zondag 6 april 2014

F1 2014 GP Bahrain - Review

The third Grand Prix of the season, and the 10th anniversary of the Grand prix of Bahrain, which is celebrated by having the Grand Prix driven under artificial lightning.  It is also the 900th Gran prix Formula One since it`s inception in 1950.

But let us start first with some side information....

First of the good news bulletin: there are signs that Schumacher is showing consiousness again!  Great news and let`s hope the record world champion makes a good recovery.

Second of all: Belgian GP2 driver and McLaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne won the step up class race this weekend.  It sure has been a while since the `Brabanconne` sounded on a GP weekend, and a great step towards a Formula One career.

Thirdly: no less then TWO new teams have been announced for the 2015 season.  The first, having the biggest chance to be ready on time, is an american squad by Haas, half of the famous Stewart - Haas NASCAR team.  The second, currently named StepanGP, is a German - Serbian coalition under the leadership of Colin Kolles, former team boss of Midland, Hispania etc.  `Bernie` has already confirmed he talked with Jean Todt, and if they do officially apply to participate, they will be allowed into the sport next season.

But back to the matter of the day, the Grand Prix itself.  With a Rosberg - Hamilton lock out for Mercedes on the starting grid, the money at the bookies is on a Silver Arrow taking home the win, and unless mechanical issues or freak accidents happen, a one two is very likely, but in which sequence?  On the same note, Red Bull is in the corner where the punches fall, as Ricciardo carried along the 10 grid penalty from his unsafe release last week, and dropped back to 13th after for the second time in 3 races outqualifying Vette, who only managed 11th on the grid.

As the lights go out, Rosberg and Hamilton engage in a fierce struggle, barely on the limit, and it is Hamilton going into the first corners in the lead, but Rosberg counters.  Vergne suffers a puncture in the scrimmage, but it is Massa who had a great start and went to 3rd.  The Williams cars had great qualifiers and are the prime candidates for the final podium spot as their car has proven uberquick on this track during the winter tests.

Lap 5: As Hamilton puts in the fastest lap, the Mercedes cars are breaking lose from the rest.  Hulkenberg, who came from further down the grid, passes Alonso making the first 7 cars on track now Mercedes powered.

Lap 9: Ricciardo does a first attack on Magnusses, but nearly slides of the track in the next corner, allowing the dane to keep his position.

Lap 10: Button and Hulkenberg overtake Bottas, who didn`t stand a chance against the DRS of both cars.

Lap 11: The pit dance commences as the field is split about halfway in who is on two stops and who is on three stops, as Ricciardo now gets passed Magnussen.

Lap 12: Perez overtakes Massa for third.

Lap 13: Sutil is forced to retire after a contact with Bianci, also causing the frenchman to suffer a punctured left rear.

Lap 14: Vettel reports problems with his DRS as Ricciardo catches up and the australian asks the pit what he should do.

Lap 15: The unthinkable happens, as the Red Bull pit team tells Vettel to let Ricciardo pass as he is faster then the world champion.  After being out qualified, now the young aussie is storming through the field and past the team's poster boy.

Lap 16: Fastest lap for Raikonnen, but both Hulkenberg and Kvyat pass the fin, showing the power of the Mercedes engines over the Renault and Ferrari power sources.

Lap 18-20: Rosberg and Hamilton keep attacking each other furiously, nearly colliding.  Rosberg complains to the team that the briton is risking both cars in his aggressive driving.  Mercedes reacts by having Hamilton pit 2 laps before Rosberg, temporarily difusing the situation.  Bianchi gets a stop and go penalty for his incident with Sutil.

Lap 22: As Rosberg now also pits, both cars are on a different strategy as Rosberg comes out on prime tyres, while Hamilton is underway on the softs.  We now have both Mercedes cars before both Williamses, then both Force India`s, showing the total Mercedes domination this weekend.

Lap 25: Vettel overtakes Raikonnen for 9th, but the fin can counter.  In the meantime, Vergne has retired during the pit stops, while both Williams and both Force India`s start a massive 4-way scrap until Bottas pits, while Perez overtakes Hulkenberg is his known, errrm, "style".

Lap 27: Tensions are rising between both drivers of all three leading Mercedes teams, as they start to realise they are in a car that can dish it out for the podium and neither wants to give to the other.

Lap 28: Both Force India's push past Massa to spots 3 and 4.

Lap 30: Kobayashi is scrapping it out with Grosjean and Gutteriez, showing what last race and the qualifiers have been hinting at, the difference between Caterham and Marussia compared to the lower midfield has been as good as closed up.

Lap 31: Bottas passes Ricciardo, but then oddly almost glides in the wall due to a strange DRS / brakes combo glitch.

Lap 33-34: Raikonnen gets passed by Bottas and Ricciardo, as well as shortly after by Massa.  The Ferrari might be reliable and 'rather okay' in qualifying, she clearly misses race pace as she gets slapped around by whatever challenge comes the italians way...

Lap 36: Perez steams past Alonso as Ericsson`s caterham has to retire.  Meanwhile Hulkenberg, from third, pits and returns to the track right behind Perez and the Ferrari of Alonso.

Lap 40: This is turning out to be a really great Grand Prix even with Mercedes's dominance.  All along the field there are not only midfield and lower midfield battles, there is a lot of in-team fighting going on, even with the leading duo.  Team managers will have a lot to say tonight...

Lap 41: Maldonado leaves the pit like a madman, torpedoing Gutteriez and causing the young mexican to toll head over head twice.  After sitting completely still and groggy for half a lap, he speaks through the radio the all telling words "What was that???".  They should really punish the Lotus driver for this, this kind of manouvres are dnagerous as hell.  The Safety Car comes out, and a lot of cars use the opportunity for fresh tyres, including the leaders.

The clip is on the Yahoo sports site.

Lap 42:  Magnussen is forced to retire.

Lap 46: The Safety Car comes in, having ruined the strategy for the three stoppers, and leaving the Mercedes cars right in front of the Force India's.  However, as the German cars steam off and take 2 seconds a lap in their `all open` modus, the rest of the pack pounce each other as hungry wolves.

Lap 47:  Maldonado only receives a 10 second stop and go penalty, but will be crossing off some of his 12 points on his driver license towards suspension...

Lap 48: Button gets in trouble and is passed on all sides.  He will finally have to retire in lap 56, ending an impressive 25 starts without retiring, but no points for `Our Man Jenson` in his 250th grand prix, but he will be classified still in last place.

Lap 49-50: Hamilton nails in the fastest lap, but this is immediatly countered by Rosberg, while behind them Ricciardo passes Vettel again.  It is refreshing how the aussie doesn`t care for team hierarchy, and I am starting to think Seb is going to "need" HIS team to even the balance and get back to the number one position, because without the DQ in Australia, he would have been completely overwinged by his team mate in this early stage of the season.

Lap 52+: Rosberg attacks, Hamilton counter attacks... they nearly push each other off again, but there are clearly no team orders within Mercedes bar `bring those cars home please in one piece`.

Lap 54-Finish: Ricciardo, started from 13, passes Hulkenberg for the 4th position.  He will close on Perez to a few tenths, but won`t be able to make an attack in the last round as Hamilton takes the second win in a row for Mercedes, who score another (expected) 1-2.  The Silver Arrows are fast, reliable and at the moment on another planet compared to the rest of the field.

1. Hamilton - Mercedes
2. Rosberg - Mercedes
3. Perez - Force India Mercedes

4. Ricciardo - Red Bull Renault
5. Hulkenberg - Force India Mercedes
6. Vettel - Red Bull Renault
7. Massa - Williams Mercedes
8. Bottas - Williams Mercedes
9. Alonso - Ferrari
10. Raikonnen - Ferrari

11. Kvyat - Toro Rosso Renault
12. Grosjean - Lotus Renault
13. Chilton - Marussia Ferrari
14. Maldonado - Lotus Renault
15. Kobayashi - Caterham Renault
16. Bianchi - Marussia Ferrari
17. Button - McLaren Mercedes

A very good Grand Prix, and slowly the power equations are really getting visible.  Ferrari has missed the train, while Red Bull is the recovering team, the Renault engines are getting better, the Newey car reliable, and Vettel has already scored some good solid points in these troubled times.  Will they be able to rise further?  Because at the moment, they can just keep up with Force India and Williams, are stronger then ferrari, but far behind Mercedes.

Driver of the race: 

No doubt today, this has to be Ricciardo.  A lot of overtakes, screw it mentality, starting from 13th... and one lap longer, I guess he would have been on the podium in the not that great at all YET Red Bull.

Team of the Race:

Force India.  While Williams has right to be disappointed with only being 7th and 8th, it was the former Jordan team that performed really well, with Perez consolidating his excellent qualifiers to give the team it`s second podium in it`s history since Fisichella in Belgium a few years ago, and Hulkenberg coming through the field for more solid points.

The Cult of Chilton

I swear, I am going to start a fanclub for Max.  Or even better, a cult following.  Once again, he finished the race, having so far never been forced to retire in his career yet, he also out classified his more talented team mate Bianchi.  Quantity of Quality is a talent in itself though, and his 13th place is hurting Caterham in their underlying battle as Kobayashi, struggling with tyres in the last laps, only could bring his car in on 15th

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