Bahrain GP Review

Today’s Bahrain GP has certainly been the best race held at the Sakhir circuit since it’s first in 2004. This is despite what seemed to be a faultless performance from Sebastian Vettel who seemed to dominate today but it could have been a lot harder for him today had it not been for the failures of others yet having said that, i think Sebastian was always going to win today. He won this race pretty much in the first three laps. First by retaking second from Alonso in the run up to turn 5 on the first lap then with clever pass at turn 5 again on Rosberg two laps later. He was a little lucky that Alonso had his DRS failure that would put Fernando back to 19th and would also bunch up the rest of the field for two laps that would give Vettel the breathing space he needed. From then on he managed his tyres well and the two stoppers of Di Resta and both Lotus cars were not to trouble Vettel for the rest of the race.

For Raikkonen second was the best he could hope for and he did well to make a two stop strategy work for him which included getting Di Resta out of his way. But he would have had the chance to put the pressure on Vettel had he qualified better than eighth place when he claimed that he had got all he could out of the car. But they need to work on their qualifying if they want to win the title this year. Grosjean did a great job from eleventh on the grid and utilized the tyre choice he had from that. When you also consider he spent a large amount of his race side by side with the likes of Rosberg, Button and Perez without incident and ahead of them all, then it was a great result from him today. However like Kimi he struggled in qualifying and was clearly upset about it too so again Lotus to qualify just a little better but Grosjean certainly answered the questions asked of him so far this season for not showing enough speed and hanging around in the lower reaches of the points. Paul Di Resta drove the best race of his career so far today. The Force India had the pace all weekend and Paul made a clean run from the grid and was second after Alonso’s woes, even leading several laps. The podium looked like a pretty solid prospect but as Paul said post race “with our stratergy we were always going to be vulnerable” and that was what happened as Grosjean made his way past into third with five laps to go and so denying Paul his first podium finish in F1. But he wasn’t downbeat about this and wanted to take the positives from the result. The first is that the VJM06 is a solid car and Paul is in eighth place in the championship ahead of Rosberg and both McLarens with 20 points; 12 of these came today. The team also hold fifth place ahead of McLaren but their three point gap would be bigger had Massa not ran into Sutil’s front right tyre and gave him a puncture as he would have finished strongly too. But Force India need to maximise the advantage over McLaren and others with points because it could all change too quickly.

I almost find it hard to belive Hamilton finished the race in fifth considering for the first half of the race it looked like he was going to stuggle to score today. The gearbox penalty was unlucky but from ninth on the grid he admitted he got a bad start as he fell as low as thirteenth at one point. He was complaining the balance was terrible and that his rear tyres had gone off in his first stint. However in the last third of the race he was setting a blistering pace to make it up to sixth. Then a long battle with Webber ensued with Lewis taking fifth on the start of the last lap. He admitted himself he doesn’t know where the performance came from but he was very pleased with the result in the post-race interview with the BBC but was under no illusions about Mercedes issues during the races so far this year. “I’m very proud of what we have achieved over the first four races and to be third in the championship is beyond any of our expectations, but we’ve got to keep pushing and find more performance. We’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth at the moment and, if we can make that next step, then we can close the gap.” Ross Brawn again sounded very apologetic about the cars performance to Lewis as he crossed the line. But if anyone at Mercedes needed an apology it was Rosberg. After putting the car on pole he said himself like I predicted that he probably wont win but should have a good chance of a podium. However his tyres were going off almost immediatlely which may be to do with the thermal degredation from the hot track temperatures. With that in mind Rosberg drove a fantastic defensive and counter-attacking race on every car that tried to make a move on him. His robust driving meant he had to make a fourth stop due to the toll it took on his tyres after his third stop but even if he didn’t fight so hard, he would’ve struggled to score much higher due to the tyre wear which makes Hamiton’s fifth all the more impressive. But Mercedes need to do better in the race. In China and especially here their drivers have been at the mercy of their tyres and considering their quick car, it must be very frustrating for Nico and Lewis despite Hamilton’s third place in the standings.

Perez had a controversial race but a much improved performance nonetheless. I lost count of how many times he and Jenson locked horns today on track and it was by no means pretty. Jenson had plenty of hard but fair battles with Lewis during their time as McLaren team-mates and he adopted the same approach for Perez. But Sergio tapped wheels with Jenson at around 200mph as Jenson pointed out and was lucky not to give him a puncture as at one point he tried to go back underneath Jenson’s line at turn 4 but Jenson was wise to hit. Perez got caught out and hit Button’s right rear, breaking his front wing end-plate and somehow not giving Jenson a puncture. Jenson was very vocal in telling the pit-wall to “calm him down” but in their next encounter Button pushed Perez who was on the outside, onto the kerb, then the run off and almost into the gravel! That was out of order as eventhough others were pushed wide at the exit of turn 4; they weren’t pushed that wide! Both were lucky to not get penalties but Jenson had to pit for a fourth time as that battle took the life out of his tyres. But it was clear that Jenson was rattled by Sergio today, regardless of whether either of them were beyond the limits of aggression.

Webber was passed by both Hamilton and Perez on the last lap and admitted he had no tyres left because of the battle with Lewis. He also had a moment with Rosberg after he made his final stop in which Nico has the inside for turn two but Webber was just ahead and so turned in regardless and so hit Rsoberg’s right front wheel. No damage was done and from what i can tell no action taken by the stewards. Up until his final stop Webber had been a podium threat but had faded in the closing stages and seventh was not the response he was hoping for after Shanghai. Behind him Alonso pulled off a minor miracle to finish eighth with the intial time lost with the DRS open and the extra stop with no tyre change to try and solve it and then work his way from nineteenth up to eighth with no DRS is a good result considering. He shouldn’t have scored today but instead has got four points. He is now adamant that Sebastian and Kimi will suffer some bad luck soon and that he will be there to take advantage. Watch out for Alonso on home turf at Barcelona. Button and Rosberg as i’ve mentioned struggled with their tyres and had to make four stops, putting them ninth and tenth.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2013

Maldonado was best of the rest for Williams in 11th. Still not where they should be but at least they were ahead of Sauber today. Did make a nice move on the luck-less Massa on the exit of turn 4. Bottas too briefly made a top ten appearence but this has to be a given for at least one of the cars in Barcelona. They have three weekes to improve the car for the European season and they need to with Force India’s 26 point head-start. Sauber don’t seem to be progessing either. Even Hulkenberg struggled today while Gutierrez struggled again, finishing behind Charles Pic in eighteenth. They too need to make strides at Barcelona if they want to stand a chance of catching Force India. Sutil could have had points if Massa hadn’t clipped him on the first lap and Felipe himself could have had a good haul of points if it were not for his two punctures which Pirelli say were caused by debris on track and that they were not to blame. Either way, Ferrari had a nightmare today when many talked of a one – two which was talked of in Malaysia aswell. But expect them to fight back as they have a solid car. Toro Rosso were behind both Williams and Sauber on race pace with Ricciardo in sixthteenth and Vergne the only car to retire with accident damage on lap 1. But they are still ahead of Sauber and Williams in the Constructors but they have to make sure they react to their upgrades and not suffer the mid season slump they endured in 2012. For the first race this year the pendulum had swung in Caterham’s direction in the back of the pack scrap with Marussia. Pic with a solid seventeenth place finish ahead of a Sauber and only just behind Ricciardo too! Something his countryman Bianchi in the Marussia had been doing in the first three races. Chilton still behind his team-mate though in twentieth while Van Der Garde in the wars in twenty first.

One point i would like to make is why have Pirelli reacted to Red Bull’s protests about the tyres? Even Mercedes haven’t been so vocal and the change in tyre compounds here in Bahrain may have played it’s part in Red Bull’s victory. They haven’t bowed to critics before and i don’t expect Paul Hembry and Pirelli to make an exception for Red Bull again! Slight sour note to end on but it has to be flagged up. So Sebastian has the upper hand after the first chapter of the 2013 season but the next will take us to three very different circuits in Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Montreal and Kimi is very much within striking distance. Ferrari will be raring to go after their up and down first four races, knowing they have a race winning car and Mercedes will hope that they can solve their tyre issues so they can match their qualifying pace. Hamilton has done well to be third at this point and Rosberg very unlucky but if they want victories and Lewis to mount a title challenge then they need to have better tyre wear to combine with the quick car they have. The next three races will define Webber’s season aswell as McLaren’s who need to respond now if they want to fight for the title in which Vettel and Kimi already have a head start. Force India have the potential for podium finishes while for Toro Rosso, Sauber and especially Williams it’s back to the drawing board. If they falter the competitive battle between Marussia and Catherham could involve of of them as F1’s youngest teams improve.

World Championship standings, round 4:

Drivers:                    Constructors:
1.  Vettel         77        1.  Red Bull-Renault          109
2.  Raikkonen      67        2.  Lotus-Renault              93
3.  Hamilton       50        3.  Ferrari                    77
4.  Alonso         47        4.  Mercedes                   64
5.  Webber         32        5.  Force India-Mercedes       26
6.  Massa          30        6.  McLaren-Mercedes           23
7.  Grosjean       26        7.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          7
8.  Di Resta       20        8.  Sauber-Ferrari              5
9.  Rosberg        14
10.  Button         13
11.  Perez          10
12.  Ricciardo       6
13.  Sutil           6
14.  Hulkenberg      5
15.  Vergne          1

Images from – / / / /

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