The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX : Bahrain : Rosberg Again, but Off-Track Issues Dominate.

10-04-2016

Report by Jack Target

 

“The drivers can say what they like? They can’t do anything. Everyone has got an opinion. They haven’t got any strength. They’ve got an opinion.”

Those are the words of the head of Formula 1, a sport where drivers race each other in motorcars, telling everyone that the drivers competing have near enough no say over the sport they participate in. Welcome to the World of F1 in 2016.

A quick question before we come to the matter in hand that is the race weekend. Does anyone else feel like the season hasn’t properly started yet due to the qualifying fiasco? Tell me if I am wrong here but isn’t pre-season testing the ideal opportunity to test a new system that will affect something as important as qualifying? Isn’t that what happened with the halo frames around the cockpit? Yet they didn’t install them for the opening race instead? Odd.

I could go on for hours about the debacle which has become the new knockout qualifying system in place for this year but I won’t depress you for too long, let me just get on my soapbox for a moment. We have all discussed the topic as fans and seen the pundits on TV ridicule it. But if changes are not made soon, from the very top of F1, then this will become more than just how the drivers will line up on the grid come Sunday, if it hasn’t escalated beyond that already.

The new TV deal announced for the start of the 2019 season epitomizes the worrying situation in F1. Since the race in Australia, there was a letter from the drivers that basically stated that they wanted to register a vote of no confidence in anyone and everyone who is in charge of F1. In this letter they also stated that more racing needs to be on free-to-air television. More exposure to more audiences brings in more fans. Simple. The example they used was the poor reception the sport has been getting in Germany since it went to pay-per-view. Despite the fact the current constructors champions are from Germany, with a German driver, who is being challenged by a Ferrari driven by a four time world champion who is also German, it’s not hard to see why TV rights may be the reason why the sport isn’t doing so well there.

Of course that has been ignored to fill the pockets of F1’s shareholders. Bernie tried to play the innocent man over the weekend to the press, playing the part of ‘old clueless man’ like he was in a Ben Elton story with his ‘oh I don’t know’ and ‘it’s not my decision’ but does anyone really buy this?

In other news – there was an actual race this weekend! That is correct, 22 cars took part in a  Grand Prix around a track in Bahrain. How good it is to talk about these guys! We start with qualifying…oh.

After ripping into the higher ups in F1 I do agree with them that we have to let teams adapt to a new format of qualifying and not be afraid of change. There was some evidence of this with teams more accurately timing their fast laps before the clock struck zero during the knockout phase. However we were still left with the final two minutes of qualifying watching an empty track. Thrilling!

Jenson Button was disappointed with his 14th place but new boy, Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne impressed as he qualified 12th after being brought in to replace the injured Fernando Alonso.

At the top it looked pretty much the same as usual with Hamilton setting a track record lap time in front of his team mate and the two Ferrari’s who occupied the second row.

Up until the two Mercedes pulled out some quick laps out of nowhere towards the end of qualifying it looked like the Ferrari’s were in position to challenge the silver arrows come Sunday. Those last few laps created a few doubts, but we saw what happened in Australia when Sebastian Vettel overtook the two Mercedes from the start. However we had to be left wondering what could have been as on the formation lap Vettel’s car blew up. An engine failure caused a great puff of smoke to come out of the back of the car and end the German’s race early. As a Ferrari fan I immediately had my head in my hands. It’s funny how fickle sports fans can be, considering that if this had happened two years ago when the same driver was racing for Red Bull I would have been dancing around the room!

Anyway it was all up to Kimi Raikkonen to challenge the front pair. Once again though he made a slow start and was quickly overtaken by the Williams and Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull. One of those Williams, driven by Valtteri Bottas, pretty much gave Rosberg the victory as he collided with Lewis Hamilton coming out of the first corner. Rosberg sped away and on to victory.

It wasn’t all dull at the start though as Carlos Sainz got a puncture before the two Saubers battled wheel to wheel, which was refreshing to see from two team mates.

On the British front, Lewis was able to get to the pits and continue his race, but Jolyon Palmer made an early exit in his Renault after doing well in Australia last time out. (Sidenote – the new Renault livery is absolutely gorgeous. It is very nice to see yellow back on the grid)

Halfway through the race there was some impressive driving from Vandoorne in the McLaren and some tense battles between Kimi, Massa and Ricciardo. All of this going on as cars around them fell apart. There seemed to be debris everywhere at one point!

It wasn’t long before normality was restored as Raikkonen chased down Rosberg and Hamilton powered his way into third.

Elsewhere it was quite disappointing to see the Williams again start great and then slowly drop back as their race pace fell off a cliff. They were even overtaken by a new team on the grid! In all fairness what Romain Grosjean has done with that Haas is quite remarkable. A fifth placed finish to follow sixth in Melbourne has shown that the Frenchman has matured and can really thrive in a happy environment. I have always had my doubts about him but his performance so far this year cannot be ignored.

So the race ended with Nico taking his second win of the season and his fifth in a row. The German can now use this as the perfect platform to make a claim for the world title. Will he ever have a better chance to win one like his dad? The same thing did happen in 2014 but Hamilton came back with a vengeance to win his second championship. It will be interesting to see if the Brit has the same hunger as he did back then.

From a Ferrari stand point, this could be seen as another missed opportunity. They had a great chance of grabbing a victory in Oz and blew it, then Vettel had car problems. If Kimi would have got a better start he may well have caught Rosberg at the front. It hasn’t been a disastrous start to the season but Ferrari will hope they can convert some of their chances.

China may be the place to do it. A Ferrari victory will really open up the title race and add to what could be an entertaining year throughout the grid. Young guns like Verstappen, Ricciardo and Palmer are shaking things up and we have the fairytale story in Haas. Hopefully soon, we can focus more on these stories than the politics that continues to see the sport destroy itself.