5 talking points from the Bahrain Grand Prix
Mercedes take full advantage of Ferrari faltering; Leclerc produces a magnificent weekend; Haas and Renault have a nightmare; two of the rookies deliver again. The Bahrain weekend gave us many talking points.
Ferrari’s pain is Mercedes’ gain
For three-quarters of yesterday’s race, it looked like Ferrari and Charles Leclerc were going to take a wonderful victory following a bad weekend in Australia. However, cruel luck denied the Monegasque driver as his lost power and dropped behind the Mercedes’ of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Sebastian Vettel, who had been in a fierce battle with Hamilton for P2, spun once again and cost himself a podium spot. That turned out to be even more costly when Leclerc’s reliability problems kicked in during the closing stages.
Credit must go to Lewis Hamilton. He harried Vettel throughout the race and managed to overtake him on lap 38. The German spun off on his own thanks to that pressure. He was there to take full advantage of Leclerc’s bad luck to claim his 74th victory in F1.
Instead of Ferrari clawing back a lot of points in the teams’ championship, Mercedes’ 1-2 saw them extend their lead by 17 points. The gap is already a sizeable 39 points after two events.
Leclerc shows he could be ready to fight for a championship
Amid the crushing disappointment in the final part of yesterday’s race, Charles Leclerc proved to everyone how good he is already.
Leclerc quickly put aside a disappointing weekend in Melbourne with an incredible performance in Bahrain. The 21-year-old was quickest in FP1, Q1, Q2, Q3 and set the quickest lap in the race.
Even after a poor start which saw him drop to P3, he quickly regained his composure and overtook Bottas for P2. Vettel was next in his sights and quickly closed down a 2-second gap to overtake the German with DRS on lap 6.
From there on in, Leclerc managed the race like a seasoned veteran and looked set to deservedly take his maiden win – until lady luck went against him. It was a cruel end to what was an amazing performance throughout the meeting.
However, Leclerc demonstrated in Bahrain that he’s got the speed to fight for the 2019 championship; providing Ferrari improve their reliability and consistently deliver a quick package. He’ll need to perform at a high level each weekend as well, of course.
Norris and Albon get off the mark
They showed promise in Australia – and both rookies delivered once again as they scored their first F1 points at the Sakhir circuit.
Lando Norris made it 2 out of 2 for Q3 appearances; albeit three places and a couple of tenths adrift of Carlos Sainz.
The Brit’s race was compromised on lap 1 after running off the circuit between turns 6 and 7, which dropped him to P14 by the end of the opening tour.
However, he worked his way back through very nicely by passing Albon, Gasly, Magnussen, Perez, Raikkonen on his way to a superb 6th place finish. Norris did a great job to manage his tyres and fend off Raikkonen towards the end of the race.
The 19-year-old has made a strong start to his F1 career.
Alex Albon’s start to his F1 career has been quieter – but the Thai driver is doing a very solid job and scored a couple of points in Bahrain.
For the second consecutive event, Albon outqualified Daniil Kvyat and started P12. Overall, he had a quiet, uneventful race but benefitted from the late race retirements of the Renault duo to claim P9.
Beating Kvyat in both qualifying and the race will give him a big boost.
Haas and Renault have a weekend to forget
Two of the leading teams in the incredibly close midfield battle had terrible Sunday’s in Bahrain.
Haas looked set for strong points with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean lining up 6th and 11th on the grid respectively. Yet, it all went wrong during the race.
Grosjean got tagged by Stroll on the opening lap. He was forced to pit and his race was pretty much done by then. The damage picked up from that incident forced him to retire on lap 16.
Magnussen’s had an extremely strange day. He completely lacked pace during the Grand Prix and dropped back massively through the field. After starting P6, he finished in a very disappointing 13th place.
Just like Leclerc, there would be some late heartbreak for Renault, too.
Nico Hulkenberg was easily one of the stars of yesterday. Following a terribly disappointing qualifying where he finished a lowly P17, the German charged through the pack.
He made up a whopping SIX places on the opening tour and gradually picked off the other midfield runners as the race went on; including team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Hulkenberg looked set for a brilliant 6th place until a late race reliability problem ended in a DNF.
Ricciardo also broke down at the same spot on the same lap with an MGU-K issue. He looked set to only score a single point before the problem struck – but the Australian’s one-stop strategy vs two stops for all the other midfield runners didn’t really work too well.
Renault has had a series of gremlins at the start of 2019. They need to improve their reliability – and quickly.
Bahrain is a fantastic circuit for racing
Hermann Tilke gets a lot of criticism for a number of tracks he’s designed – but the Sakhir International Circuit is certainly one of his finest.
We’ve seen fantastic action in recent years at this circuit and that continued yesterday.
There was plenty of brilliant duels going on throughout the race: Turns 1, 4 and 10 all provided thrilling battles between drivers. Long straights and three DRS zones always provide close and great racing around this circuit.
Hamilton vs Vettel, Leclerc vs Vettel, Norris vs Raikkonen, Kubica vs Russell were just a few of many great scraps that happened during the race. It was a reminder of how good Formula One can be when the cars are able to fight each other closely.
It’s become one of the best races on the calendar thanks to the action we see on the track. Long may it continue.