It was billed as a ‘Duel in the Desert’ and Bahrain lived up to expectations. We were treated to a race that was dramatic, unpredictable, tense and highly exciting from start to finish.
How did each team perform? Let’s start off with Ferrari, who looked strong in Practice and Qualifying, so went into Sunday with big expectations. Sure enough Sebastian Vettel was rewarded as he hung on for victory in what was his 200th race start.
Kimi Raikkonen didn’t fare so well. A botched pitstop saw the Finn run over one of his mechanics as he was given the signal to leave too early. It was a horrible incident to watch, ended Kimi’s race and resulted in a €50,000 fine for Ferrari. The mechanic, Francesco Cigarini, who suffered a broken leg, posted: “Surgery ok. I have to thank all the people worried for me. Nothing else, just a big thanks. Hugs!”
Bahrain wasn’t the Lewis Hamilton show that people have come to expect, far from it, and at one point the Brit found himself kept out on track to back up Sebastian Vettel and help his teammate. This was a deliberate tactic and Toto Wolff admitted he thought their tyre strategy had given them a “90 per cent” chance of beating Ferrari.
Red Bull had a race they will want to forget. Until yesterday it was Korea 2010 when the team last had a double DNF. Daniel Ricciardo did nothing wrong, but Max Verstappen perhaps showed too much youthful exuberance. Christian Horner summed it up well: “A brutally harsh race for us today…”
For all Red Bull’s woes, their junior team stepped up to the plate and Toro Rosso produced a superb performance with the Honda power unit. Piere Gasly finishing P4 was surely beyond even Helmut Marko wildest dreams, who said afterwards the race had “made a man out of him”.
McLaren must be scratching their heads at Toro Rosso’s improved showing but the buck stops with them. They have the Renault engine they fought so hard for, now they need to make it work for them. Fernando Alonso summed up McLaren’s predicament, saying simply: “We need to find more pace”.
Sauber’s decision to put Markus Ericsson on a one-stop strategy was inspired and he rewarded them with a ninth-place finish. Frédéric Vasseur commented: “It was a very good first step for us and a reward for the hard work during the winter by the whole team.” How valuable could those two points be at the end of the season?
All in all, it was a highly entertaining Grand Prix, spoiled only slightly by a poor showing from Red Bull. Raikkonen’s pit stop needs further investigation and is not something anyone wants to see repeated.
After two legs Ferrari hold a 10-point lead in the Constructor’s standings. We move onto China next weekend. The Shanghai International Circuit has proved a happier hunting ground for Mercedes in recent years, and we may well see the scores change.
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