Bahrain GP – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Pure opinion. None of this is said with any malice, although I’m sure there are some who will take it as such! Enjoy it for what it is, and by all means, let me know your thoughts and opinions as to why I am right or wrong. The Good:
Pole position, race win, fastest lap. If you had missed the first three races of this season, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing had changed during the winter break. Vettel blew everyone away with a last gasp lap in qualifying, had a great start as the lights went out, pulled a three second gap on his pursuers by the end of lap 2, and drove a faultless lights to flag victory. The irritability and childishness that the young German displayed in the opening rounds vanished, and was replaced by the charm and humour that we had become used to seeing. In the most open Championship for years, Vettel has finally thrown his hat into the ring.
After the Australian Grand Prix, in this very column, I wrote this sentence: “Last season, the RB7 refused to deviate from the racing line in the corners. What was clear in Melbourne, was that the RB8 does not have the same levels of grip at speed.” Have Red Bull fixed their problem? Have they got used to life after the blown diffuser? Their car has never been the fastest on the grid, in fact it has never even been close, but it was in the corners that the RB7 excelled. What was noticeable in Bahrain was the way that both Red Bull drivers turned once into the corners and the car did exactly as it was told, instead of twitching all over the place. Although it doesn’t seem to matter what he’s driving, Mark Webber will bring the car safely home in a solid, comfortable 4th place… which was fine all the time your teammate was struggling…
That went rather well. You could pick holes in Lotus’ weekend – qualifying was uninspiring, should they have let Raikkonen pass Grosjean sooner, should they have pitted Raikkonen earlier – but to have two drivers on the podium will have pleased Eric Boullier and co no end. This was a team performance well executed and the results speak for themselves. Having convinced everyone during free practice that they were due to stay behind the top teams over the weekend, they then produced an average qualifying performance of 7th and 11th to back it up… before their drivers switched on when it mattered. Even Kimi must have smiled at some point, surely? No, you’re right, probably not.
Paul Di Resta
Paul drove a superb race, the highlight of which was his double pass of Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado at Turn 4. When you consider that his strategy meant that he needed to pass the two of them quickly to make it work for him, it was a superb piece of opportunism from the Scotsman. Had he not taken his chance, Fernando Alonso may well have stolen 6th place from him at the end. As it was, Di Resta managed his tyres as well as was possible on a two stop strategy and thoroughly deserved his 8 point haul. Oh, and he even led the race for a wee while.
“Is there a team which has generated fewer column inches than Force India so far this season?” I wrote just last week. Well that certainly got rectified. Force Indias decision not to run in 2nd practice so that their team members could return to their hotels in daylight must have irked Bernie Ecclestone somewhat, so much so that he instructed FOM to remove them from the television coverage of qualifying. In a fantastic show of oneupmanship, Force India then proceeded to get one of their cars into Q3 and then finished 6th in the race itself. Thank you for that, Force India. Ecclestone has obviously worked wonders for Formula One, but he must not be allowed to act like a petulant, spoilt child when he doesn’t get his own way.
The Formula One World Championship
Four races, four different winners from four different teams. And a fifth team that finished this race with both drivers on the podium. Wow. Just wow. The Bad:
Since Sergio Perez’ sensational result in Malaysia, both Sauber drivers have finished lower than their initial qualifying positions in both races. In Bahrain, they struggled badly, and looked like the Sauber of 2011, that could show occasional magic, but on the whole was pretty average. Was the collective admiration and assumption of their race pace slightly misjudged?
So what would Nico Rosberg have had to do for it to constitute dangerous driving? If telemetry evidence shows that Rosberg made one sweeping move off of the corner to the right of the track, then that’s ok? Because he had done this in previous laps, when there was no-one there? I am aware that the rules state that he did not have to leave room, but the stewards appear to have reached their decision by looking at Rosbergs previous approaches to the corner and using them as comparables, which is an absolute nonsense. How can you be allowed to drive in the same manner if there is a car virtually alongside you? And, to back up this point, if you are not going to penalise Rosberg, then surely you have to penalise Hamilton for passing Rosberg whilst he had not one wheel of his car on the racing surface. As Fernando Alonso tweeted after the race: “I think you are going to have fun in future races! You can defend position as you want and you can overtake outside the track! Enjoy!”
Easily their worst weekend of the season so far. A disappointing Saturday was followed by a twin retirement on the Sunday. The good thing is, the only reason this is disappointing is because it goes against the grain for Williams this season, whereas last season it was close to becoming the norm.
Marussia and HRT
When a driver, who had had a very average race, pulls into the pits with 2 laps remaining, how can you still other drivers crawling around that still end up classified behind him? I’m all for having backmarkers if they are developing driver talent – Minardi for example. But no-one can tell me that these two have anything to give to Formula One. Quite apart from being mobile chicanes on a Sunday, they render Q1 virtually pointless on a Saturday. The Ugly:
I wrote a piece a little while back, the gist of which was that McLaren had no excuse for not being in a position to win the title this year. If they carry on self destructing as they did on Sunday, then they will have reasons, but still no excuses. They had already had pit stop issues in previous races, but to have two serious issues (admittedly caused by the same problem) in the same race was almost laughable. To get things wrong that their rivals are getting right time after time is simply not good enough. What poor Lewis Hamilton must have thought sitting inside that cockpit for 9 seconds the first time and 12 seconds the next, was probably unbroadcastable.
Button was openly unhappy with the setup and balance of the car for the whole weekend. It clearly affected him, and his state of mind was so poor that even when presented with chances, he just couldn’t maximise the performance of an admittedly underwhelming vehicle. Nothing went right for him except that at least he can make changes to his car without penalty for the next race in Spain. Both McLaren drivers were heard on the radio saying that they were struggling with their rear tyres, but Button was unable to cope whereas his teammate made the best of a bad lot… and it’s not often that’s been said.
Just incase you had forgotten amidst all the excitement, Ricciardo qualified 6th. He ended up being the only driver (excluding the three bottom teams) who didn’t finish the race on the same lap as the leaders. His teammate, who qualified 17th, finished 2 places ahead of him in 13th. Ouch.
No such thing as bad publicity Bernie? Are you absolutely sure about that? I hope that, in private at least, he is even slightly embarrassed by the way the whole weekend was handled. Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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