LEWIS Hamilton’s costly internal struggles is the standout development from a dramatic Bahrain Grand Prix.
Here are the Sky Sports driver ratings from the third race of the season.
F1 victory No. 44 for Sebastian Vettel and precisely the type of cool, calm and calculated performance from the German which was his hallmark in his previous life at Red Bull.
The Vettel of old is now coming of age at Ferrari, the Scuderia’s team leader in all-but name and it would of no surprise to learn Sebastian was the driving force behind the early pit-stop on lap 11 which was the race’s pivotal moment.
In a role reversal from China, Mercedes appeared to have an edge on pace over the Ferrari, particularly in the final stages, but Vettel is a canny operator, a specialist in frontrunning, and almost certainly kept plenty in hand.
When leading the pack, Vettel very rarely drops the ball. He has not finished lower than his grid spot since last year’s Belgian GP and while we are yet to see a true duel between Vettel and Hamilton, Ferrari success at a power circuit suggests they will last the distance in the title fight.
A return to the bad old days for Lewis Hamilton. Gracious after being out-qualified by teammate Valtteri Bottas on Saturday, the Briton was left “deflated” after failing to “execute the way I could” on a turbulent Sunday. Beaten off the line by Vettel, Hamilton was then made to pay for his error in holding up Daniel Ricciardo in the pitlane as his subsequent time penalty denied him the chance to truly challenge for the win.
Bottas also proved in Bahrain that he can beat his teammate on his day, which looks set to delay Mercedes backing one driver in the title fight.
“We’re three races down and we have always maintained that philosophy [of equal drivers]. I know it’s a very tough call and I don’t want to make it yet,” said team boss Toto Wolff.
Hamilton will not be able to afford too many more scrappy Sundays if he is to hold off the threat of Vettel and Ferrari and join the German as a four-time world champion.
If only the weekend had ended on Saturday for Valtteri Bottas. But after the career-high achievement of his first pole position in F1, race day swiftly unravelled for the Finn. Bereft of his qualifying pace, the Finn was then condemned to twice yielding to his teammate under orders from the pitwall.
“The worst thing to hear as a racing driver,” he summarised afterwards.
Undermined by a tyre-pressure issue due to a generator failure on the grid, a slow first pit-stop didn’t exactly help Bottas’ early-race cause either.
But by then the lead had already been taken out of his grasp by Ferrari’s aggressive early stop and the fundamental problem for Bottas throughout the race was a simple lack of pace. Valtteri’s fastest lap in the race was over a second slower than Hamilton’s.
As Bottas himself remarked of Mercedes’ instruction to let the other car through, “It was tough but I didn’t have enough pace today”.
Another weekend of Vettel on the podium and Kimi Raikkonen nowhere to be seen. The Finn never truly threatened the front three and ended 22 seconds behind his victorious teammate in fourth. Slow off the line, Raikkonen found himself squeezed out by both Max Verstappen and Felipe Massa within the first five corners.
“I had a s*** start and then an awful first few corners because of that. Obviously, after that, we were playing catch-up,” Raikkonen reported afterwards.
The 2007 world champion was also frustrated on team radio for the second race in succession and moved aside for Vettel to chase Hamilton during the second round of pit stops.
Sky F1’s Martin Brundle commented during the race: “With Vettel scoring lots of points, [Kimi] is quickly becoming the No 2 driver at Ferrari.”
At times this weekend, it looked very good for Daniel Ricciardo. “At the beginning of the race I genuinely thought we had a chance to win,” he reported. At other stages, he looked all at sea. “It was a race of two halves…”
The high point of the weekend was his defeat of both Max Verstappen and Raikkonen in qualifying and the five-second penalty for Hamilton, overtaken by Ricciardo in the pits in any case, ought to have positioned the Aussie for a strong finish. But a crippling inability to warm up his tyres saw the Red Bull plunge down the field and Ricciardo’s eventual fifth place was useful, solid but ultimately underwhelming.
Felipe Massa seems to be enjoying the number six in his comeback from brief retirement. The Brazilian has either started sixth or finished sixth in the three grands prix so far and it was the latter once again in Bahrain. Massa enjoyed a couple of tasty duels with former Ferrari teammate Raikkonen, while he also got past Ricciardo at the restart before the tyres on his Williams fell away.
“The position I finished was like a victory and it’s important for the whole team,” Massa said.
With Williams desperate to reclaim fourth in the Constructors’ Championship and teammate Lance Stroll yet to finish a race, the experienced Massa’s consistency will be key to achieving that goal.
With his 13th consecutive points-scoring finish in the bank, Sergio Perez is becoming F1’s new Mr Consistent.
The Mexican’s effort in Bahrain was particularly impressive: rising from 18th on the grid to seventh, albeit with the assistance of a Safety Car deployment, the timing of which Force India described as “fortunate”. Perhaps, but in F1 a driver makes his own luck and Perez deserves credit for making the most possible of a very bad Saturday.
The curious case of Romain Grosjean. Vocal in his criticism of his Haas car over team radio before dumping it in the wall in Practice Three, the Frenchman went on to enjoy another solid weekend.
Grosjean reached Q3 for the second time this season and qualified ninth, backing up his sixth place in Australia, while his teammate Kevin Magnussen was left at the back of the grid.
After a promising start, Grosjean then lost out to Perez under the Safety Car having pitted shortly before it was deployed, but came back strongly following the second round of stops to secure eighth place – his first points of the season and a fifth top-10 finish in six Bahrain starts.
Nico Hulkenberg bounced back from his Chinese misery to pick up his maiden points for Renault and the team’s first of the season. It represented another encouraging weekend for the French outfit who spent much of last season at the back end of the grid.
Hulkenberg showed Renault may be the best of the rest behind the front three on one-lap pace by qualifying seventh but dropping to ninth on race day highlighted the RS17 still has issues on long runs and tyre wear.
“Over the 57 laps of the race we exposed some of the areas where we need to improve,” the German conceded.
“We have some updates for evaluation when I’m in the car [in testing on Tuesday], which will hopefully improve our race pace by a big chunk for Sochi.”
How to describe Esteban Ocon’s first full-time month in F1? ‘Quietly impressive’ because the youngster has been there or thereabouts with Sergio Perez throughout. ‘Consistent’ because Sunday’s result was his third-successive tenth place — although on this occasion he felt that the timing of the Safety Car had cost him three positions.
And ‘record-breaking’: Esteban is now the youngest-ever driver in F1 history to score points in his first three races.
The boy is doing good.
A belated but thoroughly impressive debut for Pascal Wehrlein in the Sauber. Having missed the opening two grand prixs with fitness issues, the German easily out-qualified teammate Marcus Ericsson to start 13th before finishing just outside the points in 11th in Sunday’s race.
Wehrlein felt it was the maximum possible from the C36 and, after being lambasted in some quarters for not driving through the pain in Australia and China, the Mercedes protégé’s performance earned rave reviews from Toto Wolff.
“Another one who has proved his critics wrong after the things he had to take,” the Austrian said after qualifying. “He bounced back in a spectacular way.”
The Bahrain GP proved to be something of a horror show for Daniil Kvyat. Starting 11th, the Russian fell to the back of the pack on the first lap after locking up to avoid hitting Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz who had surged through from 16th.
Kvyat’s race largely consisted of duelling with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer to avoid finishing last, the pair bumping wheels along the way, and sending Fernando Alonso into a rage as he cruised past the struggling McLaren on the straight.
“After my first lap, I think my race was over, unfortunately,” Kvyat said.
“It was just not our day and we can’t afford situations like this as the midfield is very tight.”
An improved but ultimately disappointing weekend for Jolyon Palmer. While his first foray into Q3 signalled his best-ever qualifying result in F1, he was over a second adrift of teammate Hulkenberg in the final reckoning and then failed to make any sort of impression on race day.
“It was a tough race,” said Palmer. “The degradation seemed to be more for us than the cars around.”
DID NOT FINISH:
From bad to worse for Fernando Alonso as the ugly inadequacies of his Honda engine swiftly consigned the fillip of Wednesday’s Indy 500 announcement to the backburner.
“I’ve never raced with less power in my life,” raged the Spaniard, his top speed was 285kph during the race compared to Hamilton’s 299.
“The deficit in power and performance we had on the straights today was amazing,”
Alonso said in McLaren’s own press release. “Sometimes I looked in the mirrors at the beginning of the straights and saw the other cars 300, 400 metres behind, so I forgot completely about that car and started changing settings on the steering wheel and doing my own things, then the next thing I see when I come on the brakes is that car alongside me.
“It’s frustrating. When the red lights go off you’re motivated and you start fighting, but you’re so behind on the straights that there’s no way you can defend your position. You fight in a fair way with everyone, but you don’t enjoy the battle.”
And that’s what McLaren are willing to quote in public.
It’s been a thankless task for Marcus Ericsson over the last couple of years in his backmarking Sauber but the Swede’s reputation will nevertheless have taken a hefty hit this weekend when he was so comprehensively outperformed by a driver who was on team debut and unfit to race just a week ago.
Carlos Sainz hasn’t made many mistakes over the last two-and-a-bit years in F1 but the Spaniard was clearly at fault for causing his race-ruining collision with the Williams of Lance Stroll and can have no arguments with the imposition of a three-place grid penalty in Russia.
An intriguing but ultimately frustrating case of ‘what might have been’ for Max Verstappen when his quick start off the line and Mercedes-challenging early pace came to nought due to a race-ending brake failure.
“The car was working a lot better here than the previous two races so it’s just an unfortunate ending as we could have scored some really good points,” concluded the Dutchman forlornly. No wonder he gave the barriers a hefty kick.
While blameless in the crash with Sainz, Lance Stroll’s race had already gone backwards after the youngster lost two places off the line and had to take an early stop because of a flat-spotted tyre. Difficult to judge because of his early exit, but Stroll’s pace was arguably stronger in China and he lagged half-a-second behind Massa in this Saturday’s qualifying hour. Three races into his F1 career and the teenager has still yet to reach the chequered flag.
After a points-scoring Chinese GP, Kevin Magnussen’s Bahrain race lasted just seven laps before his Ferrari engine faltered.
The victim of three separate Honda engine failures, Stoffel Vandoorne saw more of the recovery truck than he did the Bahrain track this weekend and didn’t even make the start of Sunday’s race after his MCL32 broke down on his out-lap from the pits. The Belgian’s debut season is fast becoming a nightmare.
Rating NA/10SOURCE: newsnow sport