulkenbergForce India1’35.6531’34.613 (-1.040)1’34.450 (-0.163)
9Carlos Sainz JnrToro Rosso1’35.3711’34.641 (-0.730)1’34.462 (-0.179)
10Romain GrosjeanLotus1’35.0071’34.123 (-0.884)1’34.484 (+0.361)
11Sergio PerezForce India1’35.4511’34.704 (-0.747)
12Felipe NasrSauber1’35.3101’34.737 (-0.573)
13Marcus EricssonSauber1’35.4381’35.034 (-0.404)
14Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’35.2051’35.039 (-0.166)
15Max VerstappenToro Rosso1’35.6111’35.103 (-0.508)
16Pastor MaldonadoLotus1’35.677
17Daniil KvyatRed Bull1’35.800
18Will StevensManor1’38.713
19Roberto MerhiManor1’39.722
20Jenson ButtonMcLaren

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton29.464 (1)39.904 (1)23.177 (1)
Sebastian Vettel29.525 (2)40.182 (3)23.275 (4)
Nico Rosberg29.721 (4)40.041 (2)23.343 (6)
Kimi Raikkonen29.586 (3)40.261 (4)23.273 (3)
Valtteri Bottas29.751 (6)40.381 (5)23.249 (2)
Felipe Massa29.725 (5)40.414 (7)23.310 (5)
Daniel Ricciardo29.871 (7)40.409 (6)23.385 (7)
Nico Hulkenberg30.026 (10)40.816 (10)23.522 (9)
Carlos Sainz Jnr30.057 (12)40.764 (9)23.641 (11)
Romain Grosjean29.924 (8)40.692 (8)23.441 (8)
Sergio Perez30.000 (9)40.997 (11)23.707 (12)
Felipe Nasr30.072 (13)41.137 (14)23.528 (10)
Marcus Ericsson30.049 (11)41.275 (15)23.710 (13)
Fernando Alonso30.162 (14)41.051 (12)23.817 (14)
Max Verstappen30.166 (15)41.077 (13)23.850 (15)
Pastor Maldonado30.305 (16)41.323 (17)24.049 (17)
Daniil Kvyat30.631 (17)41.300 (16)23.869 (16)
Will Stevens31.053 (18)42.985 (18)24.601 (19)
Roberto Merhi31.555 (19)43.554 (19)24.592 (18)
Jenson Button

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes335.8 (208.7)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes333.7 (207.4)-2.1
3Nico RosbergMercedesMercedes333.6 (207.3)-2.2
4Valtteri BottasWilliamsMercedes332.7 (206.7)-3.1
5Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes330.1 (205.1)-5.7
6Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari330.0 (205.1)-5.8
7Romain GrosjeanLotusMercedes330.0 (205.1)-5.8
8Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari328.9 (204.4)-6.9
9Felipe NasrSauberFerrari328.6 (204.2)-7.2
10Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari327.3 (203.4)-8.5
11Nico HulkenbergForce IndiaMercedes326.8 (203.1)-9.0
12Pastor MaldonadoLotusMercedes323.6 (201.1)-12.2
13Carlos Sainz JnrToro RossoRenault322.0 (200.1)-13.8
14Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda320.9 (199.4)-14.9
15Max VerstappenToro RossoRenault320.3 (199.0)-15.5
16Daniel RicciardoRed BullRenault319.3 (198.4)-16.5
17Will StevensManorFerrari317.8 (197.5)-18.0
18Roberto MerhiManorFerrari312.5 (194.2)-23.3
19Daniil KvyatRed BullRenault311.5 (193.6)-24.3
20Jenson ButtonMcLarenHonda179.4 (111.5)-156.4

Over to you

Can Ferrari put one over Mercedes again? Or will this be another all-Mercedes affair?

Share your views on the Bahrain Grand Prix in the comments.

2015 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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14 comments on “Mercedes and Ferrari to resume battle in Bahrain”

  1. Mercedes again. Ferrari’s supposed soft tire pace demonstration was on an 8 lap stint, IIRC. If Hamilton can keep Vettel at arms length in the first stanza, Vettel is not going to be able to undercut him him or chase him down on the harder tire. I predict Rosberg will lose out to Raikkonen simply because Rosberg, by his own admission, takes a minute to get up to speed and by then the Ferraris will have consolidated themselves ahead of him. I think Arrivabene must now be thinking about a constructor’s title for Ferrari, even if they cannot solve Hamilton. 25+12=37. 18+15=33. So basically one or two DNFs by Hamilton could be the match.

    1. I think NR will get a good start and retain third in the initial laps, and if I were him, and as long as it doesn’t ruin his tires completely, I would just go after SV full on. He’s got nothing to lose and LH will only run away from him if he doesn’t. So I hope he can have more confidence in his tires than the last race, and just go for it and risk using them up. Better to extract everything from them than play it conservative and leave some tread on the tire. Unfortunately it feels like pushing will be counter to the best chance at as high a finish as possible, but he’s got to turn up the wick at the same time.

  2. Interesting to note that Ricciardo could have nabbed sixth from Massa if he had got the optimal lap together – his Q3 lap was around a tenth slower than his theoretical best (fastest sectors put together) due to a slide under braking for turn 6. Massa made a mistake at the final corner of course, but still there are some flashes of potential (relatively speaking) for the RB package. RB will be bringing a big aero upgrade as soon as they can get the new nose through the crash tests (I believe they have passed them already and should be bringing the upgrade for Barcelona, but don’t quote me on that). From what I’ve heard the new nose will be accompanied by a new front wing and new rear packaging which is anticipated to bring a big step up in performance – if so then Red Bull may start to give Williams a bigger fight when that upgrade comes through.

    There may be more to come from Renault as well – apparently Renault’s PU is producing 40hp less when it is on the car than when it is on the dyno, which explains why they were confident about halving the gap to Mercedes before their disaster in Melbourne. If they can find away to translate the potential on the dyno to the car then Red Bull could be moving up the order. Let’s not forget that Renault have used the fewer PU tokens than Mercedes or Ferrari either. The works Mercedes and Ferrari seem out of reach for Red Bull, but it would be interesting to see them fight with Williams who are currently in no-mans land, seemingly locking out 5th and 6th in every clean quali/race.

    1. I have to correct you on the tokens: RedBull have used 5 ICE elements vs 2 of the Mercedes. They have used 3 TC vs 2 of the Merc. They have used 3 MGU-H and the K vs 2 of the Merc. Same ES and one more of the CE (4vs3). I don’t know where you get your data from? Ferrari has used exactly the same numbers of elements of the Merc except one less CE (Control Electronic)

      1. @nuvolari71 something is not adding up here. I think you are talking about usage stats of the PU. @polo is talking about the token system that the manufacturers can use to modify their PUs.

        You are talking about usage while he is mentioning about the development part of it. Also Ferrari have used a new ICE for both Kimi and Vettel here.

      2. @nuvolari71 I am talking about the PU development tokens. Manufacturers have 32 tokens (with each token representing parts of the PU) which they are allowed to use to develop their PU this season (this is a result of the limit on engine development in order to reduce costs). Coming into Melbourne, I believe Mercedes had used 25, Ferrari 22, and Renault had only used 20. So basically Renault have the biggest scope for development. Honda got the average of the other manufacturer’s unused tokens rounded down, as this is their first year.
        Mercedes: 7 unused tokens
        Ferrari: 10 unused tokens
        Renault 12 unused tokens
        Honda: (7+10+12)/3 = 9.67 = 9 tokens to spend (as it is rounded down)

  3. I’m thinking a Vettel Hamilton collision at the first corner, a Kimi victory, and Rosberg in second place to get his championship bid back on track. Just when you think F1 is too predictable, this kind of thing usually happens.

    1. Much more likely @john-h that Seb and Lewis will give us a masterclass in how to be aggressive and smart at the same time, with incredible judgment and precision. When was the last time either of them had a collision with another top driver at T1?

      I’d love Kimi to have a win, but I don’t see it. Rosberg isn’t going to have a shot at the championship, realistically; he needs to make that adjustment and keep some dignity like JB.

      1. I sure hope that aggression and smart can still be used in the same sentence. Last race, aggression meant shot tires ie. not smart. Just handcuffed to race unless in clean air. I hope not to see a repeat of the last race, or before you know it F1 will have to change the DRS reg so that a driver can use it if within 2 seconds, not 1, of the guy ahead.

      2. Curiously, Vettel use to, dangerously, squeeze his opponents in all starts.

        Can’t see he doing that against Lewis who’s in front, but Nico should be prepared for this kind of aggressiveness from Vettel.

    2. How about this, Rosberg run into both Vettel & Lewis, & Kimi wins! :D – It’s more like Vettel is being squeezed b/w Rosberg & Hamilton

  4. I think the biggest chance for Vettel/Ferrari to win depends heavily on 1st turn. If Vettel can get past Hamilton, he can do his best thing – controlling the race from the front. If not, I doubt they can pass him on the track, and Mercedes can easily cover undercut attempt like they did in China. Also, if Hamilton is in front, he get clear air and Vettel get dirty one which reduced Ferrari tyre advantage and vice versa.

    Rosberg prospect is kinda dull. Malaysia and China shows Ferrari can keep hanging behind Mercedes which means he must pass them on track which I think he’s one of the worst driver on battling on the track.

    Mercedes strategy is simple, be ahead of Ferrari in turn 1, preserve the tyre, and focus on cover whatever Ferrari try to do. Ferrari don’t have the pace to pass Mercedes on straights so unless the tyre worn difference is massive, it wont happen.

    If I’m Ferrari, I’m gonna throw the bluff to make Mercedes think I going push Vettel for the win, but focus instead on getting 2-3. Rosberg looks much easier prey than Hamilton after all.

    1. Yup. 2-3 or 1-3 (ie. both on podium) is possible and realistic for Ferrari, it all depends on how they start and fist stint

  5. I hope Raikkonen wins!! :P

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