Fears that the excitement in F1 was gone forever after the sleeper we witnessed in Malaysia a week ago were firmly put aside in today’s race in Bahrain, with a wide margin the most exciting one so far this season! The excitement didn’t come from other teams having gotten closer to breaking Mercedes’ dominance – actually the contrary. But the various teams seem to have realized that there was a clear risk of the interest in the sport dying off if something wasn’t done, something that led to a healthy absence of team orders. Racing was on the menu, whether it was between Hamilton and Rosberg (Mercedes), Ricciardo and Vettel (Red Bull) or Massa and Bottas (Williams). And boy, did they take it seriously!
If you missed the race, make sure you watch it afterwards, you won’t regret it. Rather than a summary, below just a few points to summarize some of the key takeaways.
- The Mercedes team’s dominance this season is breathtaking. In the first 40 laps of the race, both Mercedes cars took a 40-second lead over the rest of the pack. Even more impressive, with ten laps remaining after the safety car phase, in 3 laps, they went into a 10-second lead. It seems doubtful whether any team will be able to challenge Mercedes this season, but obviously there is still a long way to go.
- The safety car phase between lap 42 and 47, caused by Pastor Maldonado (yes, him again) driving straight into the side of Esteban Gutierrez who did a vertical 360 degrees spin in the air, thankfully without getting hurt, led to none of the teams having to think about fuel consumption. All teams therefore went to full power in the last ten laps, something that on one hand reconfirmed Mercedes dominance, on the other however showed Red Bull far closer to the top than they had been so far in the race. Red Bull’s main issue therefore seems to be one of power and fuel mix, something they should be able to get to grips with during the season, one may assume. As for Pastor Maldonado, he gained a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, a 5-position grid penalty in the upcoming race in China and a 3 championship point penalty. A suspension for the rest of the season would be better, and safer, for all!
- Force India and Williams reconfirmed their position as the principal challengers outside of the top teams for the season, led by Sergio Perez finishing third and thereby securing the second podium for Force India.
- After his podium position in the first race of the season in Australia from which he was later disqualified, Daniel Ricciardo again showed that at least in his eyes, Sebastian Vettel is by no means the number one driver in the Red Bull team, pushing him very close to the limit in some great takeover scenes after the safety car phase. Ricciardo finished fourth, Vettel sixth, and it does seem that slowly but surely, Red Bull are getting there.
- Last but not least, after some hairy scenes between Hamilton and Rosberg (Mercedes) earlier in the race that didn’t lead to a single word from the team over the radio, Mercedes couldn’t help themselves making it clear to both drivers during the safety car phase that the first priority was to get both cars across the finish line. Rosberg said ok, Hamilton didn’t comment, and the moment Bernd Mayländer parked the SLS AMG safety car in the garage, the both caught sudden amnesia and showed us some of the best racing scenes in quite some time!
If Bahrain is a sign of things to come, in spite of Mercedes dominance, we are in for an exciting season!