Well, maybe that’s what F1 needed. On a weekend where pretending everything was ‘normal’ has been the mandated MO, a qualifying session that could have come from any race in the last three seasons: Sebastian Vettel on pole, Felipe Massa not making Q3 and Michael Schumacher massively under-delivering… it’s just like it always was.
Unfortunately, while this particular Formula One event was going on, armoured cars were patrolling the streets outside and unconfirmed reports were coming in to suggest that a protestor was shot dead overnight.
As unverified news of the death in Shakkhoura began to circulate, on Twitter and then the BBC, it was hard to get too excited over what was actually an extremely exciting qualifying session. Maybe we’ll have to turn the Sunday Afternoon Club’s Twitter off during tomorrow’s race.
It was an odd session. Only yesterday we were quoting Michael Schumacher explaining just what it means to have so many cars running so close to the pace, that the slightest slip up can have the most catastrophic consequences. Oh blimey Michael, be careful what you say: your demise inside the first 20 mins could not have illustrated your point more perfectly.
At the start of the hour you were in contention for pole, but your team took their eyes of the ball, didn’t notice the track getting hotter and had to watch with you as Heikki Kovalainen wound up his Caterham right at the end of Q1 and dispatched the most successful F1 driver ever to the same shabby end of town as the HRTs and the Marussias. And Jean-Eric Vergne. Again. And that looked especially bad for the highly-rated Frenchman when his team mate, the gawky Daniel Ricciardo, possibly the least cool driver ever to take to the paddock, kept on through Q2 and Q3 and stuck his Toro Rosso on the outside of the third row.
Mind you, a tenth here or there from Schumacher or Vergne might have seen Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton taking the drop. It was that close in Q1. And again in Q2, where Kimi Raikkonen joined Felipe Massa in the early exit group as both took killer punches from their respective team-mates. Massa’s used to that from Alonso, but it would be a brave man who’d say Raikkonen was making his experience over Grosjean count. It’s a little like Schumacher and Nico Rosberg all over.
Rosberg himself looked pretty hacked off not to have put his one and only quick lap together properly, but then after Schumacher’s exit you might have thought the team may have been less cocky and given him two runs in Q3. He lines up fifth behind Vettel, Hamilton, Webber and Button in an oddly 2011-style grid; the grid for the Bahrain GP that never was? Or, as some people are still arguing, the grid for the Bahrain GP that maybe never should have been.