Lewis Hamilton began the day with a five place grid penalty, after having to replace his gearbox as a result of a rear suspension failure. Lewis joined a number of drivers who found themselves looking at grid place penalties, which was destined to make Bahrain qualifying extremely confusing and quite frustrating.
The weekend in Bahrain was overshadowed, once again, by controversy. Bahrain and the Bahrain Grand Prix continue to be plagued by unrest, as citizens clash with the authorities and protests are held against the hosting of the event. Its a difficult situation in The Kingdom and opinions vary across the board. Rather innapropriately the FIA and FOM seem to be of the opinion that racing cars are as important as people's freedom and so the running of the Bahrain Grand Prix is always in the balance. The race organisers regularly make the wrong decision to go ahead with the race, amid the riots and protests, instead of shelving the stage until the problems in the area have been resolved.
In the first session of qualifying it was very much a two horse race, between Ferrari and Red Bull. Force India were once again in the mix and as the season progresses, their impressive form is becoming less and less of a surprise. There were very few surprises by the end of of Q1, but one or two surprises crept in during the second session. One of those surprises came in the shape of McLaren's difficulties, which were compounded by Jenson Button's apparent elation at only just making it in to the Q3 shootout. Perez in the second McLaren car wasn't so lucky as Jenson and qualified in twelfth, outside of the top ten. Force India continued to show good pace and both drivers made it in to the top ten shootout. Dare I say that Force India might be closer to contending the title than McLaren.
Many of the drivers left it till the final moments of Q3 to put in their fast laps. A few of them bailed out of their fast laps right at the end and it was Nico Rosberg who blew everyone away, showing that Mercedes definitely have the pace to challenge the Ferraris and the Red Bulls. Force India didn't quite live up to the expectations of hopeful neutrals, only achieving seventh and eighth. Unfortunately, this is where the confusion ensues, as the plethora of grid penalties means that the lineup will actually be very different to what we saw at the end of the session. For me, the most important thing is being able to gauge the pace of the teams. Force India look strong again, Mercedes look very strong and Ferrari and Red Bull are predictably competitive.