After the domination of Mercedes-powered cars in China, it is now Renault’s turn to have a clear sweep of the podium. But I’m running ahead of myself for what was definitely an uncharacteristic Bahrain Grand Prix.
Recall that Bahrain did not host the Formula One GP last year due to civil unrest in the nation. This year, however, the show continued in spite of what was happening beyond the boundaries of the racetrack.
Politics aside, Bahrain is also infamous for being dry in overtaking opportunities, as exampled so clearly during the 2010 season. Then again, the cars did not run with DRS in the 2010 season and KERS was not widely used till last year. I don’t have to say that this year was different. With both technologies in full effect, we now have four different winners in four different races; no one have a firm grip on the throne yet.
Red Bull Racing looked to have lost the momentum at the start of the season. And it took the Austria-licensed team with Sebastian Vettel three races before they could sit on pole, and continued on to grab the chequered flag. No mean feat because his rear view mirrors were kept frozen by the avalanche-like pace of the Iceman. Only a well-placed race strategy and crisp pitstops kept Vettel constantly in the lead. His teammate was not as fortunate. Mark Webber, who started third on the grid, lost his position to Grosjean and finished fourth.
Surprising finishers on the podium came from Lotus F1 Team – Kimi finished in second and Romain was placed third. This is the Frenchman’s first podium finish in Formula One. Blistering pace off the starting grid and pure hard work through the first set of corners set a beachhead that both drivers could mount an assault on in the later stints.
Romain started in seventh and meteorically shot into second position. Kimi gained four places up to seventh before clinically carving through the pack and found himself behind his teammate. A few laps later, Kimi swapped places with Romain. From then on, Kimi kept hounding the young German, never letting him rest his pace right till the chequered flag.
While McLaren-Mercedes started strongly, Hamilton in second and Button in fourth, things went horribly wrong for them. Hamilton suffered wheel nut problems in two of three pitstops, costing him precious seconds and even more valuable positions. He finished eighth. Jenson had a stronger race but a puncture at the closing forced him to pit, only to have an outlap that picked up what seems to be a problem with the exhaust at Lap 55 made the Brit park his car in the garage permanently.
Even Rosberg reported issues with his Mercedes but kept moving and secured fifth. Schumacher started in 22 due to a gearbox change and finished in seventh. For Rosberg, the story does not end. In two separate occasions during the race, Rosberg forced Hamilton and then Alonso experience the excursions off the racing track. The stewards will investigate the racing incidents after the race.
It could be said that Ferrari had an interesting race. Alonso, who started ninth, improved two places to finish in seventh. But it took the former world champion to squeeze every bit of performance from the car, to find tenths of seconds from the racing line and drive to the limit of the rules. Massa also found some speed in Sakhir. He started in 14 and finished in ninth.
Paul di Resta of Force India finished sixth, making a two-stop strategy work in his favour.
The 2012 Formula 1 season now takes a break before the Spanish GP in Catalunya starts on the second week of May. The break is important because it gives the teams the chance to update their cars with new parts that they hope could earn them a few extra seconds.