After three races of Saturday struggles, Red Bull Racing found their way back to the front of the grid today, as Sebastian Vettel claimed his first pole of the 2012 season.
The team struggled in qualifying in the opening three races of the season but the car comparison test carried out by the team at the last race in China paid dividends in Bahrain today as Vettel powered to his second Sakhir Circuit pole position, eclipsing McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton by a tenth of a second.
“It obviously feels great [to be back on pole] and I think this one I completely owe to the team, to the guys,” Vettel said. “It wasn’t the easiest start to the season for us. Surely, a lot of expectations, but I think more than anything it’s what we expect from ourselves, and we didn’t match our expectations and we’ve been extremely busy working on the car, trimming here and there, finding the perfect solution and the right way to go, the way forward.
“The car felt much better all weekend. I was quite happy,” he added. “I didn’t have the smoothest qualifying, though. I was nearly out in Q1 and nearly out in Q2 but then I knew that when I get the lap in – I nail it – then we should be in a better place. It’s great, obviously, to see that we’ve just beaten Lewis for pole.”
Vettel’s team-mate, Mark Webber, also claimed his best grid position of the year with third.
“We’re satisfied with being towards the front,” he said. “There have been some big gaps to the opposition, on Saturday in particular. I think we’re pretty surprised to be as competitive as we are on a track that is demanding of some [things that are not] our strengths. But we’re at the front and we can definitely race from there.”
Webber will line up ahead of the second McLaren of Jenson Button and fifth-placed Nico Rosberg. And in a complete change of fortunes from Shanghai sixth place on the grid will be occupied by Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo.
"It feels very good and I am very happy with that result," said Ricciardo, who admitted that he “got better and better in each session”.
"We had a below average week in China with some updates we brought,” he said. “We persisted with them and we made them work significantly better here. I was happy with my driving and I got better and better in each of the sessions. It's not always you have a day like this, so I can enjoy the moment, bearing in mind that it's tomorrow that counts.”
"It helps to go into a race feeling confidence and starting from sixth, I have to focus on scoring as many points as possible, as this is the best chance we have had so far,” he said. “I hope I am still smiling tomorrow evening.”
Rosberg, meanwhile, had shown good pace all weekend and finished on top in FP3 – normally a good indicator of qualifying pace. However, in the final top-10 shootout, the Chinese Grand Prix winner could do no better than fifth.
Afterwards, however, he revealed that he has been concentrating on setting the car up for race pace rather than qualifying performance.
"I felt very comfortable during qualifying today. However, as we have been focusing on our race pace, there is always a compromise in the qualifying set-up,” he said. “I think that I'm in a good position for the race for tomorrow. 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.’
His team-mate, Michael Schumacher, is far from the good position Rosberg will occupy at the start. The seven-time champion went out in Q1, when his DRS system failed on his final lap.
"I am very disappointed to have qualified in 18th position on the grid for a race which looks to be quite competitive for us,” he said. “We tried to fix [the DRS] in the garage but were not able to go out again."