April 23, 2012
So with all the news stories before the race, on the hot topic of the trouble currently situated in Bahrain, Formula 1 2012 produced yet another stunning race, to draw attention from all the poltical protests and back on to the reason why F1 is in Bahrain to begin with, the racing.
After 4 races in, and 4 different winning driver's, Is this season panning out to be one of the closest in the history of Formula 1?
Sebastian Vettel decided to showcase the improvements that have been made to his RB8 beautifully, by taking victory in Bahrain it has kickstarted his title defence in style winning RedBull's first race of the season and taking the lead in the championship. The big suprise of the weekend however were Lotus with 2 and 3 on the podium suggesting theirs more to come from the E20.
During the Qualifying session there were two big shocks. In Q1 many of the front runners were out early, including Hamilton and Schumacher that set times then retreated to the pits. However the track rubbered in exceptionally quickly over the course of the 20 minute session where team's such as Sauber and Torro Rosso were finding well in excess of a second. With just under as minute and a half to go, both McLarens and Schumacher were leapfrogged by everyone leaving Schumacher on the cusp in 17th. As the chequered flag dropped however, Hekki Kovalainen put in a storming lap to jump up into 17th forcing Schumacher down into the drop zone and the first of the big scalps to go, however lated Schumacher cited to a DRS problem that was causing him to loose a handful of time over his lap.
Q2 provided yet another shock. Normal service looked to resume for the top 10. However after posting a 1.33.7 lap Raikonnen looked to return to the garage early. Once again as the session carried on, the track came to the driver's allowing both Di Resta and Riccardo to claim their place in Q3. With only a couple of minutes left, Raikonnen showed no signs of coming out for a new run, rather allowing himself the choice of an extra set of tyres. But lightning was set to strike twice, as with just seconds left Perez stuck his Sauber into the top 10, therefore leaving Raikonnen high and Dry.
Q3 was very entertaining with the prospect of up to 6 drivers possibly being able to take pole. Both Alonso and Di Resta chose not to run and save a set of tyres. It was a magnificent effort from Di Resta to get into the session, after his Force India team were to leave FP2 early due to their problems with protestors earlier in the week. Rosberg was tipped to use the Mercedes speed and DRS to his advantage, however on his lap made a mistake in the last corner to only come start 5th. Button who struggled for pace all session could only manage 4th while Webber was comfortable in 3rd. So it was a shootout between Hamilton and Vettel. After nearly getting knocked out of both Q1 and Q2 Vettel switched his RB8 on to take pole from 1 tenth ahead of the brit. The big suprise however was Riccardo who after a big effort stuck his Torro Rosso in 6th only half a second behind pole and ahead of Grosjean.
Ahead of the race, the big question was on how far the tyres could last the first stint for each driver. Thermal degridation (overheating of the tyre) was speculated and it was considered that the driver who could best manage his tyres would come out on top. However fears were realised during the race, when once again the tyres to a point ,stopped the spectacle of potential fights up and down the grid.
But it was an afternoon that saw Vettel end his streak of 6 races without a win, to claim victory in the desert of Bahrain where he captilised on pole position to control the race from the front and shake off a surging Kimi Raikonnen in the final stages. This surely served as a warning to the rest of the grid that potentially, the speed of the RB8 has been unlocked, and Vettel has finally adapted his driving style adaquately since the banning of the EBD's.
The other man on the front row Lewis Hamilton suffered less favourably with a race beset with problems from the start. Having started strongly and settled into second position, he failed to live with the raw pace of Sebastian Vettel and was shortly passed by the hard charging Roamin Grosjean. Coupled with 3 disastrous pit stops during the race, his weekend was effectively ruined along with his 100% podium strike rate. His Team mate Jenson Button too had a very difficult afternoon. Puzzled by his lack of race pace, he fought to make adjustments to his front wing during the race to find a balance. However a puncture late on when charging after Paul Di Resta, and an ill sounding engine causing him to retire, meant a lacklustre afternoon from McLaren.
The big suprises of the day however, were the two Lotus cars of both Kimi Raikonnen and Romain Grosjean. Starting from 11th and 7th respectively, they both had lightning fast starts to jump up to 3rd and 6th on the first lap. It was soon evident the long practice runs they had done on the Friday had paid dividence though, with both cars showing true raw pace.
Grosjean easily dispatched of Hamliton in the early laps to chase down Vettel while Raikonnen made his way up to 3rd passing both Webber and Hamilton along the way. Raikonnen during the second phase of the race, running the softer compound appeared to be much faster than Grosjean on the harder tyre and the Finn flew by down into Turn 1. Raikonnen then set about the task of chasing down Vettel setting numerous fastest laps in the process. Closing to within a second of Vettel leading up to the 3rd stops, he followed the RedBull driver in to create a frantic pit stop race. They both emerged with Vettel having a 3 second advantage. After playing it conservative in the first part of the stint, Raikonnen once again looked to hunt the RB8 down, however with only a handful of laps left the Ice man ran out of tyres and settled for second.
With both Lotus driver's on the podium, and showing incredible pace throughout normal racing conditions during the afternoon, it would take a brave man to bet against a strong challenge from them during the European leg of the season.
Drive of the day had to go to the Scot Paul Di Resta though. After getting his Force India car into the top 10 In Qualifying, Paul set about a mature and cool headed drive on his way to a 6th place, finishing above a resurgent Alonso and recovering Hamilton. Tasked with a 2 stop strategy, Di Resta looked after his tyres beautifully through both stints. Picking fights with driver's he was only fighting against, he allowed to maintain clear air and stick to his game plan set by the team. After making his second stop he was tasked with doing 20+ laps on a single set of tyres.
Unable to fight a hard charging Webber, he looked set to hold off Rosberg. However the Mercedes, helped with the superior Double DRS system and fresher tyres easily dispatched of the scotsman. It capped a strong race by the Force India crew after a difficult start to the weekend after forcing to abandon FP2 early due to the protest's they were caught up in.
Mark Webber had another quiet but solid afternoon. Looking at a 4th place for the 4th time in 4 races, he looks to make that his own during the season, however you must feel for the aussie who will be looking to secure his first podium in the next couple of races.
Rosberg after his magnificent win last time out, suffered a less than favourable race this weekend. After making a poor start and dropping down the order, he managed to recover to a solid 5th place. This was without controversy though, with firstly a dubious blocking manoeuvre against Hamilton, and then later on in the race against Alonso in the same place. Both Alonso and Hamliton were incensed with Rosberg's actions, and both incidents were taken up by the stewards, who after the race declared no further action would be taken.
Both times Rosberg looked to dramatically travel across to the right hand side of the track to defend his position going in to turn 4. Hamilton was forced to go off the track but still made the move stick by keeping his foot flat to the floor. Something Alonso later failed to do and had to settle behind the German.
Rosberg's team mate Schumacher suffered a torrid afternoon too. After getting knocked out of Q1, the german then had a 5 place grid penalty for changing his gearbox to start 22nd. After having to manage his tyres all race long, he managed to salvage 10th and another solitary point to go along with his result from Malaysia. After all the promise and confidence going into the weekend from the Mercedes squad it was a very poor and disappointing end result.
Finally to Massa, after a torrid start to the season yet again getting out classed by his more experienced team mate. Thing's started to come good for him here in Bahrain. Being much closer to Alonso's raw pace during Qualifying, he had a very vicious and more determined drive in the race. Sticking with his ferrari team mate throughout the whole race he managed to finish in the points for the first time this season, with a solid 9th place and only 7 seconds behind Alonso. Could this signify the start of a rejuvinated Massa realising his place at Ferrari is seriously under threat?
So in Conclusion, we have had 4 different drivers, from 4 different teams win the first 4 races, for the first time since 2003. On the basis of the opening fly away weekend's it is looking almighty close at the head of the field. With the Mugello test and many teams bringing parts inbetween now and Barcelona in 3 weeks time, the balance of power can swing yet again into another teams favour. But after the disappointing race pace for McLaren and the subsiquent lack in form, is it still the right decision for both driver's not to drive at the Mugello test? Only time will tell.
Here are the complete Qualifying Results:
|10||di Resta||Force India||-|
|20||de la Rosa||HRT||-|
Here are the complete Race Results:
|6||di Resta||Force India||10||+57.500||8|
|15||Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||6||+1 lap|
|20||de la Rosa||HRT||20||+2 laps|