2015 Bahrain Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Hamilton Imperious Again

Lewis Hamilton is in a class of one at the moment, as the Brit followed up his fourth pole position of the season with his third race victory in 2015. Ultimately, Ferrari’s potential was perhaps a tad overstated, as neither Sebastian Vettel nor Kimi Raikkonen threatened on raw pace alone during the race. However, Kimi Raikkonen’s drive to second place was a sublime mix of an excellent strategy coupled with consistently good lap times from the Iceman, who did give Mercedes a scare in the closing stages. The Finn managed to pick off one ailing Mercedes, but the second was just out of reach.

Ice Cool

A Kimi Raikkonen podium appearance is always popular and we have certainly been made to wait – his last came at the Korean Grand Prix in 2013, during his spell at Lotus. Kimi is noted as a driver who is dependent on having a smooth weekend, free of issue and this time around his wishes were granted and as such, he duly delivered.

This may have been his seventh podium in Bahrain, but quite remarkably, this was his equal best finish at the venue. His Bahrain top-step duck was not broken today, but with a superb stint on the medium tyre, he brought himself into play for the race victory, by managing to maintain the gap to the cars ahead, despite the leader’s being on the softer, and theoretically faster tyre. While watching the race unfold, I was hoping to see an early stop by Kimi with the medium tyre being fitted for the third and final stint, yet in practice, I think Ferrari made the right decision to go with the soft compound. It was, however, painful to see much of Kimi’s hard work undone, as he finished the second stint a full second per lap off of the pace.

Sebastian Vettel on the other hand, faced a very difficult day at the office. Lamenting numerous unforced errors after the race, (one of which necessitated a front wing change), the German suggested that he was “trying to hard”. This statement poignantly demonstrates to me, how Ferrari expected more from today. Vettel was over-driving in order to keep himself in play with the Mercedes, who appeared to have enough of a margin over the Ferrari duo when it mattered.

Keeping himself in play with Hamilton seemed to be Rosberg’s mantra heading into the race, as despite losing out to Kimi Raikkonen at turn one, the German was decidedly punchy in his overtakes today, pulling off two block passes on the Ferrari’s early on. A later overtake on his compatriot Vettel for a second time, was similarly bold, as despite Vettel covering the inside line into the first corner, Rosberg found a W06 sized hole and used part of the pit exit in order to make the crucial move. This was undoubtedly a new mindset being expressed before our eyes today and it would have been fantastic to see Hamilton and Rosberg go wheel-to-wheel for the lead.

Kvyat and Massa’s Recovery Drives

P9 and P10 may be the lesser points scoring places, but occupants of these positions were certainly deserving of their respective two and singular points today, as Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa both recovered from difficult positions. The Russian managed to fight back from his P17 starting spot, while an electrical glitch on the grid meant that Felipe had to start in the pit-lane after failing to pull away for the formation lap.

Meanwhile, their teammates both had excellent afternoon’s, albeit quiet affairs. Daniel Ricciardo could be forgiven for thinking that he was the only car on track, as TV coverage of the Aussie was at a premium. That was, until his Renault powertrain decided to provide the warm-up act for the impending fireworks display, as it went up in smoke as Ricciardo rounded the final corner. It was the short run to the line which spared Renault’s blushes and prevented Ricciardo from pushing his RB11 home. Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, was typically cool under pressure, as he held off Vettel in the closing stages to seal to well deserved P4 for Williams.

Conclusions

Driver of the Day

Kimi Raikkonen

While his teammate faltered, Raikkonen proved just why Ferrari should extend his contract into 2016, with an impeccable drive. His middle stint on the medium tyre was what sealed the deal for me – to keep the Mercedes in range for a final stint, soft-tyre equipped assault, was quite a feat.

Overtake of the Day

ROSBERG vs Vettel (2)

Ultimately, NASR vs Hulkenberg at turn four was as strong a runner up in this category as there surely will be for the rest of the campaign. It was a great move, but in my opinion, Rosberg’s second overtake on Sebastian Vettel was the marginal winner. With Hamilton emerging from the pit-lane, Rosberg was unperturbed and with sparks illuminating the action, the drama was significant. An important and decisive move – just the type of overtake we have been waiting for from Nico.

Team of the Weekend

Force India

The Silverstone based squad may be waiting for the Cologne-effect to drive their VJM08 forward, but it seems that they are making pleasing progress even without the major aero upgrade. Hulkenberg, who was massively impressive in qualifying, may have fallen by the way-side as the race unfolded, but Sergio Perez put in his best performance of 2015 so far, sealing four valuable points for the team with P8.

Race Result

1 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2 Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
3 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
4 Valtteri Bottas, Williams
5 Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
6 Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
7 Romain Grosjean, Lotus
8 Sergio Perez, Force India
9 Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
10 Felipe Massa, Williams
11 Fernando Alonso, McLaren
12 Felipe Nasr, Sauber
13 Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
14 Marcus Ericsson, Sauber
15 Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
16 Will Stevens, Manor-Marussia
17 Roberto Merhi, Manor-Marussia
DNF Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso
DNF Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso
DNS Jenson Button, McLaren

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