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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX
Posted on 17 April 2017
Ferrari and Vettel get the winning habit
This was another race where Ferrari were bold on the race strategy and it paid off for them. Lewis Hamilton lost a position to Sebastian Vettel at the start and from then on he was on the back foot. He made an error on the way into the pit lane when the Safety Car was deployed, backing Ricciardo up as he tried to get a space to be able to pit behind Valtteri Bottas, but he was penalized by the FIA stewards for that with a 5 second time penalty. He served it at his second pit stop and mounted a great charge to try to catch Vettel again, but the Ferrari kept him at arm’s length.
One of the main reasons Mercedes lost this race was the fact that they have a problem on the softer compounds of tyres in hotter conditions, compared to Ferrari. This could be a problem for them at the Singapore Grand Prix in September if they can’t get a decent fix for the problem, as the softer compounds will certainly feature there.
The second drivers are not on the pace of the team leaders
All three races this season have highlighted the clear pattern where the lead drivers of the Mercedes and Ferrari teams had a clear race pace advantage over their team mates. From pole position, Bottas was well off Hamilton's pace and was asked to let his team mate through just before his second stint as only Hamilton had the pace to mount a challenge to Vettel. Meanwhile Raikkonen had a scrappy start and then complained of further problems with the car during the race. But he was fast at the end of the race, when he almost caught Bottas for third place. He has already had a warning shot from Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne after China.
This matters because the F1 Constructors’ championship is decided on the results of both drivers in a team and while Hamilton and Vettel look set to take wins and points which more or less cancel each other out, the results of the number two drivers will therefore be what decides the constructors’ championship.
By way or a partial explanation of Bottas’ pace deficit, Mercedes said that they gave Bottas too high tyre pressures on the grid for the first stint due to the generator not functioning properly. But the Finn admitted he just wasn’t fast enough today in any of the stints.
Midfield battle full of action
Some of the best racing action this season has come from the midfield battle, which was strong again in Bahrain. Felipe Massa did a great job again to lead that with sixth place on a day when his rookie team mate Lance Stroll again got tangled with another car. That’s three non-finishes for the Canadian and points gone begging for the team.
Another star performance came from Sergio Perez, who went from 18th on the grid to seventh at the flag, thanks to a great start and then some fanastic strategy work by the Force India team that got him ahead of Hulkenberg and Kvyat. Pascal Wehlein parked his first race for Sauber after injury with 11th place in probably the slowest car in the field.
However it was another dark day for McLaren Honda; Stoffel Vandoorne didn’t start the race due to a water leak , while Fernando Alonso had a combative race but was heard to complain at one point “I have never raced with less power” Later he told the team they could “Do whatever you want” on tyre choice and retired the car in mysterious circumstances with a non-descript problem.