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As it happened: Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
Alonso10:45 Hello everyone and welcome back to AUTOSPORT Live for coverage and rolling updates from the qualifying session for tomorrow's Bahrain Grand Prix - round four of the 2013 FIA Formula 1 world championship.

We had a slow-burner this morning as the drivers came out for the final 60-minute practice session, but some question marks over the quicker medium compound tyres. Fernando Alonso topped the session with a lap time of 1m33.247s, edging out Sebastian Vettel by just over one-tenth of a second. Mark Webber was right with his team-mate in third, with Kimi Raikkonen within two-tenths of Alonso's time in fourth spot.

Alonso outpaces Vettel in final Bahrain practice

10:47 But there was plenty of action in the final stages as the drivers attempted to find some qualifying speed on medium tyres.

Sebastian Vettel tried to slice up the inside of Charles Pic at Turn 14 at the end of a fast lap, but the Caterham driver was less than helpful (bear in mind that the Frenchman was also on his final effort) and they both lost time.

Pic then had the temerity to race Vettel down the pit straight and into Turn 1. This was all very amusing, but it did neither of them any favours. Vettel then ran off the road later in the lap to finish his session off for good.

10:49 Of much more concern was the failure that befell Lewis Hamilton as he worked through a quick lap at the end of the hour-long session.

The Briton suffered a sudden left-rear tyre delamination and slowed dramatically with a broken suspension, before carefully returning to the pits, where his mechanics took over.

The Mercedes has been repaired, but the need to replace the damaged gearbox results in a costly five-place grid penalty for Hamilton.

Hamilton gets five-place grid penalty

10:51 Conditions remain dry but rather cloudy at the Bahrain International Circuit as we gear up for qualifying.

There will be a few sunny spells but also a light northerly breeze, as air temperature reaches today's maximum of 33 degrees Celsius.

10:53 Here's how the qualifying battle stands after the opening two grid deciders:
Qualifying head-to-head

Vettel         3 - 0      Webber
Alonso         1 - 2      Massa
Button         3 - 0      Perez
Raikkonen      3 - 0      Grosjean
Rosberg        0 - 3      Hamilton
Hulkenberg     3 - 0      Gutierrez
Di Resta       2 - 1      Sutil
Maldonado      2 - 1      Bottas
Vergne         1 - 2      Ricciardo
Pic            2 - 1      Van der Garde
Bianchi        3 - 0      Chilton
Tyres10:55 Fewer worried faces on the pitwall this week, with Pirelli's medium and hard compounds providing relatively simple trye strategy compared with the problematic soft rubber in Shanghai last week.

The medium option is proving around 0.6s per lap quicker than the harder prime, meaning that will certainly be the tyre of choice for leading contenders to vie for pole. But there is decent pace in a set of hard tyres as well, in these extreme temperatures, with some drivers finding little between the pair of compounds.

Degradation of the two choices appears to be broadly similar as well, with rear tyres eventually dropping off a cliff, meaning Q3 runners are unlikely to avoid taking part in the segment to free up the choice of starting rubber.

10:57 Track temperature is up at 42 degrees Celsius with a few minutes to go until the start of the knockout session.

10:58 Alonso looks relaxed as he prepares for the session, with many tipping the Spaniard for a pole challenge today.

10:59 Hamilton, now carrying that five-place penalty for a gearbox change, gets ready at the back of the Mercedes garage.

0 min: Green light and qualifying is underway in Bahrain.

0 min: Unsurprisingly, given the dusty nature of this circuit in the Sakhir desert, there are no immediate takers and we have an empty track.

1 min: Rosberg is strapped into his Mercedes. He keeps his visor open to allow as much cool air in as possible.

2 min: Ricciardo waits in the cockpit of his Tor Rosso as the period of brinkmanship continues.

3 min: All calm in the McLaren garage, but the team is facing a challenge on pace from the likes of Force India this weekend.

3 min: Vettel is out of the car and chatting away with his race engineer, as we hear the sound of music in the distance...

3 min: Gutierrez breaks the silence and heads out in his Sauber.

3 min: Hulkenberg is also on track with the hard tyres on his Sauber.

4 min: Jean-Eric Vergne joins the Sauber pair on track, also using hard tyres.

5 min: Ricciardo joins his Toro Rosso team-mate on track.

5 min: The Sauber pair kick off flying laps as van der Garde takes to the track in his Caterham.

6 min: Rosberg heads out for a run in the Mercedes, as Vergne crosses the line to start his first timed lap.

6 min: Hulkenberg clocks a 1m34.409s in his Sauber to take the initial benchmark.

7 min: A rush of cars onto the circuit. Di Resta, Sutil, Maldonado and Bottas head out.

8 min: Gutierrez is some six tenths slower than his team-mate as more drivers head around to begin a lap against the clock.

8 min: Vergne takes over at the front with a time of 1m34.314s.

8 min: Ricciardo comes round to complete his first timed lap and he goes third behind Vergne and Hulkenberg with 1m34.867s.

8 min: Both Marussia drivers are now on track, taking medium compund for an early run.

9 min: Medium tyres for both Williams drivers, as Rosberg winds his way through the middle sector on hard tyres.

9 min: Rosberg quickly moves to the head of the list with a time of 1m33.364s.

9 min: Van der Garde reports something moving around in his cockpit, but has continued for the moment.

10 min: No move yet from either Red Bull driver or Lewis Hamilton.

10 min: Grosjean slots in second fastest with his initial attempt of 1m33.498s.

10 min: Sutil pops into third spot with a time of 1m34.068s, but he is soon beaten by Force India team-mate di Resta, who takes over that third position with 1m33.880s.

10 min: Raikkonen in the other Lotus has outbraked himself for the first corner and spoiled his initial attempt.

11 min: Both Ferrari drivers now heading around on hard tyres to bank a time.

12 min: Perez has medium rubber bolted on his McLaren, with the team throwing the softer tyres at the problem of lackluster pace.

12 min: So it's Rosberg up top with Grosjean second, Massa now into third, di Resta fourth and Sutil fifth with several drivers still to post a time.

13 min: Alonso slips past his team-mate as he flies around an opening lap.

13 min: Di Resta snaps on the team radio that he can't hear any information and states that 'It's not good enough!'

13 min: That's easy stuff for Alonso as he tops the order with a strong 1m32.878s, fastest in all three sectors.

13 min: The Scot was forced to work his way through a fair degree of traffic on his lap out of the pits in an effort to find some clear space.

13 min: Button is also running medium compound in McLaren's bid to ensure progression.

14 min: Massa has slotted in fifth fastest.

14 min: Nevertheless, di Resta manages to move back up the order to fourth spot with a time of 1m33.762s.

15 min: Webber and Vettel head out onto the circuit with medium tyres, while Hamilton joins the racetrack with the hard compound fitted.

15 min: Perez only manages eighth fastest, despite the use of medium compound.

15 min: Button drives for the line and takes over that eighth spot, over a second off Alonso's rapid benchmark on hard rubber.

16 min: Ricciardo, Gutierrez, Pic, Bianchi, Chilton and van der Garde are the slowest six at the moment, with three drivers still to set a time.

16 min: Webber moves into seventh spot on medium tyres with a time of 1m33.966s.

16 min: Button reports too much understeer in his McLaren.

16 min: Vettel is now on his first timed lap and he is level with Hamilton (hard tyres) in the first sector.

17 min: Hamilton has lost time and backed off in the middle sector of the lap.

17 min: Vettel continues on and drives for the line. He moves into second spot behind Alonso with 1m33.327s.

18 min: So Alonso retains a remarkable margin over the field, some 0.449s quicker than Vettel despite the Red Bull using the softer tyres.

18 min: Hamilton is forced to go again. He comes through in 1m33.498s and that puts him fifth.

19 min: A 1m34.730s for Gutierrez puts him just above the cut in 16th.

19 min: Maldonado is down in 17th now and he needs to improve. He comes through and retakes 16th from Gutierrez with 1m34.425s.

20 min: The flag is out on Q1.

11:20 Ricciardo is down in 18th and this would be back to Earth with a bump if he is unable to make it after his best ever result in China.

11:21 Ricciardo rounds the final corner and moves to safety and 12th with a time of 1m34.120s, eliminating Maldonado.

11:21 Pic ends up 19th in the upgraded Caterham, beating the Marussia pair - which van der Garde manages to split with a late effort.

11:22 And it's not a good day for Gutierrez once again, with the Sauber rookie three tenths slower than his team-mate and eliminated in 18th.

11:22 So after that late run from Daniel Ricciardo, here is how the elimination list shapes up at the end of Q1:

17) Maldonado 1m34.425s
18) Gutierrez 1m34.730s
19) Pic 1m35.283s
20) Bianchi 1m36.178s
21) van der Garde 1m36.304s
22) Chilton 1m36.476s.

11:24 Gutierrez also faces a grid penalty for his rear-end assault on Sutil's car in China, meaning he will likely start at the back of the field.

11:24 Toro Rosso left it late with Ricciardo, but it proved to be the right strategy and he made it through by three-tenths of a second.

11:25 The Australian ended up two-tenths quicker than team-mate Vergne, who finished the session in 14th.

11:25 Up front, that was a great performance from Alonso in the Ferrari and the Spaniard continues to look like at strong contender today.

11:25 A disappointing segment for Pastor Maldonado, who will face a long afternoon's work from 17th on the grid.

11:26 He posted exactly the same time as Williams team-mate Bottas but the Finn got his 1m34.425s mark on the board first, so he progresses.

11:27 The challenge for the remaining 16 drivers is simple - they have 15 minutes to try and ensure a spot in the top 10 shootout.

0 min: Q2 begins.

0 min: Ricciardo has been told that his first run will be on used medium compound tyres.

0 min: Drama again in the Marussia garage, with Bianchi's car again doused in extinguisher foam.

0 min: No takers so far as the pack waits for someone else to clean up the track surface.

1 min: The Marussia team had a minor fuel fire this morning, which appears to have been repeated after that first segment.

2 min: Hulkenberg is one of the first on track for Sauber, facing a challenge to make it through this segment.

2 min: Webber joins the Sauber driver on track. Medium tyres for the Australian. Vettel also heads out.

2 min: This segment also be a struggle for McLaren today, with Force India still looking like taking Q3 slots despite di Resta's radio fury.

2 min: Vergne and Ricciardo head out for Toro Rosso, both using medium compound tyres.

3 min: Di Resta and Sutil head out onto the circuit using medium tyres. Let's hope the Scot can hear some direction from the team on this run.

4 min: Vettel is a whopping four-tenths quicker than team-mate Webber in the first sector of the lap.

4 min: Hulkenberg is again the first to set a time, this a 1m34.947s on soft rubber.

4 min: But Webber responds with the fastest middle sector.

4 min: Webber beats Hulkenberg with a time of 1m33.907s.

5 min: Vettel crosses the line and is 0.436s clear of his team-mate with a time of 1m33.471s.

5 min: Raikkonen has a fresh set of the medium compound on his Lotus and is starting a lap against the clock.

6 min: Vergne moves into fourth spot behind the two Red Bulls and Hulkenberg with a time of 1m35.168s.

6 min: Ricciardo takes fourth from his team-mate with a lap of 1m35.081s.

6 min: Sutil pops into third spot in the Force India with a time of 1m34.046s.

6 min: Raikkonen still not happy under braking on the Lotus, running deep through one of the corners in the twisting middle sector.

7 min: But his team-mate di Resta produces a confidence-boosting 1m33.335s to top the list ahead of the Red Bull duo.

7 min: Another wobble through the final corner and Raikkonen sets a poor 1m33.997s on his fresh medium rubber.

7 min: Rosberg and Hamilton join the circuit for Mercedes. Medium compound tyres for all drivers that have posted a time so far.

7 min: Massa tops the middle sector times for a 1m33.501s, going third fastest.

8 min: Alonso is now gunning for a time on fresh mediums.

8 min: 1m33.316s for Alonso to top the times by a fraction, though that's slower than his Q1 flyer.

8 min: Di Resta pits the Force India after an extremely positive run. He has slipped to second spot.

9 min: Button clocks 1m34.239s, around a second off the pace, to hold eighth for the moment.

9 min: Rosberg is fastest of all in the first sector of his latest timed lap.

9 min: Perez is also currently in the top 10, but the Mercedes pair are yet to challenge.

10 min: The German and team-mate Hamilton have yet to post a time on the board.

10 min: Hamilton moves straight into third place with a time of 1m33.346s.

10 min: Rosberg drives out of the final corner and he goes quickest of all with 1m32.867s.

10 min: Grosjean is the last man to begin a flying effort.

11 min: Perez is now out of the top 10 and needs more on his second attempt.

11 min: Ricciardo is 13th in the standings. He is the first of the dropzone drivers to head out again.

12 min: Grosjean runs wide through Turn 11, finding traffic on the run to the line but making it around in seventh fastest.

12 min: Raikkonen is now down to ninth after a scrappy first attempt from the Finn. He heads out again.

12 min: All 16 drivers have now posted a time. Button, Perez, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Bottas and Vergne are in the dropzone.

12 min: Both McLarens are now out of Q3 and take to the track again.

13 min: Vettel goes again from fifth place and he's out there on a set of new medium tyres.

13 min: Webber moves up the order to second spot with a time of 1m33.098s.

14 min: Fresh medium rubber for Massa to try again, while Alonso remains in the Ferrari garage, saving tyres.

14 min: A new experience for di Resta as he watches and waits in the pits to see if the likes of Vettel and Raikkonen can beat his time...

14 min: Button, currently 11th, begins a lap to try and make the pole shootout.

15 min: That's the flag on Q2, but plenty laps to complete...

11:42 Ricciardo moves up to ninth spot with a lap of 1m33.974s, dropping Sutil to 11th.

11:42 Sutil crosses the line and moves up to sixth with 1m33.378s, dropping Raikkonen to 11th.

11:42 Raikkonen is shuffled down to 11th and needs a lap this time...

11:43 Vettel improves and tops the order with a time of 1m32.746s.

11:43 Button grabs ninth, that slips quickly to 10th.

11:43 Perez falls short with his late effort, making it home 12th.

11:43 Bottas posts his best lap but that is only 15th for the Finn with 1m34.105s.

11:44 And it is disaster for Grosjean, who is in the pits as his time gets shuffled down to 11th.

11:44 Raikkonen's made it up to fourth in his Lotus with his late effort.

11:44 Button, meanwhile, is delighted to make it through to Q3 in 10th.

11:45 So after that late shuffle here is the elimination list after Q2:

11) Grosjean 1m33.762s
12) Perez 1m33.914s
13) Ricciardo 1m33.974s
14) Hulkenberg 1m33.976s
15) Bottas 1m34.105s
16) Vergne 1m34.284s.

11:47 Another struggle for Grosjean, with his single late effort falling under a tenth short of Button's time.

11:48 Ricciardo beats Toro Rosso team-mate Vergne by three-tenths of a second but has to settle for 13th position. He fails to make it by 0.22s.

11:49 Perez is on the sidelines for the next segment as well, while team-mate Button needed all his experience to drag the McLaren into the top 10

11:49 So here are the top 10 drivers who will battle it out for the best positions on the grid:

Sebastian Vettel
Mark Webber
Fernando Alonso
Felipe Massa
Jenson Button
Kimi Raikkonen
Nico Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton
Paul di Resta
Adrian Sutil.

0 min: The battle for pole is on in Bahrain.

0 min: Don't forget that Webber and Hamilton will have penalties applied after the qualifying session has been completed.

0 min: Alonso is straight out on a used set of medium compound to bank a time.

0 min: Rosberg, Hamilton and di Resta are straight out onto the circuit. No waiting game this time.

1 min: No move yet from either Red Bull driver or Adrian Sutil, signalling that one run is likely for these drivers.

2 min: Di Resta crosses the line to start his first attempt on medium tyres.

2 min: Massa and Button also look to be waiting for a single run, having used two sets of mediums to get this far.

2 min: Sutil is on track now, as his team-mate di Resta comes through the first sector in 29.640s.

3 min: Rosberg is fastest so far through the first sector point with 29.416s.

3 min: Di Resta turns for home and gets the ball rolling with 1m33.388s.

3 min: Rosberg moves ahead of di Resta with a time of 1m32.543s.

4 min: Hamilton slots into third spot with his first effort - 1m32.762s.

4 min: Alonso, on used rubber remember, ends up a tenth off Rosberg's benchmark in 1m32.667s.

4 min: Sutil left the pits on a set of hard compound tyres, but he has aborted and returned to the garage. No time set.

5 min: So Rosberg leads the order presently, one-tenth clear of Alonso with Hamilton a further tenth back. Di Resta is fourth.

5 min: The four drivers have all just returned to the pits for a change of tyres.

6 min: Hamilton is wheeled into the garage, as the tyres are changed on Rosberg's car. The circuit is empty for the time being.

7 min: There's a noise and it's Mark Webber, who heads out for his one and only run.

7 min: Raikkonen is down and away on fresh medium rubber.

7 min: Sutil joins the track on a set of medium tyres, followed by team-mate di Resta.

7 min: And a strategy gamble at Ferrari as Massa heads out on hard rubber!

8 min: Alonso, who is clearly in the fight for pole, is rolling out on fresh medium rubber.

8 min: All 10 drivers are on the circuit for a run with less than 90 seconds to go. This is better than last week.

8 min: Button, who frankly has no chance of the front row, has also gone for medium rubber.

9 min: Webber is first on the road and he makes a mess of it into Turn 8. This is a scrappy lap from the Australian.

9 min: Drivers all on the final flying attempt as the flag comes out.

12:00 Vettel is one-tenth ahead of Webber at sector 1 but di Resta is two-tenths clear.

12:00 Webber comes through in 1m33.078s and that is fourth place.

12:00 Raikkonen clocks 1m33.327s, which is poor and slowest of all so far.

12:01 Di Resta rounds the final corner and he is only fifth with 1m33.235s.

12:01 Vettel is next over the line and it's second for the German with 1m32.584s.

12:01 Alonso can't find a good lap here and pits, he's third on the grid.

12:01 Nico Rosberg claims pole position for tomorrow's Bahrain Grand Prix!

12:01 Button aborts his lap to give a free choice of starting tyres.

12:02 A fantastic result for Mercedes. Rosberg is chuffed on the radio as he makes his way back to the pits. He is two-tenths clear of Vettel.

12:02 Massa is sixth in the times with a strong effort on the hard tyres, and will move up as a result of the Hamilton penalty.

12:03 Behind the two Germans, it's Alonso in third with Hamilton fourth on the timesheet, with Webber fifth and Massa sixth.

12:03 Not a great lap from Alonso there with a major lock-up into the tricky downhill hairpin. He will have to start on tyres used for the banker.

12:03 Then comes di Resta seventh in the classification, ahead of team-mate Sutil eighth, Raikkonen ninth and Button rounds out the top 10.

12:04 So Hamilton and Webber will both drop out of the top five once the penalties are applied, promoting Massa to fourth and di Resta to fifth.

12:05 It will be two Force Indias in the top six and that could help to create some fun on the opening lap tomorrow.

12:06 But up front it's an all-German front row and Rosberg will race Vettel to Turn 1 and open country when the lights go out.

12:06 That's it for today but be sure to join us tomorrow for all the action from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Session length: 60 minutes
Mainly cloudy High Temp: 33°C / 91°F
Track: Dry
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Friday 19 Apr Start GMT
 Friday practice one 06:45
 Friday practice two 10:55
Saturday 20 Apr
 Saturday practice 07:45
 Qualifying 10:45
Sunday 21 Apr
 The Bahrain Grand Prix 11:30