Rosberg knows rivals are stronger despite pole

2013 Bahrain Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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For the second race in a row a Mercedes starts from pole position. But Nico Rosberg knows it will be a tall order to do what Lewis Hamilton failed to in China and convert it into victory.

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso and first among those poised to attack Rosberg once the race begins.

The start

The indication so far this weekend has been that the Mercedes is not as competitive over a race stint than its rivals. It puts more stress on its rear tyres, which are the limiting factor at Bahrain. So it will be a surprise if Rosberg can maintain his advantage beyond the first round of pit stops.

“It will be difficult, especially with the rear tyres, and we know that other teams were stronger than us on the long runs on Friday,” Rosberg admitted. “It will be a big challenge to stay ahead but starting from the front helps.”

He’s also got the fast-starting Fernando Alonso directly behind him on the clean side of the track. Look out for fireworks between him and second-placed Sebastian Vettel at the start.


Vettel made a point of not using the hard tyres during qualifying to ensure he has a full complement of fresh rubber for the race. This will give him the confidence to be aggressive with the timing of his pit stops and make early stops to try to undercut his rivals.

But Alonso has demonstrated threatening pace all weekend and Vettel may struggle to contain him.

Felipe Massa has gone down the alternative strategy route and will start the race on the hard tyres. Normally a key disadvantage to this approach is a compromised starting position. But Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton’s penalties have promoted him to fourth alongside his team mate.

Lotus have been expected to have good race pace here, as they did last year, and it seems to be borne out in practice. But neither driver can be satisfied with their qualifying results.

Kimi Raikkonen failed to improve on his Q2 time in Q3 and was punished by the tight margins between the drivers at Bahrain. Had he replicated his Q2 time he’d have qualified sixth instead of ninth – he starts eighth due to Hamilton’s penalty.

The other Lotus of Romain Grosjean lines up 11th after making a mistake in his only run during Q2. Raikkonen started from that position last year and finished second thanks in part to the extra unused tyres he had left.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’33.3641’32.867 (-0.497)1’32.330 (-0.537)
2Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’33.3271’32.746 (-0.581)1’32.584 (-0.162)
3Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’32.8781’33.316 (+0.438)1’32.667 (-0.649)
4Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’33.4981’33.346 (-0.152)1’32.762 (-0.584)
5Mark WebberRed Bull1’33.9661’33.098 (-0.868)1’33.078 (-0.020)
6Felipe MassaFerrari1’33.7801’33.358 (-0.422)1’33.207 (-0.151)
7Paul di RestaForce India1’33.7621’33.335 (-0.427)1’33.235 (-0.100)
8Adrian SutilForce India1’34.0481’33.378 (-0.670)1’33.246 (-0.132)
9Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’33.8271’33.146 (-0.681)1’33.327 (+0.181)
10Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’34.0711’33.702 (-0.369)
11Romain GrosjeanLotus1’33.4981’33.762 (+0.264)
12Sergio PerezMcLaren1’34.3101’33.914 (-0.396)
13Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’34.1201’33.974 (-0.146)
14Nico HulkenbergSauber1’34.4091’33.976 (-0.433)
15Valtteri BottasWilliams1’34.4251’34.105 (-0.320)
16Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’34.3141’34.284 (-0.030)
17Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’34.425
18Esteban GutierrezSauber1’34.730
19Charles PicCaterham1’35.283
20Jules BianchiMarussia1’36.178
21Giedo van der GardeCaterham1’36.304
22Max ChiltonMarussia1’36.476

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Nico Rosberg29.416 (1)39.847 (1)22.987 (1)
Sebastian Vettel29.519 (3)40.004 (2)23.016 (2)
Fernando Alonso29.543 (4)40.058 (3)23.062 (4)
Lewis Hamilton29.562 (5)40.151 (4)23.049 (3)
Mark Webber29.669 (9)40.173 (6)23.133 (5)
Felipe Massa29.827 (11)40.153 (5)23.227 (8)
Paul di Resta29.474 (2)40.366 (9)23.306 (10)
Adrian Sutil29.666 (8)40.317 (8)23.217 (7)
Kimi Raikkonen29.629 (6)40.205 (7)23.149 (6)
Jenson Button29.807 (10)40.453 (10)23.421 (15)
Romain Grosjean29.659 (7)40.520 (11)23.319 (11)
Sergio Perez29.895 (14)40.676 (13)23.343 (13)
Daniel Ricciardo29.871 (13)40.792 (16)23.251 (9)
Nico Hulkenberg29.859 (12)40.744 (15)23.373 (14)
Valtteri Bottas29.962 (15)40.605 (12)23.434 (16)
Jean-Eric Vergne30.141 (17)40.813 (17)23.329 (12)
Pastor Maldonado30.204 (18)40.741 (14)23.467 (17)
Esteban Gutierrez30.012 (16)41.064 (18)23.553 (18)
Charles Pic30.454 (19)41.156 (19)23.673 (19)
Jules Bianchi30.530 (20)41.557 (20)24.063 (22)
Giedo van der Garde30.608 (22)41.902 (22)23.794 (20)
Max Chilton30.582 (21)41.803 (21)23.994 (21)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Paul di RestaForce India314.2 (195.2)
2Adrian SutilForce India314.1 (195.2)-0.1
3Fernando AlonsoFerrari313.5 (194.8)-0.7
4Felipe MassaFerrari312.7 (194.3)-1.5
5Esteban GutierrezSauber312.2 (194.0)-2.0
6Nico RosbergMercedes312.0 (193.9)-2.2
7Lewis HamiltonMercedes311.6 (193.6)-2.6
8Nico HulkenbergSauber310.2 (192.7)-4.0
9Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso309.5 (192.3)-4.7
10Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso309.2 (192.1)-5.0
11Valtteri BottasWilliams308.9 (191.9)-5.3
12Pastor MaldonadoWilliams308.8 (191.9)-5.4
13Kimi RaikkonenLotus308.6 (191.8)-5.6
14Romain GrosjeanLotus308.4 (191.6)-5.8
15Jenson ButtonMcLaren306.7 (190.6)-7.5
16Sergio PerezMcLaren306.3 (190.3)-7.9
17Max ChiltonMarussia305.9 (190.1)-8.3
18Sebastian VettelRed Bull305.8 (190.0)-8.4
19Mark WebberRed Bull305.7 (190.0)-8.5
20Jules BianchiMarussia305.6 (189.9)-8.6
21Giedo van der GardeCaterham305.3 (189.7)-8.9
22Charles PicCaterham304.1 (189.0)-10.1

Over to you

Who will win the race to turn one? Will Massa’s alternative strategy work for him?

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

2013 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “Rosberg knows rivals are stronger despite pole”

  1. Actually, I think Massa is the Dark Horse here. If Rosberg manages to hold ground against Vettel and Alonso, Massa will be in a really good position to win given if he at least drives at 90% of Alonso’s ability.

  2. So all Räikkönen needed to do was recreate his Q2 time for 4th position on the grid if I’m not mistaken? From there he’d have been placed very well to challenge for the win, but now despite how he performed from 11th on the grid last year I think he’ll struggle to get any higher than 3rd.

    1. I think 3rd would be a good day out for Kimi. I can’t see him higher than that. Webber will be happy to score points I reckon.

      1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
        20th April 2013, 18:35

        @glennb and don’t forget the way Webber starts… he can easily get dropped to 12th before the 1st corner

        1. His starts were pretty good so far this year. As someone joked at a previous article, probably his bad starts moved to Kimi along with his former race engineer Ciaron Pilbeam.

  3. Interesting to note the Force Indias had the highest top speed yet qualified beautifully near the front. They tried to give Webber more top speed but the RB suffered in lap times. Barring anything untoward I see Alonso winning this one as long as he can clear Vettel early enough.

  4. I expect Massa to have to begin overtaking the top 3 once their tyres begin to drop off. Alonso set his fastest qualifying time (q1) on the hards, so it should only be a lap or two before Massa starts to catch them. Once they pit he will be in clean air and should be able to really make a challenge.

    Alonso will want to get ahead of at least Vettel so that he’s not attacked by Massa early on. Considering Vettel is a fast starter, I expect him to stay ahead of Alonso. Rosberg is a bit of an unknown when it comes to starts.

    1. I can see Rosberg on third by turn one, then again though he started pretty well from his last pole so you never know – he didn’t have quite as strong starters immediately behind him though!

      1. @joshua-mesh
        What makes you think that Vettel is a fast starter? I’m not going to nitpick on whether it is down to the driver or the car, but I can’t remember too many great starts from him. Usually, when he’s not on pole, he either keeps his position, or very often falls back by the first corner.

        1. @kingshark – well for one I’m not proclaiming that he will fall behind, I’m just saying it’s possible because both Alonso and Vettel are good starters.

          Name the last occasion Vettel lost the lead from pole? That should answer your own criticism.

        2. I’ve watched him start from pole and lead going into the first corner way too many times to believe he’s anything less than good.

      2. @vettel1

        1. There is no statistical evidence whatsoever that Rosberg will make a poor start from pole.


        2. Alonso might be second by turn one.

        3. It’s only after 3 or 4 laps, that you’d think Rosberg would come under pressure from ALO/VET.

        4. Raikkonen meanwhile could be as high as 6 by turn one, as he starts from P8 just behind Webber. The less said about Webber’s starts the better.

        4. Conditioning on the fact that Kimi actually does make it to P6 by turn one, only the dirty air from FI’s can spoil a strong P2/P3.

        5. Meanwhile FI’s could realistically threaten a top 5 finish, thus spoiling a lot people’s prediction, including mine :/ – Of course a lot depends on their pace on the hard tyres.

        6. Massa could do well with the opposite strategy, but I don’t think he’ll be higher than P5.

        1. @sankalp88 there never is, what’s your point?!

          All I’m suggesting is that he has strong starters behind him and hasn’t had that level of pressure from behind him in a while.

          1. @vettel1

            Of the one pole position he has had, he held on to it pretty well. That’s why I said there is lack of data to suggest, he’ll make a poor start. I have nothing against your speculation, I feel that Rosberg should be fine.

          2. @sankalp88

            “then again though he started pretty well from his last pole so you never know”

            I have covered that basis ;)

            I do think though that with the strong starters behind him he’ll have a hard time defending against both into turn one and I just have a sneaking suspicion he’ll lose out to both. As you’ve highlighted, it’s merely a speculation!

          3. The Merc seems to be very good at getting heat into its tyres very quickly, which is essential to having a quick start. I dont think Ros will struggle at the start unless he makes a human error.

    2. Sviatoslav Andrushko (@)
      20th April 2013, 20:27

      I think you are wrong about Massa. I see him fade out in race, as always, and he will be on 6-7 position in the end at best.

  5. I can’t wait to see how Massa’s contra-strategy is going to play out. If degradation of the mediums ends up being worse than expected then a long first stint could play into his hands. Also can’t wait to see what the Force India cars do.

    Another point to look at is the newfound pace of Pic’s upgraded Caterham. The gap between him and the midfield was only about 6 tenths today. Maybe that’s a sign that slowly but surely the bottom two teams are finally catching up. How Pic converts his good qualifying speed into race pace will tell a lot.

  6. I think, after the first corner, Vet 1st, Alo 2nd, Ros 3rd. After 5 laps, Alo 1st, Vet 2nd, Mas 3rd. After 15 laps Mas 1st, Alo 2nd, Vet 3rd. End race Alo 1st, Mas 2nd, Vet 3rd.

    1. I’m pretty much with you up until lap 15 (depending on pit-stops): I don’t think Massa will be able to jump Vettel as I think Red Bull are close enough on pace that he’ll be able to hold him off, but we shall see!

      1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
        20th April 2013, 17:59

        @valentino : Same here as @vettel1, though Ferrari and neck and neck with Red Bull, Vettel is obviously a better driver so can do the job of keeping Massa behind. And yes, I am back!

        1. Shreyas Mohanty (@)
          20th April 2013, 18:02

          *Ferrari are neck and neck

      2. Mas 1st on lap 15 because he will not pit, and keep in mind that Alo will start on used tires, he used them in P2 and P3.

        1. @valentino – hence “depending on pit stops”! Now that you’ve mentioned the used tyres though, Vettel may very well be able to stay ahead in the first stint and he has three new sets of hards…

        2. The tyres Alonso will start on were not used in Q2.

          He used 1 set of Primes in Q1, 1 x Options in Q2, 2 x Options Q3.

          All were brand new.

    2. I think Rosberg can more or less comfortably keep the lead for the first few laps so long as he keeps his head, which he usually can, but when the stops begin he won’t be able to contain those faster cars. However Massa could be the shock starter up front.

      Anyone know what the off-line start disadvantage is?

      1. It may be quite pronounced actually because it’s off the racing line and of course the track sees little running otherwise. They will have had GP2 cars doing two starts on that side of the grid though on Pirelli’s and their own practice start, so it may not be too bad. The run to turn 1 isn’t all that long either I don’t think.

  7. Kimi & the force india duos could be serious dark horses…. if the can get tires to last longer than competition.

  8. This is vettel’s race to loose. With lotus as no.1 vettel should be able to manage his speed and have much better overall race pace than rosberg. Hopefully there are no incidents in the first few laps and we can get an indication as to who has the superior car.
    I do hope it’s vettel so that he can put the ever annoying alonso in his place.
    Alonso’s continued snide attacks and always pretending that the only reason he is not 6 time champ is coz he is in an inferior car is frankly annoying. The ferrari has shown its pace and its quite a competitive car, so to hear him week in talk about being in an inferior car just makes him look like he is seeking sympathy for not performing.
    I may not be impartial coz I do support RBR and vettel, but if vettel were to loose his wdc title, I’d rather it be to some1 else than alonso who never acknowledges his teams contribution and effort.
    Strange thing is that I actually supported him after his treatment at mclaren, but his continued whining makes me wonder if he was just bitter at loosing to a more superior and younger driver in HAM.

    1. I’d rather it be to some1 else than alonso who never acknowledges his teams contribution and effort. @ nairobiF1
      i just can see what are you talking about. every time alonso did a good race he said;” it’s all thanks to the team which is best in the world.”

      i just don’t understand do you people put word in alonsos mouth because you hate him or you just aren’t capable of understanding the truth

      1. I’m sure Alonso acknowledges his teams contribution and effort when he meets with them. I doubt he needs to tell it to a camera, especially since he spends almost every waking hour with them at the factory during the week. His team absolutely adore him, so I think it is safe to say there’s no relationship issues or spite. I’ve also seen alonso give Ferrari many compliments, so its not as if he has never given them the thumbs up. He often says they have perfect weekends thanks to the team.

        Maybe he needs to try hard to please the general public, but Alonso is a lot like Kimi in the way that he simply doesnt care very much about how the public perceive him.

    2. You have got to be kidding right?

      Alonso post-race last week: “The team did a perfect job with the set-up of the car for quali and the race, perfect pit stop times and pit stops executed”. How is that not acknowledging his team’s contribution and efforts?

      Post-quali today: “the car was very competitive in qualifying and this puts us in a strong position to start tomorrow’s race”. That doesn’t sound like a complain over an inferior car.

    3. For your statement “This is vettel’s race to loose” to be true, it implies Vettel has a significant race-pace advantage over the field.

      There aren’t too many people who will agree that he has that speed to waltz into the distance.

      He’s on the dirty side of the grid with the 2 fastest starting cars immediately behind him. He is also at a severe straight line speed disadvantage to Mercedes, Ferrari & Force India cars and driving a car that isn’t the gentlest on its tyres.

      If, after lap 1 the running order is Vettel, Rosberg, Massa, Alonso, I may then begin to agree that it is Vettel’s to lose.

  9. 18 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 305.8 (190.0) -8.4 19 Mark Webber Red Bull 305.7 (190.0) -8.5

    They’ve been very vocal about high downforce penalizing the use of rubber and all. And not only that, it leaves them vulnerable during the race because even with DRS, it’s more difficult to overtake the others.

    So why don’t Red Bull switch to 2012 Abu Dhabi-like setup? wouldn’t that sort of approach, considering the races we’re having these days, be more effective when it matters?

    1. I’ve saying that for a while now. Though in fairness, none of the Renault engined cars were fast through the speed traps on this circuit. KR was only 13th fastest in the Lotus, and they’re not running a lot of downforce. The low top end seems to be an engine issue.

      1. But that surely is a matter of set-up, because yesterday the Lotuses were the fastest cars in the speed traps.

        Regarding the Bulls, I guess it has to do with the concept around which they build their cars, which is favouring cornering speed over top speed. The Abu-Dhabi like set-up was merely a one off because they had their race strategy ruined due to the lack of fuel in Vettel’s car. So it’s natural that there is some inertia to use that kind of set-up on a regular basis.

    2. If high downforce hurt the tyres they would all be using medium downforce settings. I rate they were talking complete nonsense to try influence the tyre selection.

      1. @joshua-mesh – I don’t think so: Red Bull have always had the philosophy of ultimate lap-time over adaptability which means high downforce (that traditionally helps to preserve your tyres). They are in the position now though where the tyre wear is being affected by the downforce supposedly, which would mean a complete change of philosophy.

        Personally, I think the fact downforce may actually be hurting the tyres is wrong.

        1. I know it is wrong. It makes no sense that downforce could hurt the tyres. Downforce prevents slip, and slip is what causes heat buildup and wear in the tyres.

          It is almost all about the suspension. RBR might not have picked the best geometry and so they are a bit behind in finding that sweet spot. The same thing happened this time last year and after the half way point they had found the sweet spot and were then unstoppable.

          1. @joshua-mesh it’s possible, as wasn’t the downforce message from Helmut Marko? :P

          2. @joshua-mesh higher downforce cars are usually faster in corners which is where the tire builds up most heat. additionally the deformation forces on straights are higher which builds up the heat over the shoulders. All things which put additional strain on 2013 spec tires. So this theory isn’t completely off.

          3. @tmf42

            All the drivers slow down during the race stints to save the tyres. A car with more downforce can be driven around a corner at the same speed as the car with the worst downforce, as it is all controlled. The drivers know where the best places are to conserve tyres. Having a car with more grip simply makes it easier to control the pace, because you are further from the limit.

            So sure, going faster would use up more rubber, but that is obvious and applies to all cars. It is pointless to factor it in though, as all drivers are in control of how slow they want to go around a corner at any given time.

          4. additionally the deformation forces on straights are higher which builds up the heat over the shoulders

            On the straights, even with high downforce, they outside shoulders would not accumulate a lot of head as they are not under stress. And the outside shoulders are the ones under stress during corner.

            The problem of having cars with “too much” downforce is that they start going around the corners too fast. (Like when wings were introduced in F1), and that extreme lateral force is what is hurting RB’s tyres.

          5. @joshua-mesh – you’re correct but you’re also oversimplifying it a bit. A car is designed based on a certain philosophy if it produces more downforce then it’s usually slower on straights, so it has to gain the time in corners. which would not be a problem from grip perspective but now they have to factor in temperature build up as well.
            Due to the complexity of the whole package (airflow, torsion, suspension, engine maps, coanda etc.) teams with this concept can’t just adjust their wings and be faster on straights over night.

            So coming back to the original point – I don’t think that the downforce causes additional degradation is made up by RBR. However one could argue that it’s their design flaw – but that’s a different topic.

        2. @tmf42

          On the straights, even with high downforce, they outside shoulders would not accumulate a lot of head as they are not under stress. And the outside shoulders are the ones under stress during corner.

          The problem of having cars with “too much” downforce is that they start going around the corners too fast. (Like when wings were introduced in F1), and that extreme lateral force is what is hurting RB’s tyres.

          1. @brunes thx Bruno – that’s what I actually meant with my post. Most heat comes from corner speeds which is higher with low downforce packages.

            Now I’ve no data to back this up but F1 run in general very low tire pressures and I’d be surprised if the additional drag translated in downforce is insignificant. But that’s just a guess.

          2. what I meant insignificant on straights

    3. @fer-no65 The RB series is a purist car, which means it needs clean air in front to really show its performance… For that to achieve they always need to be in front, which can be achieved by getting pole or starting at the front… In qualifying the cornering speed is crucial to getting a good lap time as you do not have to overtake… Hence I feel, they choose the low straight line and high cornering speed setup…

  10. Lewis aborted his final lap in Q3? or his second lap was slower than his first lap due to mistakes?

    I hope both Mercedes cars finish strongly. They have surely exceeded expectations and have been the most improved team of 2013.

    1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      21st April 2013, 6:12

      I think that Force India is the most improved team of 2013.

      Merc is a close second though XD

  11. Man, I really want to see those Force India with monster starts and see them mixing with top 5 before lap 2.

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