Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

maanantai 9. huhtikuuta 2018

Bahrain GP: Glorious win for Sebastian but a pit stop tragedy for Kimi!

If the season-opening Australian GP was described as a boring race with no overtaking, yesterday´s Bahrain GP was definitely something else. What a thriller of a race!

Hamilton in P9 was the only top ten driver to start the race on the middle compound, whilst everyone else was on the red-marked super soft Pirellis. When the lights went out, the drama started. Sebastian on pole took a splendid start and held on to his lead. Kimi instead, who was starting on the dirtier side of the track, had a lot of wheel spin and lost his second place to his compatriot Bottas. Ricciardo in his Red Bull was fourth and the Toro Rosso sensation Gasly was fifth.

Red Bull had a pitch black start to the race. Verstappen, who had taken a rocket start, was already challenging Hamilton for P9 on the second lap. The flying Dutchman seemed to have "all or nothing" attitude, as he attacked the Briton extremely aggressively. Max´s move lead into contact between these two. Hamilton in his W09 got away from it undamaged, but Max got a rear-left puncture and had to limp into the pits. However, his RB14 was too severely damaged, and the Dutch Red Bull ace had to retire a few laps later. Meanwhile teammate Ricciardo faced a nightmare of his own. Suddenly his RB14 was hit with a complete shutdown, and the Australian had no choice but to park his car on track. What a catastrophic race for the energy drink team! Due to Ricciardo´s retirement, virtual safety car was deployed.

For some drivers the issue seems to be, whether it´s possible to overtake. For others the issue is, how many cars you can overtake with one move. I´m not a fan of Hamilton, but what he did on lap 5, was incredibly amazing. On the finish straight the Briton attacked his rivals and passed three cars with just one move! McLaren´s Alonso, Force India´s Ocon and Renault´s Hulkenberg had no choice but to witness, how the reigning world champion made his way up to P6! What a feeling it was to see four cars driving side by side, with sparks flying from all of them! That was an epic moment indeed. Hamilton had begun his hunt, and by lap 8 he had already made it past Haas´ Magnussen and Toro Rosso´s Gasly, moving 4th already.

Sebastian seemed to be in control of the race, as the gap to Bottas was 2-3 seconds. On the other hand, Kimi seemed unable to challenge Bottas for the second place. Sebastian pitted from the lead on lap 19; he opted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis and re-joined the track in P4. Teammate Kimi pitted on the following lap for a similar tyre choice. Bottas pitted a lap after his fellow countryman but had a different tyre strategy. The Finn switched to the white-marked medium tyres, which made it obvious, that he was on a one-stop strategy. Bottas re-joined the track in P3.

Teammate Hamilton stayed out due to his harder tyres and was leading the race. However, Sebastian kept banging fastest lap times and was catching the Briton rapidly. Hamilton´s tyres were done, so in no time Sebastian was right at the Briton´s tail. There was no way Hamilton could prevent Sebastian to make a move and take the lead. The Briton drove into the pits and switched to the hardest compound available, similar to his teammate. Hamilton re-joined the track in P4, 25 seconds down on the race leader Sebastian.

On lap 36 Kimi was called in for his second pit stop. But what a catastrophy the pit stop turned! For some reason Kimi´s rear-left tyre was still unremoved, as the Iceman was given green light to go. This lead into a scary-looking incident, as one of the mechanics got run over by Kimi! Kimi was immediately told on the team radio to stop, and his promising race was over. The mechanic was seriously injured, as he got a shinbone and fibula fracture and was taken to the hospital for surgery. What a disappointing and frightening turn in the race! I felt so sorry for Kimi, who would probably have finished on the podium. The team needs to investigate thoroughly, what went wrong in the pit stop, as an incident like this mustn´t happen again! I hope the mechanic has a speedy recovery!

Kimi´s second pit stop proved, that Ferrari had planned a two-stop strategy. Would Sebastian stop for the second time or would he try to go till the end? With 15 laps to go, it seemed, that Bottas was unable to match the German´s pace. But in Formula 1 things can change rapidly... With ten laps to go, Bottas was significantly faster than Sebastian and started to decrease the gap frighteningly fast. Sebastian´s tyres were clearly done, but a second pit stop would have dropped the German down to P3. With three laps to go, the Finn was already within DRS distance from Sebastian. My heart was pounding and I crossed my fingers, that Sebastian would be able to defend his lead! Valtteri got one chance to try a move but luckily it didn´t prove successful. Sebastian crossed the finish line as the race winner! Bottas finished the runner-up, with teammate Hamilton completing the podium. But what really caught my eye, was Pierre Gasly, who finished the race in P4. What a superb result for the Frenchman! It was heart-warming to see the Toro Rosso team members celebrate like they would have won the race. Haas, too showed their performance, as Magnussen finished excellent 5th. Hulkenberg finished 6th for Renault, and both McLarens scored valuable points as well, as Alonso finished 7th and Vandoorne 8th. Worth mentioning is definitely Sauber´s Ericsson, who finished the race in P9 and scored the first points for the Swiss team.

Sebastian has had the most perfect start to the season, as he has won both GPs and scored the maximum 50 points! Hamilton is second in the standings with 33 points and Bottas third with 22 points. But who would have predicted, that Alonso would be fourth after two races? The next race is already around the corner, as the F1 circus will move to China this week already. I hope Sebastian will be able to keep up the momentum, but Ferrari definitely has some home work to do in terms of the pit stops. In my opinion, Verstappen needs to take a good look in the mirror to get his focus back on the basics again. There´s only a very thin line separating on-track courage from stupid and arrogant manoeuvres. Red Bull have some serious reliability issues to solve as well.

Everything is looking very promising for the red team at the moment. In Bahrain Sebastian won purely by driving, not by luck. Hopefully Ferrari will be the team to beat also at Shanghai!

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