The Bahrain Grand Prix weekend started with a very impressive front-row qualifying effort by Ferrari and a penalized Lewis Hamilton who started the race from 9th due to a gearbox change. This set the stage for one of Hamilton’s comeback drives as well as his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, starting third, to possibly take the win.
While strategy played a big role in Ferrari’s win in Australia, strategy seemed to be reversing course and playing straight into the hands of Mercedes on Sunday as Bottas and Hamilton switched to one-stoppers on Medium tires to put Ferrari under pressure.
The pressure worked but it manifest itself in a horrible result with Kimi Raikkonen being released too soon and a serious injury to one of his pit crew—that looked like a seriously broken leg—as well as a DNF for the Finn. Kimi exited his car and walked back to the garage and stopped prior to entering the garage to see a huddle of medical and team personnel around the injured mechanic before entering the garage.
This left the mobocracy on social media to berate the Finn for not rushing over to check on the injured man. From my perspective, it may have looked as if he didn’t care because he didn’t immediately rush to the side of the injured team member but the wider view was that the injured man had medical and team personnel all around him and was being attended to with a stretcher and with so many already attending to him, I assume there was little Kimi could do at that point. The counter argument is that he could have found more compassion and hovered over the injured man out of empathy and serious concern. Having met Kimi a few times, I am reasonably sure he is very concerned about his mechanic and is very worried about his wellbeing.
With Kimi out and Seb all alone in his defense of the lead, plan B was initiated and this meant that Vettel had to run the balance of the race on soft tires he fitted on lap 18. That’s s39 laps on tires Pirelli said were only good for about 30 laps.
With Bottas and Hamilton closing in each lap, it came down to some very impressive tire management and driving from Sebastian to hold off the attempted pass by Bottas on the penultimate lap and securing his second win of the season and a win on his 200th grand prix start. Bottas and Hamilton completed the podium in that order.
A big win for Ferrari who managed to secure a victory despite a serious crew injury and a sister car DNF’d. Sebastian’s driving was immaculate, asking more from his tires than the team ever planned on. Running slower than Bottas in the final 10 laps and still managing to keep the car underneath him, Vettel drove a master class.
A win for Mercedes who used strategy to put serious pressure on Ferrari that demanded an outrageously good drive from Vettel if Ferrari were ever going to have a chance of holding off Bottas and Hamilton. Unfortunately for Mercedes, Vettel delivered but it very easily could have gone the other way and Mercedes applied surgical pressure through strategy that made this an exciting race. Hamilton had a terrific drive back to the podium through some dodgy radio comms and traffic.
A huge win for Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly who finished 4th in his Honda-powered car in only their second race together this year. I said it last year and I’ll say it again, Honda leaving McLaren and joining Toro Rosso is the right move for the Japanese engine maker and I said that it wouldn’t surprise me to see them come on song as soon as they leave McLaren and start being competitive. This is leading to an interesting combination for Red Bull in general as the big team could move over next year to Honda and STR will have worked out a lot of the niggles for them leaving Red Bull with a bespoke engine supplier.
A win for Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen who had a scrappy race up to 5th and he kept the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg behind him in the process meaning that Haas very well could be poised to be best of the rest if they keep this up and Romain Grosjean can sharpen his game. That’s huge for Haas.
A big win for Marcus Ericsson once again proving that you don’t F with the Swede! With many crowing about the ultimate final season and demise of Marcus due to the arrival of Charles Leclerc, the Swede proved his a hard dog to keep under the porch and his race to the points is a very big achievement for Sauber that could have very serious dollars attached to it in prize money.
A fail for McLaren who suffered all weekend with a mysterious “something” that the team didn’t disclose and while Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne finished nose-to-tail in 7th and 8th respectively, it does make one wonder if they aren’t still some way off the best of the rest moniker. Toro Rosso’s 4th place also makes you wonder if there aren’t bigger issues at McLaren than just the engine.
A fail for Red Bull who managed two DNF’s with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen (who Lewis labeled as a “dick”). Dan lost power and Max had a differential issue after coming together with Hamilton in a gutsy passing move.
A fail for Force India who looked resurgent in qualifying but couldn’t muster the pace needed to keep the Haas, Renault, McLaren or Toro Rosso behind them. The race was a ragged affair for them and Perez looked to be driving on a knife-edge for 57 laps.
A WTH for Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz who all languished near the back while their teammates forged ahead and well into the points. Some compassion could be given the Romain as his car seemed to be delaminating lap-by-lap but his thwarting teammate Kevin Magnussen was completely uncalled for and ruined K-Mags race as he may have been set for a 4th place finish had Romain not held him up.
A WTH for Williams who finished last and judging by the cars, it looked as if the drivers had ran over just about every ounce of asphalt on that track such was the skittish nature of their car. Williams have Mercedes power but it makes you wonder if this Paddy Lowe inspired car is two steps backwards.
I also have to give a WTH for the penalty to Brendon Hartley. That was a racing incident in my mind and not worthy of a penalty. I think the Toro Rosso driver may have had a shot at 10th or 11th had that not happened.
Bahrain GP results
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari||57|
|2||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport||Mercedes||57|
|3||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport||Mercedes||57|
|4||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda||Toro Rosso/Honda||57|
|5||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team||Haas/Ferrari||57|
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault Sport Formula One Team||Renault||57|
|7||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team||McLaren/Renault||56|
|8||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team||McLaren/Renault||56|
|9||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team||Sauber/Ferrari||56|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India F1 Team||Force India/Mercedes||56|
|11||Carlos Sainz||Renault Sport Formula One Team||Renault||56|
|12||Sergio Perez||Sahara Force India F1 Team||Force India/Mercedes||56|
|13||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda||Toro Rosso/Honda||56|
|14||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team||Sauber/Ferrari||56|
|15||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team||Haas/Ferrari||56|
|16||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing||Williams/Mercedes||56|
|17||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing||Williams/Mercedes||56|
|–||Kimi Raikkonen||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari||35|
|–||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||Red Bull/Renault||3|
|–||Daniel Ricciardo||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||Red Bull/Renault||1|