Qualifying

Hello and welcome to ESPN's coverage of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hearing that Max Verstappen has moved onto his third Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) at this event. Penalties start after drivers have used more than four of any component, remember. The Red Bull drivers are also onto the third ICE.

FP3 wasn't completely representative due to the weather, but Ferrari once again showed it is going to be a strong challenger. If this race was held as it used to be, in the heat of the afternoon, they could well be favourites. The evening start under the floodlights actually helps Mercedes.

It's a key session for Nico Rosberg today, he needs to turn the tide on Lewis Hamilton somewhere and qualifying might be a good place to start considering his strength over the Brit last year on Saturdays.

Behind Mercedes, you'd expect Ferrari to consolidate the second row on the grid but Williams has looked stronger over one lap. Behind that Lotus are hopeful of 7th and 8th as they continue their quiet progress with Mercedes power.

McLaren is hopeful of making Q2 in this session and we've seen Alonso in the top 15 regularly this weekend so far. However, whether that remains with its rivals turning everything up and the cooler conditions remains to be seen.

Expect Sauber and Toro Rosso to be in the hunt for Q2 and maybe even Q3. Both have made great steps forward and with young line-ups in both garages have been some of the feel-good stories so far this year.

Ten minutes until qualifying begins and the light is fading gradually.

The wind speed remains high in Bahrain but, crucially, the temperature is dropping. Crosswinds might well play a part in qualifying later as we saw Kvyat spin off in FP3, possibly due to crosswinds at Turn 4.

It's 52 races since Ferrari was on pole position. Mercedes has looked much stronger over one lap than in race trim compared to Ferrari but we've seen the red cars give the Silver Arrows a run for their money on Saturday before this season.

The clock ticks over to 6pm local time and the green flags come out - and so does Raikkonen, the first man out on track.

The Finn has the track all to himself at the moment.

There we go. The Mercedes and Williams boys join the 2007 champion out on track.

Raikkonen and the Mercedes out on the medium tyre early on.

Verstappen also out on track.

"Looks like it's calmed down but there are still some big gusts," Mercedes tell Hamilton about the headwind down the main straight.

Raikkonen goes P1 with a 1:36.731, on medium tyres. The track is getting busier and busier.

Seeing a replay, it seems Raikkonen did that despite a big lock up into Turn 1.

Raikkonen complaining about vibrations, which is hardly surprising after that big lock up.

Bottas crosses with a 1:36.268 to go first, but Rosberg immediately jumps ahead with a 1:35.657.

With the limited running in these conditions these teams won't have a hugely representative cut off point, so may not be happy just to run with medium tyres in Q1.

Sainz slots into sixth ahead of team-mate Verstappen with a 1:37.230.

Massa crosses two tenths down on Bottas.

Everyone but the Ferraris out on track currently. Grosjean jumps behind former team-mate Raikkonen, a 1:36.926 putting him into sixth.

Oh dear. Button has stopped out on track AGAIN, that's the third time this weekend, and that means he'll drop out of this session and likely start from the back of the grid.

Cameras immediately panned to Ron Dennis, who threw his arms up in the air in frustration. Not much emotion elsewhere at McLaren though.

Hulkenberg and Perez, on soft tyres, have moved into second and third. Nasr is also up to fourth.

Nasr's time also set on soft tyres. Alonso and the Manor drivers also on the option compound.

Ericsson has moved into sixth on soft tyres, still six tenths behind Rosberg.

Seven and a half minutes left and the track is a little quieter ... the Lotus', Verstappen, Alonso and Ericsson out there. Vettel hasn't set a time yet but is sat in his Ferrari and looks ready to go.

Vettel trundles down the pit lane and enters the fray.

Alonso moves into ninth with his latest run, a 1:36.471, on the soft tyre. Raikkonen heads out in the other Ferrari.

Rosberg heads out on the soft tyre, despite the fact his medium compound run is still quickest.

Hamilton departs on the same tyre. Both Ferraris out there on the soft tyre so neither of the top teams happy to just stick to their medium times.

Turn 14 looks like a real handful for the drivers with a fair amount of crosswind.

Vettel's first lap of qualifying is good enough for P1 - a 1:34.919 on the soft tyres.

Raikkonen goes quickest by four tenths but Rosberg has just gone purple in the middle stint...

... And he goes fastest by two tenths, lowering the benchmark to 1:34.389. Hamilton immediately lowers it further to 1:33.928.

Less than two minutes left - Verstappen, Maldonado and the Manors in the drop zone.

"I'm not sure I will improve," Vettel tells Ferrari after being told to do another quick lap.

Bottas moves into P2.

Ricciardo puts himself into fifth. Massa goes fourth, despite (loudly) complaining about traffic.

Lots of drivers on hot laps at the moment so this will be a busy final 20 seconds.

Perez jumps up to eighth, but Nasr immediately drops him down a place with a good lap of his own.

Stevens improves on his PB but doesn't improve on P18.

Alonso jumps into ninth! That'll be good enough for Q2.

Sainz jumps to P11 and Maldonado jumps into P15, Kvyat drops into the relegation zone!

Verstappen pushes Maldonado back into the drop zone with a 1:35.611.

Lotus was hoping for Top 10 from both drivers but looks like Maldonado will start from near the back! Bit of a disaster for the Venezuelan.

Maldonado, Kvyat, Stevens, Stevens, Merhi and Button (no time) drop out of Q1.

"Sorry Pastor, but we had the engine problem again," comes the call from Lotus' pit wall.

Kvyat the most notable name down there however. Not the best start to his Red Bull career so far.

Great call from Mercedes, Hamilton's medium tyre time would not have been enough to make it into Q2. Rosberg's would have been very, very tight, so that was a set of softs used for a good reason.

With Sainz and Verstappen, especially, looking so good at Toro Rosso so far, Kvyat might start nervously glancing over his shoulder sooner rather than later at this current rate.

Seeing a replay of Kvyat's lap and he ran across the kerbs at Turn 2. That may have jeopardised him later in the lap if he picked up any damage.

Green flag - Q2 is under way.

No early movers from the pits.

Still no drivers out on track as the clock ticks past 12:30.

There's the unmistakable grumble of a V6 engine and Perez exits the Force India garage.

Hulkenberg and Rosberg follow suit.

Hamilton also out on track. Soft tyres from here on out.

Remember, all the drivers who make it through to Q3 will start tomorrow's race on the tyres they set the fastest lap on in this session.

"There's still no power," complains Verstappen. Renault still in a lot of trouble.

Perez, then Hulkenberg and then Rosberg all take turns at going P1. The Mercedes driver sets a 1:33.878.

Hamilton goes purple in all three sectors and sets a massive 1:32.669 - 1.2s quicker than Rosberg. Remarkable stuff from the world champion.

Bottas posts a 1:33.897 to go fourth, Massa jumps above Rosberg into second with a 1:33.551.

We did just hear Tony Ross reminding Rosberg to look after his tyres so we'll probably not see the Mercedes drivers out again. Haven't seen whether Rosberg had a moment on his lap.

Vettel and Raikkonen out on track, let's see how close they can get to that Hamilton 1:32.669.

Still no movement in the McLaren garage but Alonso is sat in his car, watching the proceedings.

The Ferraris are the only two cars out on track currently.

Vettel goes third fastest, nine tenths down on Hamilton but ahead of Rosberg.

Raikkonen has looked good this weekend and goes into P2, albeit by 0.871s. Raikkonen, Massa and Vettel between Hamilton and Rosberg.

Vettel reporting his car wasn't accelerating as quick as it should have been at certain points on the circuit. Asks Ferrari to look at the data.

Alonso out on track. So are Nasr and Ericsson.

Less than a minute left and Ricciardo is still in the pits but certainly is far from safe at the moment. Could be a nervy end to this session.

The top six all look safe and are all in the pits.

Nasr moves into ninth, for the time being.

Ericsson knocks Verstappen into the drop zone and Hulkenberg climbs into P9!

Still other drivers to come though.

Looks like Sainz took a trip across some kerbs somewhere on his lap. Verstappen can only manage 12th. Alonso knocks the 17-year-old down a place.

Perez goes P10.....

But Sainz knocks Perez out of the session!

"Wooo! That felt pretty good," Hulkenberg said. It looked pretty good too, Nico. Good enough for Q3. I'll be in the corner eating my words.

So, dropping out of Q2 are Perez, Nasr, Ericsson, Alonso and Verstappen.

"Woo! That's nice!" says Sainz when told he made Q3.

We still haven't seen a replay from Rosberg's lap but he must have had a moment somewhere on the circuit. Either way, he's got an awful lot to do to topple Hamilton after that effort in Q3.

Seeing a replay of Raikkonen putting all four wheels off the track through Turn 2. Interesting one that's worth keeping an eye on in this session.

Here we go then. Q3 is moments away from starting - can Hamilton finish the job?

Alonso trudges back through the pit lane and waves to the crowd. He'll start tomorrow's race from 14th.

The track goes green and off we go, 12 minutes on the clock. Both Ferraris scamper out immediately.

"Drove the balls off." Great way of putting it.

Grosjean and Ricciardo head out on track, as does Rosberg. Early "banker" laps coming up.

Hamilton also out on track in the other Mercedes.

The Ferrari looks absolutely fantastic under lights.

Vettel the first man to set a time in Q3 and it's a 1:34.522. Raikkonen is 0.013s slower.

Ricciardo crosses with a 1:33.850 and goes ahead of both Ferraris. Vettel and Raikkonen around a second off their Q2 times.

Bottas moves up into second, a 1:34.230.

Rosberg can't topple Ricciardo!

Hamilton can, lowering the benchmark to a 1:33.522. That must have been some lap from Ricciardo.

Ricciardo is on new tyres, it should be noted. Hamilton on old tyres and still the man to beat - he's got three tenths in hand over Rosberg.

Bottas has been out-qualified by Massa at the last two races but he's currently ahead, the Williams drivers are either side of the Ferraris.

That would explain Ricciardo's current position. Still, a very tidy lap.

Sainz and Hulkenberg yet to set a time, they'll have to settle for one run at the end of the session.

Remember, all the drivers get a new set of tyres just for this session to encourage running. They start the race on the tyres they set their Q2 benchmark on.

Ricciardo heads out again on another new set of tyres. He could be in with a shout of a good grid position tomorrow.

Rosberg out next.

Much more grip available from new tyres so expect the current benchmarks to drop.

Everyone but Sainz out there for a final lap.

And as I type that, Sainz joins the circuit, so all ten men will have another chance to improve on their current times.

Ricciardo the first man to start a flying lap, he looks a bit wide through the middle sector.

Vettel goes purple in the first sector.

The clock has expired so this will be it.

Hamilton now goes purple through sector one himself.

Vettel crosses with a 1:32.982 to take provisional pole...

Bottas goes P2...

Raikkonen can only manage P2

Rosberg can't topple Vettel! He's P2.

Hamilton on a mighty lap...

POLE FOR HAMILTON!

Four in a row for Hamilton, super job from the world champion. It's Mercedes-Ferrari-Mercedes-Ferrari on the grid. Terrible day for Rosberg there, he's six tenths down on Hamilton and has a red car in front of him.

Raikkonen looked stronger than Vettel earlier in this session but the four-time world champion really found an extra gear in the closing minutes. He ended up four tenths off Hamilton's benchmark but two tenths quicker than Rosberg.

"Beautiful work there Lewis, that's P1 mate," says Peter Bonnington, Hamilton's race engineer.

"Wow, P2, amazing, well done mate," Ferrari tells Vettel. A great job from the German.

As for Rosberg, this time it was him not driving fast enough. Or is that harsh?

Well, that makes for a fascinating race tomorrow. Probably the best grid you could hope for in terms of making this race a spectacle (aside from a Ferrari front row, I suppose). That run down to Turn 1 will be absolutely brilliant.

That's all we have time for today. Thanks for joining our coverage of qualifying and please do join again tomorrow when we see whether Ferrari can take the fight to Mercedes once again in Bahrain.