Apologies for the lack of updates on A Class lately. Things have been pretty busy and after a fairly uninspiring Chinese Grand Prix, I decided to reserve my Formula 1 discussion for after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Lets get straight to it.
When it comes to the Bahrain Grand Prix, the political situation has long overshadowed the race itself. With the kingdom’s citizens at odds with the ruling Al Khalifa family, many have questioned the relevance of having the race at all. In typical Bernie fashion, the Don of Formula 1 was quoted saying the government was “stupid” to hold the race. It’s no secret that from a sponsorship standpoint, the Bahrain Grand Prix is one of the most lucrative on the World Championship calender.
As it turns out, Sunday’s race ended up being one of the most exciting of 2013 with lots of great battles throughout the field.
Mercedes continued to look quick at the start of this weekend with a great showing in qualifying. Nico Rosberg secured his second career pole with teammate Lewis Hamilton in P4. Hamilton ultimately suffered a 5 grid spot penalty for a gearbox change following free practice. On Sunday things didn’t fare so well for Mercedes as both drivers struggled to maintain pace.
The opening laps provided for some of the most exciting wheel-to-wheel racing at the start of any Grand Prix in recent years, with Rosberg fending off Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso – who exchanged places for P2. However once DRS was enabled, Vettel made his move and created a lead which he held for the remainder of the race. Rosberg’s pace continued to falter, but he displayed a level of aggression we haven’t seen from him in the past. Ultimately the driver finished 9th.
Things fared slightly better for Hamilton who was quoted after the race saying the car went from “terrible” to “amazing”. Hamilton also had some nice duels with his former McLaren teammate Jenson Button and Sergio Perez. He finished 5th overall and has stayed consistent in the points since the start of the season.
Lotus have come out fighting in 2013 and amid rumors of the team’s struggles to secure more funding to keep Kimi Raikkonen next season, have produced an excellent car in the E21. Raikkonen struggled in qualifying and started P9. Things fared better on Sunday and with the car’s excellent tire management, he was able to secure a podium finish placing 2nd.
His teammate Romain Grosjean also struggled in qualifying, starting in P11, but made it count in the race. Grosjean finished 3rd after some interesting battles throughout the field. It’s amazing to see the success Lotus has achieved in such a short time. The team’s engineers have certainly discovered the secret to maintaining Pirelli’s unforgiving tires. It’s no secret that Raikkonen is one of the most popular drivers on the market for 2014, with Red Bull rumored to be courting him for Mark Webber’s seat. Ultimately he’s a major factor in Lotus’s newfound success over the last couple of seasons.
Things didn’t go well for Ferrari this weekend. After a great qualifying session for both drivers on Saturday, a series of mechanical maladies saw Fernando Alonso finishing 8th and his teammate Felipe Massa out of the points in 14th. Ferrari have gotten off to a much more successful start in 2013 with the highly competitive F138. However a broken wing on Alsonso’s car forced the driver to do without DRS in most of the race, while Massa experienced numerous tire issues. Both drives made an unnecessary amount of pit stops which ultimately cost them.
With an admittedly sluggish car, McLaren’s only goal for the weekend was to score points. As the teams head back to Europe for a 3 week break, McLaren will essentially rebuild their car in the hopes of being more competitive in Spain. For the second race weekend in a row, Sergio Perez was unable to break into Q3 with his teammate Jenson Button settling for P10 at the start of Sunday’s race. McLaren haven’t had the pace all season, however Button has managed better results than his teammate, who has been harshly criticized in recent weeks.
After scoring just 2 World Championship points in the first 3 races of the season, the pressure was on Perez to deliver in Bahrain. Some unusually aggressive driving saw him in an exciting and nerve wracking battle with his teammate. Button was unhappy with the advances by Perez which calls in to question some of his earlier comments with regards to Red Bull’s team orders debacle. When it comes to tire management their may be no better driver in Formula 1 than Button, ultimately he finished 10th on Sunday with Perez in a more successful 6th. McLaren have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks as they’ll not like being without a podium finish for much longer. Expect to see a very different MP4-28 in Spain.
At the end of the day it was Sebastian Vettel who stood at the top of the podium. In typical fashion Vettel got an early lead and dominated the remainder of the race. Vettle has become increasingly outspoken in the last couple of weeks, with regards to Red Bull’s team orders in Malaysia. At the start of the Chinese Grand Prix, he virtually did a 180 from his previous comments about overtaking his teammate and said he would do it again. The bad blood has continued to flow in the Red Bull paddock with Mark Webber suffering a dismal weekend in China, then being forced to use his teammates engine maps in Bahrain. Red Bull continue to maintain that they support both drivers equally but that is becoming increasingly harder to believe.
Webber celebrated his 200th Grand Prix in Bahrain with a small cake cutting ceremony at which neither Vettel or Helmut Marko were in attendance. The politics within the team seem to be boiling over as Marko was seen telling Niki Lauda not to be nice to Webber. At this point it seems highly unlikely that Webber with continue with Red Bull in 2014. It’s been reported the Australian is scheduled to meet with team owner Dietrich Mateschitz later this week at Red Bull’s headquarters. The meeting will presumably be about his future, as he continues to deny rumors about a a move to Porsche next year.
It was a departure from the usual procession in Bahrain with plenty of wheel-to-wheel racing across the field. The World Championship is still wide open and anything can happen after the teams get a chance to regroup in Europe. It’s hard to believe Formula 1 is already headed to Spain next with the Monaco Grand Prix just a month away!
Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.