After a month where a political power play has seen F1 qualifying beaten from pillar to post, it seems that a return to the popular 2015 format is now a prospect off the negotiating table. Instead, Sunday’s meeting of F1’s bigwigs saw a new aggregate qualifying proposition formulated as an alternative to the much maligned elimination format.
While it is yet to be voted upon, it has already added yet more fuel to F1’s latest controversy, with Sebastian Vettel stating “It’s a good idea if you want random things to happen, but Formula 1 should be about racing. It’s a s*** idea.”
With his fifth consecutive victory and second of the 2016 campaign, Nico Rosberg’s rich vein of form continued in Bahrain. Despite losing out to teammate and chief rival Lewis Hamilton on Saturday afternoon, Nico dominated Sunday’s race after the Briton was heavily compromised by another poor start, followed by contact with Valtteri Bottas at the turn one pressure point. Recovering to finish third, Mercedes’ inter-team battle currently sees Rosberg a substantial 17 points ahead having recorded the maximum so far.
Just one day after the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) released a damning statement in regards to the political structure of the sport, F1 has found itself hamstrung once again. Following an anti-climatic and uninspiring qualifying session in Australia – which debuted the brand new for 2016 elimination format – teams, fans and drivers have lobbied for a change back to the 2015 rules. However, a lack of unanimity has stopped such a change from happening.
F1 is left with egg on its face once again, as Bahrain will play host to a decidedly below par qualifying event.
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.
As the sun set and the lights took over, it was Lewis Hamilton who once again lit up the timing screens on a Saturday, to claim a fourth consecutive pole position and his first in Bahrain. However, Mercedes’ evening was rather dampened, when Sebastian Vettel managed to edge Nico Rosberg off of the front row in Q3. In fact, a cautious Rosberg was fortunate to retain P3, as both Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas both threatened to displace him. Regardless, the stage is set for an epic race tomorrow, as both Ferrari’s have placed themselves well and truly in play for the race win.
FP1 in Bahrain is much like FP1 in Singapore – a session prior to nightfall at a night-race is always unrepresentative and as such, Kimi Raikkonen table topping attempt was relatively unrepresentative. However, with FP2 kicking off at the same time as Sunday’s race, the second session of the day was far more meaningful and with Ferrari posting impressive long-run times once again, it seems that Bahrain could be a similar story to Malaysia. At the very least, Mercedes will be looking in their mirrors this weekend.
Back-to-back events always keep the paddock on their toes and after a frantic pack-up once the chequered flag fell in China, the show has arrived to entertain us once again in Bahrain. The Sakhir International Circuit served up a treat twelve months ago, as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg fought a race long battle for supremacy in epic fashion. It was a duel featuring sublime wheel-to-wheel action, strategic intrigue and a bead or two of sweat on the Mercedes pit-wall. The 2015 Bahrain Grand Prix certainly has a lot to live up to, but with Ferrari hot on Mercedes’ heels, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will hope to make it a four way tussle for the top spot on Sunday.