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Dry qualifying in Bahrain reveals Williams’ true colors

Apr 5, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Qualifying Getty Images

After two wet qualifying sessions in Australia and Malaysia, a dry qualifying session at the Bahrain Grand Prix finally revealed the true one-lap pecking order of the teams in 2014. However, there was never really any doubt about who the pace-setter was: Mercedes duly delivered by locking out the front row on Saturday night in Bahrain.

The one team that had lamented the wet conditions so far this season was Williams. In Australia, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa could only line up ninth and tenth on the grid, whilst in Malaysia there was even more disappointment as neither driver made it through to Q3.

However, Bottas was sensational in Australia, overtaking nineteen drivers as he fought back from a grid penalty and a puncture to eventually finish fifth, whilst the team scored its first double points haul since the 2012 United States Grand Prix in Malaysia. It was clear that the team had the pace in the dry, but wet qualifying sessions were causing more than a few headaches.

As expected, Bahrain produced a bone-dry qualifying session on Saturday as the drivers ran in the cooler night time conditions. Despite running just once in Q2, both Massa and Bottas easily made it through to the final session, where they continued their good form to secure the team its best qualifying result of the season. Massa finished eighth, and although Bottas was only three-tenths faster, it was good enough to secure the Finn fourth place.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified in third place, and because of his 10 place grid penalty, both Williams drivers will make up a position on the grid.

After a disastrous 2013 campaign, Williams has certainly turned a corner this year. Gone is the volatile Pastor Maldonado, and in has come the compliant and cheerful Felipe Massa. The new regulations have given the team a chance to start with a blank page, and the results have improved significantly as a result.

In the whole of 2013, Frank Williams’ team scored just five points. After just two races in 2014, it has 20 points. The proof is in the results.

However, it could get better still. From third place tomorrow, Bottas will be keen on fighting for his first podium finish in Formula 1, and considering Williams’ pace in the dry, he could be the man to beat in the battle to be ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes.

  1. worknman24hours - Apr 5, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    Keep the car in one piece Val, the guys coming up behind you will be driving like madmen.

    Great luck tomorrow.

    Felipe, get on up front.

  2. techmeister1 - Apr 5, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    While Massa and Bottas are doing resonably well with the Williams cars it mostly comes down to Mercedes power. It’s very clear that the Williams is lacking rear down force/grip and it cost them dearly last race. I suspect when the temps drop they could be in trouble with rear tire wear. They will need a big change in rear down force to catch up with a lot of other teams.

    • worknman24hours - Apr 6, 2014 at 12:51 AM

      And with the regs so choked up, the quick ways to find and develop a fix are not there.

      I hate how much anything the teams do with the cars is stomped on by the rules.

      Means you have only one or two teams usually for the entire season that fight with each other.

      The rest just do best as they can to finish with as many points as they can and make the F1 points money haul at the end of the season.

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