Fernando Alonso coming home ninth, one ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as the F14 T showed up its Achilles Heel, namely a lack of top speed.
Sakhir – Lewis Hamilton took his second consecutive win of the season, ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, the two of them joined on the podium by Sergio Perez for Force India. The other winner under the floodlights in the desert was the sport of Formula 1, as the race was absolutely spellbinding, with duels throughout the field from start to finish. Unfortunately, the two Ferrari drivers could only play supporting roles, Fernando Alonso coming home ninth, one ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as the F14 T showed up its Achilles Heel, namely a lack of top speed.McLaren and dropped to ninth. At the front, the two Mercedes duelled wheel to wheel, with pole man Rosberg dropping to second behind Hamilton. Massa shot up four places to third in the Williams, ahead of Perez in the Force India, with Bottas fifth in the Williams ahead of Button, the Englishman in his 250th GP, ahead of Fernando. On lap 5, Hulkenberg got his Force India ahead of Fernando, who in eighth spot, was leading the non-Mercedes powered championship. Raikkonen and Vettel were in close attendance, until Fernando extended the gap slightly on lap 9.
Both Ferrari men ran a three stop strategy, as did the majority of the field, going for Soft, Soft, Medium and finally Soft in terms of the tyres they ran. They made their last stops together on lap 41, during a Safety Car period, the other visits to pit lane coming on laps 12 and 28 for Fernando and 13 and 33 for Kimi.
Lap 19 and Fernando had to cede 6th place to Perez. One lap later and Kimi was passed by Button, so the Finn was now ninth. The race leader, Rosberg, came in on lap 21, taking on Medium tyres, while Kimi was clearly struggling as he had his mirrors full of Vettel. With the whole field having stopped, the order on lap 23 was Hamilton, Rosberg, Bottas, Massa, Hulkenberg, Perez, Alonso seventh, Button, Raikkonen, ninth with Vettel tenth.
Then, a huge crash when Maldonado in the Lotus hit Gutierrez’s Sauber, tipping the Mexican right over, thankfully with the car landing on its wheels, brought out the Safety Car, so Fernando and Kimi came in on lap 41 for their third and final stops, fitting Medium tyres. Behind the SC, Fernando was tenth, with Kimi right behind him. Despite trying all they could to make up places, the fact that they were swamped from behind on the straights, while those ahead were out of reach, meant it was a lost cause today.
Fernando finally passed Button for ninth on lap 50, where he would stay to the flag, Kimi right behind him. For the Maranello squad, it was a very long night for 3 points. However, there is no rush to pack everything away, as all eleven teams will be testing here at the Sakhir circuit on Tuesday and Wednesday, as part of the relaxation of the in-season testing ban that had previously been in place.
Stefano Domenicali: “This race provided an epilogue to a weekend which turned out to be as difficult as we had thought it would be, even before arriving in Bahrain. This circuit is particularly tough for our car and Sakhir’s technical characteristics showed up the gaps in our performance. Now, we must forget this race and look ahead, because I don’t like seeing our drivers fighting hard everywhere and then being unable to attack or defend on the straights. We’ve got an important test ahead of us now, when I expect to see an initial step up in terms of quality. The team must not get downhearted, even if things have not turned out the way they should so far. They must continue to work in order to step up a gear as quickly as possible.”
Fernando Alonso: “Today’s race was complicated for us, even if we knew what to expect because, with its long straights, this track shows up our weak points. The team did a super job and sorted the problem I had yesterday in the final part of qualifying and the start and strategy were perfect. The Safety Car helped us make up a bit of ground on the cars ahead of us and also allowed us to save fuel, but it was not enough to change the result, with eight cars ahead of us doing a better job. Although we did all we could, we can’t be happy with our level of performance and now our sole focus must be on working day and night. The season is in its early stages and I think we can stage a recovery. We have the resources and the potential to do it and it’s all down to us. Next week will be very important as we get back on track on Tuesday and Wednesday to test in preparation for the upcoming races. We have got a very aggressive programme, which we need as our rivals will not just be sitting back and watching.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “I am very disappointed with today’s result, because after how qualifying went, I expected to do better. I didn’t get a good start and immediately lost some places. On the first lap, I was hit by Magnussen, luckily without it doing any damage, but trying to move up the order at this point was very difficult, because the lack of aero downforce and speed on the straight meant overtaking was complicated. We knew this track was less suited to the characteristics of our car than the first two and that the Mercedes would be very quick. Overall, the handling of our car has generally improved compared to the first races and this makes me confident for the upcoming ones. We can expect a lot of work to do and we will make the most of the test days to try and improve already in time for the next race in China.”
Pat Fry: “Today, we could not have asked more of our car and drivers, because here, our most limiting factor was a lack of top speed. That meant we had to run a defensive race and even if in the middle sector, the one with the most corners, the F14 T was competitive, it was not enough to allow Fernando and Kimi to attack our rivals. In Maranello, we are working on solutions to ensure better power delivery and better driveability. We are also trying to improve the efficiency of the car on the aerodynamic front. The data we acquired in today’s race will provide a baseline for the major checking programme we have planned for the test, right here at Sakhir on Tuesday and Wednesday.”