Motorsport.com’s Global Editor-in-Chief Charles Bradley gives his views on an incident-packed Bahrain Grand Prix…
1: ‘Crazy’ Ferrari has got its mojo back
Oops, they did it again. Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari repeated their Australian Grand Prix success with another victory that owed a lot to a bold tactical gamble.
You could argue that rushing into a similar early pitstop cost it dear in China, although Vettel made a sublime recovery, but just having the bravado to take the fight to Mercedes is a trick that’s paid off twice now. And bravissimo to all concerned in that call – you’re making F1 tick right now.
Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene summed it up thus: “What is good is that this team demonstrated braveness, determination and a bit of craziness. In taking a risk, these three qualities that I mentioned, they are in the DNA of the overall Ferrari since 70 years, like the founder created, so I’m happy.”
Now the 2017 score is 2-1 to Ferrari, and the fight moves on to Russia – and we still aren’t clear on who has the fastest car after three races!
2: Mercedes shows signs of cracking under pressure
So just how did Mercedes turn a 1-2 front-row lockout into a 2-3 finish, with arguably the fastest car? The devil was in the details on Sunday night…
Firstly, the generator allocated to Valtteri Bottas’s pole-sitting car broke down, which meant his tyre pressures were incorrectly set on the grid. Then, the team did not immediately react to Vettel’s bold undercut with either of its cars.
When the safety car was called upon, that meant Mercedes was forced to stack both drivers, and Niki Lauda reported that there was an issue with wheelgun air pressures, which impacted those pitstops.
In the meantime, Lewis Hamilton had illegally backed up Daniel Ricciardo (someone who, it turned out, was not in the podium fight) entering the pitlane and incurred a 5s penalty.
That all Vettel gifted the lead, with Bottas struggling for grip throughout and Hamilton forced to overcome his penalty, so it meant Lewis ran out of laps to catch the Ferrari – even with Bottas letting him have a free pass.
Must do better.
3: Alonso reads Honda the radio riot act
It’s going to be in all the highlight reels from here, so let’s hear it again: “I’ve never raced with less power in my life.”
Fernando Alonso’s patience with Honda is stretched once more, and you feel that the month of May – and his Indianapolis 500 odyssey – can’t come quickly enough. Not even some satisfying passes on preoccupied midfielders could keep him happy in Bahrain, and once again he didn’t get to see the chequered flag – although at least he saw the start lights, unlike his teammate…
This weekend Alonso flies to Barber Motorsports Park in America, to check out what the IndyCar Series is all about. He’ll find it’s like a more-powerful version of his Formula 3000 days, with a cast of proper drivers and teams, and he’ll see that Honda is doing a really great job there this year.
But, regardless of how much he learns in Alabama, nothing will prepare him for what he’ll get at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s mighty superspeedway, even if he has raced on its road course (best result: second to McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton in 2007).
4: Don’t be too quick to blame the rookie!
I can understand why seeing Lance Stroll parked at the side of the road in a steaming mess might provoke you to jump to the conclusion that he’d had another one of his ‘rookie moments’, but his exit from Bahrain – like China – was certainly not his fault.
Although Sergio Perez got away with his in-off-the-pink move in Shanghai, Carlos Sainz’s two-footed tackle was always going to receive a red card from stewards – in the shape of a Russian GP grid penalty.
“I just saw the video, it’s ridiculous,” slammed Stroll of Sainz. “He was miles behind, but he completely dove down the inside when I was in the middle of the corner and just hit me!”
However, even the most eminent of media that did react before they had seen the replays got a swift and stern admonishment from Stroll’s public relations consultant Ann Bradshaw on Twitter…
Beware a PR queen scorned!
5: Good to see Wehrlein back in the game
After being forced to miss two races due to his pre-season back injury in the Race Of Champions, Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein had come in for some heavy flak from some quarters.
He responded in just the right fashion, scoring Sauber’s best qualifying position of the season on Saturday, then its highest race finish so far in 2017 on Sunday.
“I'm really happy to come back like this, like I've never been away,” he said. “I couldn't move for five weeks, I was still recovering from my accident.
“I think that's the time I needed after my injury, and now I'm back, and I think I showed that I'm also back in terms of performance.”
Yep, he certainly did.