The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Bahrain: Make that Two from Two

11-04-2018

Story by Jack Target

Sebastian Vettel lead from the front the entire race and squeezed home in front of Valtteri Bottas to claim maximum points for a second straight race.

Under the lights in the desert, Formula 1 fans witnessed one of the better races in recent times that threw up lots of drama, some overtaking and a genuinely close finish at the very top of the pack.

Despite the early success for Ferrari, it was a weekend of mixed emotions as Kimi Raikkonen, who was fastest in all three practice session, saw his race end after a pit stop. But more importantly all thoughts were with Francesco Cigorini, a Ferrari mechanic who suffered a broken leg during the pit stop that ended Raikkonen’s race. It was a horrific incident and all our thoughts go out to him as he makes his recovery.

Elsewhere it was a weekend to forget for Red Bull, who had a double DNF, but an amazing one for their sister team Toro Rosso. Pierre Gasly took his Honda run car up to 6th in qualifying before finishing 4th.

The race weekend started with two bits of impactful news, one immediate, the other for the near future. Firstly the latter in which Liberty Media set out their much anticipated plan for the future of the sport. The owners are in favour of bringing in a budget cap to keep costs down, whilst also putting the focus back on the drivers. We still don’t know many of the details with both Chase Carey and the team owners keeping tight lipped about the proposals. Obviously it will all depend on how much they can appease Ferrari and Mercedes but until then, watch this space.

Back to matters in Bahrain and news broke that Lewis Hamilton was going to have a five place grid penalty for a gear box changed. Apparently he only just made it to the finish two weeks ago, so this was much needed, if not disappointing for the Brit after losing out on winning the opener in Melbourne.

That penalty would throw up some interesting questions for qualifying, depending on where Hamilton would end up. He would not be the only top driver to start lower than expected as Max Verstappen hit the wall in Q1, registering only the one timed lap to start in 15th.

Comparing the results to last week, it was a frustrating day for Haas who would have wanted to recover from the disaster in the first race. Romain Grojsean wasn’t able to show the same pace this time round and went out in Q1. However his teammate, Kevin Magnussen, saved the day by qualifying in 7th.

As mentioned earlier, it would turn out to be a great weekend for Honda’s Toro Rosso, which was a slap in the face for McLaren. After a very public breakup with the Japanese manufacture over the winter, McLaren failed again to get a car in to Q3, with the other Toro Rosso qualifying above them in 11th.

After first run in Q3 both Mercedes were within three tenths of a second of the Ferraris. It set up a tense final stint but it ended with a Ferrari front row, the first in Bahrain since 2007.  Raikkonen was looking the most likely for pole position but his German teammate stole that at the death. Hamilton could only reach 4th, meaning he would start in 9th. With Verstappen further back and Lewis in midfield, it set up an enticing race on Sunday.

When the lights went out (to start the race, not the ones lighting up the track!) Vettel made a decent start as did Bottas who jumped to 2nd.

Verstappen was quick to get up the field, as expected, and was level with Hamilton. Just as we were licking our lips at these two veracious drivers going wheel to wheel, the young Dutchman touched Hamilton’s car and punctured a tyre. He tried to carry on but his race was over. To make matters worse, he was soon passed by a very slow Daniel Riccardo in the other Red Bull. An electrical issue caused his car to lose power, ending a weekend in which they were hoping for at least a podium with no points at all.

With those retirements Gasly was now up to the dizzy heights of 4th. Not only did the Frenchman do well throughout the early stages of the race to stay there, he finished just outside the podium in what was probably the team’s best finish since Vettel won at Monza in 2008.

After the initial bump with Verstappen, Hamilton was up to 4th after only just eight laps. Then eyes turned to the garages to see who would blink first. What made this more interesting was the prospect that there were some teams who were looking at different strategies, going for either one or two stops.

Ferrari were the first to call their drivers in with Sebby going in first. This prompted what looked like a response by Mercedes as their mechanics came out, but no silver car came in. It looked like some bluffing from the Mercedes, which some were questioning if it was legal or not.  The Silver Arrows were going for the one stop strategy and Bottas would be the man leading the race with his teammate holding back the Ferraris.

Then came the dreadful moment when Raikkonen accidentally ran over one of his mechanics. The rear left tyre was not on correctly, but the lights went green for the Finn to go. Unfortunately the mechanic was in the way of the tyre that had yet been removed. After what happened to Haas in the season opener and this race, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the governing body look at how pit stop releases can be changed.

As the race was coming to a close it looked like Mercedes may have pulled off a master stroke as Bottas, on his fresher tyres, was catching up Vettel. With ten laps to go the German was seven seconds clear. By the final lap Bottas was in DRS range and looking to pounce. The Finn went for the overtake in turn one but he couldn’t get round the Ferrari and his chance had gone, losing out by six hundredths of a second.

Hamilton completed the podium, doing well to come back from 9th, with Gasly achieving that amazing result. Fernando Alonso got some more points for McLaren as he finished 8th with Marcus Ericsson surprising everyone with a 9th place finish for Sauber Alfa Romeo.

In all it was a very enjoyable weekend of F1 racing that will certainly keep its fans happy. The quality of the races have been improving under Liberty and it looks like that trend will continue. It was perfectly summed up by Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene when he said to Karun Chandhok on Channel 4 that this was a “race full of adrenaline and a good answer to people telling (us) that F1 is boring”. I couldn’t agree more.