Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg made it five victories in a row with an overpowering victory at Bahrain this afternoon, taking the flag 10 seconds before Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, and behind him, Rosberg’s teammate Lewis Hamilton, in this action-packed race.
Rosberg made a confident start, ahead of teammate Hamilton, and his distance over the Brit increased with a collision on the first corner between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, causing Hamilton to drop down into 9th, after part of his front wing was damaged and a piece of debris was hanging off the underside of his car. The wing issue was resolved at Hamilton’s first pit-stop, however the debris remained underneath of his car for the entirety of the race, costing him approximately 1 second per lap, Mercedes engineers report.
Hamilton reported “We managed to get it back up there. It was damage limitation. Congratulations to Nico, an easy race for him I assume, but I am glad it was not more points lost as I could have not finished the race.”
A piece of superb driving by Rosberg ensured that he remained at the front for the entirety of the race, however Hamilton was unable to pass his teammate, ending up 3rd, on the final podium position, the two Mercedes split by Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
“It has been an awesome weekend,” reported Rosberg.
“The key was the start. I got a great getaway. I was very happy with today and it is absolutely awesome to get another win.”
A mixed bag of a day for Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel having to retire on the formation lap due to engine problems. Vettel had gained third place on the grid, behind the two Mercedes, and managed to get away clearly on the formation lap. However, this positive start did not translate into a good race for the German, as a cloud of smoke appeared from his car partway round the lap. He radioed in, saying “I think I might have an engine failure. I am losing power. Do you want me to stop the car?“
He was forced to stop between turns 13 and 14 on the circuit, marking the first DNS of the German’s career.
“I don’t know [what the problem was] yet. I lost power, saw smoke coming out and we decided to stop. Why? I don’t know at this stage.
“It’s obviously frustrating and after the race we’ll see what happens, whether the engine has damage or not we’ll see. I don’t think it’s the same thing as Kimi’s in Australia. The main thing is we support Kimi then see what happened…”
Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, on the other hand, had a fantastic race, bringing him home 2nd place, and his first points of the season, after a poor start, leaving him in 5th. The statement that Bahrain is Raikkonen’s favourite track was proved right, as the Iceman seemed to be on fire and stormed to his first podium of the season. As usual, the Finn was nonchalant about 2nd place, saying:
“I had a bad start and it’s always difficult after that. We had good pace but not enough to win.”
At times, Raikkonen managed to get close to Rosberg, but not close enough to reach 1st, leaving Rosberg 10.2s ahead of the Finn at the finish line.
Raikkonen has also matched a record with his podium finish today, for the most podiums at a single track – 8. After his finish, there was joy on the team radio:
Greenwood: Great job Kimi. Good recovery
Arrivabene: Well done Kimi.
Raikkonen: Thanks. Good racing.
Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull came home just avoiding the podium, in P4, now third in the drivers championship after another well-fought and fast-paced race, after qualifying 5th on the grid, behind the Mercedes and Ferraris. He just managed to avoid the collision between Bottas and Hamilton, only receiving some front wing damage out of the carnage.
Teammate Daniil Kvyat came home 7th, behind Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean, making it a double points finish for Red Bull.
A (mostly) successful race for newcomers Haas, with Romain Grosjean coming home in 5th place, to their delight. With only one scare at a long pit-stop, Grosjean, with his open tyre choice, now sits 5th in the drivers championship, along Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, with 18 points.
Unfortunately it was not all good news for the American team. The Frenchman’s teammate, Esteban Gutierrez, was unable to finish the race after suffering a mechanical failure halfway through. Another unsuccessful race for the Mexican, after colliding with Fernando Alonso in Australia.
There were mixed feelings among Torro Rosso. Max Verstappen came home 6th, scoring the team their first ever points in Bahrain, however teammate Carlos Sainz had to retire on the first lap because of a puncture.
“What a shame to have had to retire,” Sainz said, “It was looking like a race where we could’ve certainly scored points, and it all just ended in a first-lap accident. We had a very good start to the race- obviously everyone in front of us was on the super soft tyre while we started on softs, but we still managed to gain a few places, so that was good.
“Now we just need to put this behind us and look forward to the next race in China in two weeks’ time, where we will come back stronger- we know that we have a good car and we can be fast.”
Verstappen, however, was elated by the good result:
“I’m very happy with today’s result! I think we bounced back very strongly from the first weekend and the whole team did a fantastic job- a great strategy, good pit-stops… It all worked out perfectly, including our tyre management.
“The car was just doing what it had to do and felt good, we had great pace! It was an action-packed race and I really enjoyed it out there. To finish P6 is a fantastic way to finish the weekend and I’d like to thank the whole team for their excellent work. Also, this is the first time ever that the team scores points here in Bahrain, so I’m very happy to have changed this statistic – as I said before coming here, that was one of my objectives!”
Williams’ Valtteri Bottas had a rather disappointing race, beginning with his clash with Hamilton on the first corner, earning Bottas a drive-through penalty and two penalty points on his license, meaning that the Finn now has a total of 4 points on his license. He admitted that he car went ‘sideways’ before he collided with Hamilton, but also stated that he had been left little room.
“Well I was committed into turn one,” the Bottas told Sky after the race had finished, “and at the point I braked in the corner, I was turning into the corner then everyone seemed to go very, very tight inside and it was too late”.
“I was trying to brake as hard as I could and I was trying to keep the inside as far as I could. But I went a bit sideways and we hit. It’s a shame because I got a penalty and for sure he lost some places because of that.”
Bottas needed up in ninth place, behind teammate Felipe Massa.
Felipe Massa managed to make a strong getaway as the race begun, slotting behind Nico Rosberg as Bottas hit Hamilton, but still received damage after the collision. Mass showed a reasonable pace on the supersofts, however that speed fell away as the team swapped to mediums, trying to make a two-stop strategy work.
“I started really well but it didn’t finish the way we started,” Massa said.”I was so happy after Turn 1, after going from seventh to second, and so I’m disappointed I finished eighth. Definitely we did not do the right strategy compared to the other teams.
“We tried a two-stop strategy but the pace was so slow.I don’t believe we could have been on the podium, but it was possible to fight [Daniel] Ricciardo for fourth.
“We just chose the wrong strategy. The pace of the car on the mediums was so slow – we couldn’t do anything.”
Massa also added that the case wasn’t the team not having enough sets of the correct compounds, rather that they had always planned to run on the two mediums.
Another mixed bag of a race for McLaren, with Stoffel Vandoorne completing a fantastic debut race, scoring McLaren’s first point of the season, after coming in at 10th place. The Belgian, replacing injured Fernando Alonso for the race, started in 12th place, stayed out of trouble on the opening lap, sticking behind the collision that took place. He also managed some confident overtaking manoeuvres, and completed a consistent drive to the chequered flag.
“This result was more or less what I expected – I maximised the opportunity and I’m quite satisfied.” Reported Vandoorne. “The start was a little bit difficult. There was debris left and right – it was pretty hectic in fact – and there was a lot of fighting throughout that opening lap.
“Since the beginning of the weekend, I’ve felt very confident in the car, and pretty comfortable that I could do a good job. I’m pleased that I didn’t make any mistakes operationally – I was really focusing on that side of things – and I came away with a point, which was a nice bonus.
“This weekend was a big opportunity for me: I made the most of it, I showed what I’m capable of, and now I just need to wait and see what happens next. That’s not for me to decide – so let’s see what the future brings.”
For teammate Jenson Button, however, it was a disappointing race. After running within the top 10, he encountered a power unit issue and was forced to retire on lap seven.
“We made some real progress with the car this weekend.” Button said. “Qualifying didn’t go fully to plan, but the pace was there – it’s just been a tough weekend because I think we could have scored a good amount of points. Still, I think we can take away some positives in terms of our outright pace.
“In the race I had a loss of power and then the car stopped. We don’t know yet exactly what the problem was – the car just cut out. I initially felt it out of Turn Two, and I eventually stopped at Turn 10.
“It’s a pity; I got a really good start, and made up lots of places, overtaking three cars at Turn 10 under braking, so I was pretty chuffed with that. So it’s a real shame, as I say: before I stopped, I was saving a lot of fuel, my tyres were in good condition, and I was just cruising behind the cars in front.
“We were going to try something a little bit different with the strategy; the cars we were sat behind finished fifth and sixth, and I felt like we could have had a good fight with them.”
Renault’s Kevin Magnussen had a disappointing start to the race, beginning from the pitlane after a penalty for failing to stop at the weighbridge in FP2, however fought for the duration of the race to end up in 11th, just shy of the points. Magnussen began on the soft tyres, changing to the supersofts for the rest of the race.
“Starting from the pit lane meant that it was always going to be a strategic race but I still had some fun fights out on track and we extracted all we had in the car today.” Magnussen reported.
“We were so close to scoring points; it’s frustrating to think what could have been had we not incurred a penalty. In any case, the team did a good job this weekend, we’re working very well altogether and the car’s performance was encouraging. There are signs of good things to come for the team, including fantastic support from Renault; we have reason to smile. As long as we work really hard now, we will reap the benefits later.”
Another disappointing race for teammate Jolyon Palmer, who failed to start, returning to the pits after the formation lap after a hydraulic issue with his car.
“Having got one Grand Prix under my belt, I was looking forward to racing today so I’m disappointed at not making it past the formation lap!” Palmer reported.
“I think we could have had a chance to move up the grid, especially after our strong performance in Melbourne. Everything was okay with the car until the last corner of the lap, but then I had to go straight into the pits. It looks like it was related to hydraulics and we’ll be looking into it with the team to understand what happened. These things can happen in racing, and I certainly want to move to the next race in China as quickly as possible.”
With the team’s current financial problems, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson overcame a car which his teammate apparently does not trust, and fought hard for a points position for most of the race, before being told to ease up in order to save fuel.Ericsson drove well, making the most of what Sauber has to offer in these troubling times for the team.
Teammate Felipe Nasr seems to be particular struggling with Sauber’s car this year. On Saturday, the Brazilian was first out in qualifying, although his race was better, as he managed to work his way up to 14th place, however his teammate was 9 seconds ahead.
“I did the best I could, but this result was the maximum today as I struggled again with the car.” A disappointed Nasr said.
Both Force India drivers were involved in early collisions which diminished the hope of the team gaining any points in Bahrain. As they trailed at the rear of the pack with damaged cars, it was clear that Bahrain was a race to forget.
Nico Hulkenburg, who everyone had high hopes for this weekend, was a victim of debris after Bottas’ collision, losing a wing, and forced to pit, putting him a lap down on the field. After that, it was a waiting game for a safety car that never made an appearance.
“A difficult and disappointing race where not much went to plan.” Stated Hulkenburg.
“I made a poor start away from the line and was on the back foot going into turn one. Then suddenly three or four cars backed up on the apex and I nudged the back of somebody, which damaged my front wing and forced me to pit on lap one.
“From there onwards we tried to recover and pull off a two-stop strategy to get back in the race, but it proved very difficult. I was always in traffic and involved in lots of fights so my tyre degradation was very high. I don’t think we’ve seen our true pace today because the first lap destroyed my race and we were out of synch with everybody and always playing catch up.”
It was also an awful weekend for teammate Sergio Perez. He failed to get out of Q1 on Saturday due to the team’s lack of planning, and was unable to move up in the grid. he found himself in the points a couple of times, however was unable to retain this, ending up in 15th, even behind one of the Manors.
“Not the best of weekends for me: I knew I had to get a good start after yesterday’s qualifying result and I managed to pull off a great one, making up a lot of ground.” Reported Perez.
“Unfortunately, on lap two I made contact with [Carlos] Sainz, which ended up destroying my race. I was in his tow and when I went onto the marbles on the inside I just couldn’t stop the car enough.
“It was a real shame as the pace was there to score a good amount of points. During the rest of the race we had a lot of tyre degradation, but it’s too early to draw conclusions about what happened today: we need to go back to HQ and look at the data to make sure we come back strongly in China. We haven’t been very lucky in the first two races, even though our pace has been good, so I’m sure things will turn in our favour soon.”
To some teams, 13th place would not be much to show-off about, would even be a disappointment to some, however to Manor’s Pascal Wehrlien, it was a brilliant race. Never in their six years in the sport have Manor finished ahead of four other classified finishers. It was a highly commendable finish for the German- especially as two of the cars which he beat were powered by Mercedes, and was half a minute in front of teammate Haryanto.
Wehrlien has shown flashes on talent on the track, and his 16th place qualifying was one of the best performances of the day.
“It was a great race for me.” A thrilled Wehrlien stated.
“I can’t even compare it to the one in Melbourne because it felt like a completely different race. The car was better, the way we could manage the tyres was better – everything was just a big improvement.
“It was quite chaotic to begin with but that happens in the midfield so I’m not going to complain. My start was good and I managed to avoid any contact, then the rest of the first stint was really good fun. It was nice to be so competitive. I was 7th at one point and I really enjoyed getting past the Force Indias. It would have been good to take the second Sauber at the end but I had started to lose the tyres by then. We still experienced some tyre degradation, which is why we switched to a three-stop strategy, but it was much better than the last race and another good sign for us. I want to thank the whole team for today. I had a great car and it’s exciting to see how much more potential we have. I can’t wait for China now.”
Teammate Rio Haryanto at least finished a race for the first time this season. Running at the back for the duration of the race, and finishing at the back as well. A slight disappointment, especially as his teammate finished so well for the team. However, it was good experience for the young Indonesian, and it helped getting another race under his belt.
“It was great to see the chequered flag today.” Haryanto stated.
“It feels good to have a race distance under my belt, which is vital experience for me and the team as it gives us more data to analyse and develop the car further. The start was good and we were in the mix with the Saubers and Renaults but I think we did a different strategy to those around us. We also suffered with tyre degradation, which really hampered our progress. Shanghai is a track I know well so I’m looking forward to making another step forward there.”
Overall, an exciting race, with plenty of midfield fights, and unexpected finishes.