Qualifying for the fifth Bahrain Grand Prix began in familiar conditions on the desert based circuit, with track temperatures of 45 degrees, an air temperature of 29 degrees, with a noticeable breeze thrown in for good measure.
Following the penalties handed down to the McLaren drivers for slowing on their slow down lap during Q3 of Qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix, there is a new rule for this session. Drivers will have to complete laps no slower than a previously agreed time of 1:39.000 which excludes the use of the pit lane and pit straight.
Piquet was the first driver to take to the track in his Renault, setting a lap time of 1:34.945. Rosberg quickly usurps the rookie, with a time of 1:33.913.
As Trulli completed a lap of 1:33.844, Hamilton appeared to have blue smoke behind his car through some corners possibly overfill. Lewis completed the lap to set a fastest time of 1:32.758. Hamilton completes a second lap and improves his time by eight thousandths of a second.
With seven minutes remaining, Massa sets a first sector time three tenths faster than the fastest McLaren. However, Sato in the Super Aguri spins at the final corner and damages his suspension. Massa completes the fastest lap of 1:31.937 despite waved yellows. Raikkonen sets a time seven tenths slower than his team-mate to go second.
With 4.49 remaining, the session is red flagged to recover Sato s Super Aguri from a dangerous position. Vettel, Coulthard, Sutil, Davidson, Sato and Fisichella are currently in the drop zone, with Fisichella yet to set a time. The session restarts at 14:20 local time.
With 3:13 remaining, Vettel leaves the pits. All cars except the McLarens, Ferraris and BMWs take to the track.
Coulthard, Fisichella, Vettel, Sutil, Davidson and Sato fail to make the cut. However, the session throws up further surprises, with Trulli finishing second, Button fifth and Glock sixth.
With twelve minutes of the session remaining, the Renaults of Piquet and Alonso take to the track. Trulli quickly sets the most competitive time of 1:32.159. Hamilton sets a time of 1:32.922, with Raikkonen setting at time slightly slower of 1:31.933. Massa sets a time of 1:31.188 to go fastest. Meanwhile Kovalainen and Kubica go second and third, half a second behind the Ferrari.
With four minutes remaining, Alonso, Webber, Button, Piquet, Bourdais and Nakajima are in the drop zone. With 2:30 cars pour onto the circuit.
Glock improves to ninth, before Webber moves to ninth only for Alonso to go ninth too! Heidfeld improves to fourth. Button improves to tenth. Drivers who fail to progress to Q3 include Webber, Barrichello, Glock, Piquet, Bourdais and Nakajima.
The Williams of Rosberg is the first to take to the track, with just 7:30 remaining he starts his first flying lap. His time is a 1:34.776, with Button going second on a 1:35.57. Heidfeld then goes quickest on a 1:34.662 with Trulli third on 1:34.794.
Hamilton goes fastest on a time of 1:33.651. Kubica then goes fastest on a 1:33.350 but seconds later Massa beats this will a 1:33.339. Raikkonen meanwhile is fifth on a 1:33.760.
Ahead of the final qualifying stint, the line up is Massa first, Kubica, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Trulli, Button and Alonso. Teams send the cars straight back out after race style pit stops.
Hamilton takes provisional pole with a 1:33.292, but Kubica goes fastest with 1:33.096 to secure his first pole position in Formula One. Raikkonen improves to fourth, but Massa, who made a mistake in Sector Two, could only manage second on a 1:33.123.
Final positions after Q3: