Well, we learned that the Mercedes juggernaut can be stopped. From a front row lockout to second and third on the podium is not what Mercedes expected. Especially as they were even forced to stage manage their drivers with team orders. But it was all to no avail. Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari was not to be caught.
The Bahrain Grand Prix has not previously been known for excitement, but this time there were Safety Cars, intense dicing through the pack, accidents, five second penalties and McLaren becoming the laughing stock of F1.
Van Doorne’s McLaren did make it to the grid, but then had to return to the pits with a water problem which could not be fixed (old proverb: You can lead a horse to drink, but you can’t make it water). How much do these cars cost? And they didn’t know about this water problem? I have this gut feeling that McLaren knew, but under the terms of their contract had to present the car on the grid.
They might as well have done the same with Alonso’s McLaren, with their star driver moaning, “How they can overtake me? 300 meters behind me, and they overtake me on the straight,” he said. “I’ve never raced with less power in my life.” His swapping Monaco for the Indy 500 is a no-brainer. He will also give the American roundy-roundy boys a shake-up.
But back to the race. With Bottas, the Mercedes Number 2 (there’s no such thing as “equal” Number 1’s), taking pole position it was heralded in many quarters as the beginning of the end of the Hamilton domination.
The usual scramble for positions on the first lap with Vertsappen (Red Bull) setting new standards for bravery, passing Raikkonen (Ferrari) and his team mate Ricciardo to slot in behind Hamilton who had been passed by Vettel (Ferrari).
The top five spent the first dozen laps watching and waiting, but Bottas was having tyre problems, so Ferrari took the advantage of pitting Vettel early, only for a safety car period to ensue and frantic pit work was in order for everyone else, with Mercedes double-stacking their cars.
This was a mistake by the pit wall, compounded by Hamilton who slowed down to try and eliminate waiting behind Bottas, but held up Ricciardo so blatantly that the stewards gave Hamilton a five second penalty.
Verstappen’s new tyres were to no avail either as he suffered from a rear brake failure on the next lap and parked it in the wall.
The field bunched up, so some drivers took the opportunity to run into each other, with Carlos Sainz (Jnr) in the Toro Rosso attempting to T-bone Lance Stroll (Williams). Very successfully with Sainz going home with a bent car and a three place grid penalty for the next GP in Russia. Stroll, as we all know has a very wealthy father bank-rolling his F1 debut, so they will either repair his Williams or Daddy will buy him a new one.
The Williams garage actually did well with Felipe Massa who toured round successfully, ending up sixth. A great result for the old pensioner.
Perez (FIndia), Grosjean (Haas) and Hulkenberg (Renault) were the next three cars home after race-long tussles.
An enthralling GP. Let us hope Russia (April 30) is as good.