If ever there was a race that showcased the brilliance of close racing in F1, Sundays race in Bahrain was it.
After the controversial changes to Qualifying in an attempt to spice up race day, this race highlighted that what isn’t broke doesn’t need fixing.
Beautiful overtaking, all down the field, provided nail biting action which even the most cynical fan would have been enthralled by.
Although the win never really seemed in doubt for Rosberg, after a first corner collision for Hamilton, there was enough place swapping to keep the race alive.
A prime example was Kimi Raikkonen, who came alive after a poor start saw him jumped by the two Williams drivers and Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull. Raikkonen charged back through the field and at many times was the fastest driver on track.
Raikkonen was not the only driver to suffer at the start, Lewis Hamilton struggled to get away, for the second race in a row, allowing his teammate to take the lead into turn one. Meanwhile behind, the Williams’ of Massa and Bottas both had fantastic starts, leapfrogging Raikkonen, which caused Bottas to come steaming up the inside of Hamilton in turn one. Hamilton appeared to have left a large wedge of room for Bottas but this quickly disappeared as they both took the racing lane, causing an inevitable collision and pushing both drivers down the field with damage.
Arguably the collision could have been avoided by Bottas, and the stewards awarded the Finn a drive through penalty for causing a collision. The collision caused severe floor damage to Hamilton’s Mercedes, reportedly losing him around a second a lap in pace, and depriving us, the viewers, a good fight between him and his teammate for the win.
Ricciardo also found himself with front wing damage after colliding with the retreating Hamilton, which ultimately damaged his pace and meant he could not capitalise fully on his fantastic qualifying, but he still managed a great fourth place.
Sebastian Vettel, the main hope of a challenge to the Mercedes, did not even make it to the start after an engine failure on the formation lap. Jolyon Palmer joined the early retiree list after a hydraulics problem halted his Renault.
All this happened in just the two opening laps! What followed was a succession of thrilling overtakes and tyre strategy battles.
By lap six Raikkonen had made his way back to fourth place with a great move around the outside of Ricciardo after the Australian went deep into turn one- a clear result of his front wing damage. A lap later Ricciardo pitted, whilst Raikkonen quickly moved into third with a great move around the outside of Bottas in the DRS zone.
After stopping on lap thirteen to change to the soft tyres Raikkonen was up to second in a single lap after an opportunistic move on Massa as he exited the pits and he passed Kyvat a few corners later.
Mclaren’s woes continued with an early retirement for Jenson Button on lap seven with a hybrid boost problem, leaving their last hope for points with debutant Stoffel Vandoorne who was standing in for Fernando Alonso who was deemed unfit to race by the stewards after his crash in Australia. Vandoorne stepped up to the challenge beautifully, capitalising on his good qualifying position, running as high as eighth throughout the race, ultimately finishing tenth for Mclaren’s first points of the season- illustrating that he is another driver to watch.
Yet again the new Haas team enjoyed a fantastic race with Romain Grosjean, by lap seventeen Grosjean had hustled his way up to sixth place and was battling Massa for fifth. The Ferrari engine allowed him to easily dispose of Felipe Massa on the straight and go charging after Ricciardo in fourth. Ultimately Romain secured a fantastic bag of points for the new team with a fifth place finish, which places Romain fifth in the driver’s championship and exulting to the team that he is experiencing, “the American Dream.”
Despite a fierce amount of speed in the early stages by the final rounds of pit stops it became clear that Raikkonen would have to settle for second when Rosberg exited the pits with a considerable lead on the Ferrari and the fastest lap of the race a lap later.
Hamilton drove a good recovery drive to gain third, with Ricciardo, Grosjean, and young Max Verstappen collecting well deserved points behind him. Pascal Wehrlein also finished a fantastic thirteenth for the Manor team- showcasing what a promising talent he is for the future.
Overall this thrilling race highlighted all the very best Formula One has to offer; close battles, fantastic tyre strategy, thrilling overtaking and a crop of young talent, illustrating that the powers that be should stop messing around with the rules and let the racing speak for itself.
Bahrain Grand prix final results:
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 57 laps
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, +10.3s
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +30.1s
- Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, +62.5s
- Romain Grosjean, Haas, +78.3s
- Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, +80.9s
- Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, +1 lap
- Felipe Massa, Williams, +1 lap
- Valtteri Bottas, Williams, +1 lap
- Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, +1 lap
- Kevin Magnussen, Renault, +1 lap
- Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, +1 lap
- Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, +1 lap
- Felipe Nasr, Sauber, +1 lap
- Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, +1 lap
- Sergio Perez, Force India, +1 lap
- Rio Haryanto, Manor, +1 lap
DNF Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso
DNF Esteban Gutierrez, Haas
DNF Jenson Button, McLaren
DNS Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
DNS Jolyon Palmer, Renault