This year’s Bahrain Grand Prix gave Formula 1 fans no excuses to complain about the controversial new rule changes for 2014. The race was full of close battles for positions and passing, making Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo’s call for rule changes in a meeting before the race seem almost unnecessary. There was even a dramatic crash to help make Bahrain’s first Grand Prix held at night also one of its most exciting.
The action packed racing hinted towards change in Formula 1, which hasn’t seen a great deal of action during races in recent years. What didn’t change though was the sheer dominance of the Mercedes AMG Petronas team with both its drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, piloting their cars to a 1-2 finish, respectively.
Even though they’re both racing for Mercedes, neither Rosberg nor Hamilton were going to give up the number one spot on the podium easily. After Hamilton dominated in practice all weekend, the German’s hopes of gold in Bahrain were low. That changed when Hamilton made a mistake on Turn 1 during qualifying, giving Rosberg the pole position on the starting grid. Upon the start of the race, both Rosberg and Hamilton had good starts, but Hamilton was a little faster off the line, giving him the inside advantage going into Turn 1. Hamilton eventually managed to nudge his way past Rosberg entirely and give himself a 10-second lead over Rosberg after switching to a soft tire compound during a pit stop.
Meanwhile, as Sauber driver Esteban Gutiérrez approached Turn 1 on Lap 40, he was clipped on the inside by Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado who came rocketing out of the pits. The contact flipped Gutiérrez’ car over twice and sent it jetting across the racetrack, prompting the Mexican driver to yell “Whoa! What was that?,” over his team radio. The Lotus, surprisingly, came away from the incident unharmed and continued to race.
The caution period caused by the accident allowed Rosberg to close in on Hamilton’s lead he had gained. Mercedes AMG Petronas technical director Paddy Lowe told both drivers over the team radio to to “Bring the cars home.” The drivers battled it out for first position for the remaining 10-laps, but Hamilton prevailed in the end with his teammate finishing 1 second behind him.
No one could have predicted how the rest of the grid at Bahrain ended up. Force India’s Sergio Perez scooped up the third position on the grid after passing teammate Nico Hülkenberg in his first stint. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo scooped up a fourth-place finish after charging through the field with only 10-laps left, gaining about 0.5 seconds per lap and passing teammate Sebastien Vettel in the process, who finished sixth.
The Martini-sponsored Williams team saw a consistent and respectable showing from their duo of drivers, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, who took seventh and eighth place respectively. Their finish may have been higher, had the team adopted a two-stop race strategy over a three-stop strategy. Ferrari had a surprisingly unimpressive showing, with ninth and tenth going to Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari has stated publicly they need to make changes to the F14T in order to be competitive with the front-running teams. They hope to have the proper changes implemented in time for the next race of the season in Shanghai.
The second victory from Hamilton in 2014 gives him 51 points, putting him just behind his teammates Nico Rosberg, who has 61, in the Driver’s Championship. Hulkenberg’s fifth place finish gives him 28 points, surpassing the 26 points of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Mercedes AMG Petronas further advanced their lead in the Manufacturer’s Championship in Bahrain, walking away with 111 points total. Force India is way behind Mercedes in second with 44 points, and McLaren sits in third with 43.
The Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai will commence in two weeks’ time. The time lapse between the two GPs should give the usually more competitive teams, such as Red Bull and Ferrari, a chance to make changes in order to catch up to the Mercedes-powered teams. That, or Mercedes could continue to assert its dominance. We’ll have to wait until race day on April 20 to find out.
Click here for full results from Bahrain.