F1 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying result: Hamilton’s sexy lap smashes circuit record

PUBLISHED: 12:09 03 April 2016 | UPDATED: 21:00 03 April 2016

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his record-breaking pole lap in qualifying for the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his record-breaking pole lap in qualifying for the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]


Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton bids for victory in the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix after lighting up qualifying with a record-breaking lap around the Sakhir circuit to claim pole position for today’s second race of the season.

While the much-maligned qualifying format again drew criticism for its lack of excitement, the 31-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire stole the show under the floodlights of the Bahrain International Circuit with a “sexy lap”.

Hamilton claimed his 51st career pole position with a blistering lap record of 1m 29.493s and will start today’s race as favourite for the chequered flag.

Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg completed a second Silver Arrows front row lockout from as many races in 2016 with P2.

Sebastian Vettel will start on the second row of the grid after coming third in the qualifying results for Ferrari.

Just 0.077s separated Hamilton and Rosberg in qualifying on Saturday – equivalent to a single car length around the 5.412km Bahrain track.

Hamilton also claimed pole for the first race of the season in Melbourne, but suffered a dreadful start, and he will be looking to avoid a repeat when the Bahrain GP starts.

Looking ahead to today’s race, Hamilton said: “It will be important to get a good start, like always, especially as there’s a longer run down to turn one here than in Melbourne.

“It’s something we’ve been working on – but we’ve only had a couple of weeks since the last race, so I don’t expect big improvements.

“Hopefully it’s better than last time. We’ll see.”

Hamilton’s pole time of 1m 29.493s was a new all-time record lap at the desert circuit – 0.034s clear of the previous best set by Mark Webber during Saturday practice for the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix.

It was also 3.078s quicker than the 2015 pole time.

Both Mercedes drivers completed one run in Q1 and Q2, then two runs in Q3, using SuperSoft tyres throughout.

Hamilton said: “I’m really happy with that – the last lap was so much fun!

“Throughout practice and most of qualifying my laps weren’t quite perfect and Nico would be ahead by a tenth here and a tenth there – whatever it might be.

“So, to finally put it all together when it counted was really satisfying – and quite a relief!

“There was big pressure too, as I went off on the previous lap and knew I had to make a big improvement.”

Hamilton, who was reprimanded by race stewards afterwards for reversing in the pit lane, added: “A massive thank you to everyone here at the track and also back at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth for this car.

“It’s really very special.”

Rosberg, who won the season-opening 2016 Australian Grand Prix, thought he’d done enough to snatch pole in Bahrain.

“My lap felt good and I was sure that I had got pole when I crossed the line,” said Nico.

“But then the guys told me that Lewis was just a bit quicker.

“He did an incredible lap at the end, so a good job from him.

“The good news for me is that this is one of the tracks where pole position counts for the least.”

As for the race itself, Rosberg said: “Strategy will be important and maybe even quite messy, so there are still a lot of opportunities.

“You have a few more places to overtake here than at other tracks too, so I’m quite confident.

“Tyres are going to be a big issue. We have softer tyres here than last year and it will be interesting to see how long they last and when they will start graining.

“It should be an entertaining race, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, was delighted to claim another qualifying 1-2, but acknowledges the Ferrari threat in today’s race.

“Leaving aside any comment on the qualifying format itself, the actual battle today between our two cars – and also between ourselves and Ferrari – was very close and really exciting,” said Wolff.

“It was only in the final part of Q2 and Q3 that Lewis and Nico hooked everything up – and for Lewis it came down to his final Q3 lap after he ran wide on his first run.

“What he produced was a stunning lap, the fastest ever on this circuit – quicker even than the V10 era – and more than three seconds faster than last year’s pole. Really impressive.

“Nico came very close to beating it and fell less then a tenth short in the end after his fastest lap of the session.”

As for the qualifying spectacle, he added: “My feelings about this qualifying format haven’t changed and there is nothing to add to what I’ve already said about it.”

Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe said of Hamilton’s pole time: “There’s a great sense of pride in seeing this car set an all-time lap record.

“There’s a lot of negative talk around at the moment, with suggestions that these cars aren’t fast or exciting enough.

“In fact, they’re now proving to be quicker than those of the V10 era – previously the fastest machines in Formula One history.

“All credit to the men and women on both the chassis and Power Unit side of this project for their innovative, record-breaking work.”

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