This week saw the return of the Bahrain Grand Prix which saw Sebastian Vettel take pole position and become the lead contender for this year’s 2013 world championship. Protests and violence continued to plague the Bahrain Grand Prix which I admit to feeling slightly concerned about, feeling that there was a possibility of violence impacting on the circuit which could have left serious consequences. Thankfully, the event went ahead smoothly despite violence taking place around Bahrain off circuit and the race was a much more interesting race than in 2010 where many critiques described the circuit as ‘boring’.
The biggest surprise of this race was the disaster that Ferrari encountered when Fernando Alonso’s rear wing flap became stuck. Valuable time was lost in the pits while the Ferrari crew pushed the flap back in place. Despite this, the same problem occurred again and Alonso was forced to make a second pit thus losing even more time and consequently it ruined his race. Moreover, Felipe Massa had a dreadful day as well, losing his rear right tire as it physically split in two. I noticed throughout the race that the Pirelli tires lasted far less time than on China, Malaysia and Australia where the average number of laps the tires lasted seemed to be about twelve laps rather than in the twenties. Mysteriously, Massa had the exact same problem twice, his tires split again and he had to return to the pits where his race was ruined. I’m not sure why Massa was the only driver to experience this problem and he himself was bewildered in a post race interview. I was expecting Ferrari to be on top form as they won first and second positions here in 2010 so it was a very disappointing day for the team although Alonso did manage to pick up some points despite his troubles. However with Alonso’s retirement in Malaysia losing a front wing and now this, it’s not been a great start to the season, particularly when his biggest competitor from last year is leading the championship. Massa as well has been slipping down the ranking race by race since the start of the season too and really needs a comeback for the European season. He has currently finished in fourth, fifth, sixth and fifteenth position but has scored points in the first three races. Alonso also has not had a consistent start to the season winning a Grand Prix in China and scoring some important points in Australia and here in Bahrain yet failed to score anything in Malaysia. He’ll be back fighting for the championship I’m sure.
Mercedes had a difficult day as well despite starting in good positions on the grid and finishing fifth and ninth, both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg picking up points up for the team. They seemed to lack pure pace compared with other cars at Bahrain and struggled with their tires in the heat. Rosberg qualified in first place yet only managed 9th behind his team mate. I’m sure Rosberg will be coming away from this race feeling very disappointed at not being able to convert his qualifying position into a win. Hamilton on the other hand will probably feel optimistic considering that circuits where the temperatures are hot doesn’t go in the favor of the Mercedes team yet he did a pretty good job getting to where he did, especially after having a grid penalty for a change of gear box in an earlier session. I think Hamilton is one of the lead contenders for this year’s championship and it’s at the European races, we’ll get a better picture of how well the Mercedes team will fair. Hamilton is performing really well though so far this season. He’s scored points in every race so far finishing no worse than fifth place which makes him a real contender for the championship. Rosberg has failed to finish two of the four races of the season and really needs some luck on his side although has shown good pace in earlier races and scored some points so far this year.
The start of the race was clean by all of the racers where Nico Rosberg starting on pole managed to control the race for a few laps but couldn’t hold back Sebastian Vettel who was on a much faster pace in his Red Bull than in Mercedes. It was interesting to see that the Force India of Paul di Resta was able to maintain it’s qualifying position throughout the race, showing great pace which is a sign that they have an opportunity to challenge at the front for the first time.
The main highlights of the race included Jenson Button’s fight with new teammate, Sergio Perez within the McLaren team. Perez fought hard to overtake Button during Sunday’s Grand Prix yet pushed too hard, forcing his car right into the back of Button’s car causing some damage although not critical, it was a mistake nonetheless. Perez has always been a fairly aggressive driver since his debut in Formula One which on occasions has been a positive where he achieved his first podium finish last year. However, he’s been involved with quite a few incidents now and really needs to sit back and reflect on his driving style and realize when he goes too far, especially when team members are involved. I’m confident he will do this and improve himself. Perez is a younger driver than Button as well so doesn’t have the experience which Button does acknowledge in the post race interviews which is good to see. At the end of the fight, Button was so angry at Perez though in the heat of the moment, he squeezed Perez off the track. I don’t really blame him after watching how Perez was driving at the time but it was a big risk to take pushing him off circuit where the move could have resulted in a penalty which it didn’t luckily.
Bahrain was a particularly excellent day for Team Lotus who have steadily been improving since the 2010 Grand Prix. They’re looking strong in 2013 with Kimi Raikkonen already claiming a victory in Australia followed by a number of high finishing spots in later races so far. He is currently second in the championship hunt and apart from Malaysia has been very consistent. Romain Grosjean deserves credit too despite being criticized with causing collisions with other cars, he is certainly improving and there were a few situations in this race where he took a wise decision to back off rather than drive aggressively which I think will serve him well. It’s worthy pointing out also that he only entered Formula One last year yet is picking up some serious points and has already been on the podium several times. He is probably overshadowed by his team mate but overall Team Lotus have a strong line up with both their drivers and if they can work well as a team, they will surely be in the title fight right up until the very end.
Red Bull are having mixed fortune recently with Vettel performing very well indeed being consistent and living up to his championship winning performance though Mark Webber on the other hand is losing out on every level. He has had some rotten luck lately with a steering failure retiring him from the race in China as well as a grid penalty given to him before the start of this race for causing a collision during the Chinese Grand Prix which cost him three grid positions after qualifying fourth. Webber couldn’t really have avoided the incident as from what I saw it seemed like a racing incident. Before this, his fight with Vettel in Malaysia where Vettel went against team orders cost him a win though he did finish in second place which was an excellent effort by him. He hasn’t shown that he is a real contender for the championship though since 2010 in my opinion, he always seems to be trailing behind. He always seems to be out qualified by his team mate and doesn’t move well up the field. I’m hoping for an improvement in Webber which I think is long overdue but fear he may lose his seat with Red Bull if his form gets any worse although unlikely to happen while Vettel is delivering for the team as well as Webber continues to collect points not to mention the history of two championship winners being on the same team never truly working well the majority of the time although Hamilton and Button seemed to prove that wrong. Here in Bahrain Webber started and finished in the same position which isn’t terrible but it doesn’t seem to be making many passes.
Force India’s Paul di Resta had a fantastic day on the Bahrain circuit showing real place in his Force India car almost obtaining his first podium which he fell just short of as he couldn’t match the pace of the Lotus cars. It’s unusual to see Force Indie so high up the field, beating Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes. If the team can get their drivers up as far as this, they could really help their team progress for 2014 obtaining the finance they need to fight with the big boys. Force India is really fighting with the middle league teams but they’ve shown good pace since the start of the season although they had massive failings in Malaysia where a wheel nut problem destroyed both their driver’s races. Adrian Sutil though encountered some damage near the beginning of the race however and didn’t score a single point for the team finishing in thirteenth position which is very disappointing for the team. Sutil has shown some excellent place though notable in Australia and I think he has yet to reveal his true competitiveness yet. He only returned to the sport a few races ago too which shows that he has adapted very quickly to getting back in the game. However he has retired from two races already out of a possible of four which isn’t good news.
Sadly, the Williams F1 team is still struggling in 2013 much like they did in 2011 and before. They’re lacking pace and so far haven’t scored a single point by any of their drivers. I’m surprised that Maldonado hasn’t scored as he had shown spots of good racing last year and managed to gain his first win in Formula One. Whatever the problems are this year, the team is nowhere and it’s a real shame as I really like the car’s colors and it’s one of the most famous F1 teams which should be fighting at the front.
The McLaren team are struggling, no doubt about that this season but they have improved during the Bahrain race grabbing some points from both their drivers. Perez interestingly grabbed sixth place in front of Mark Webber, Rosberg and Alonso which deserves some credit. Button despite seeming to be performing well ended up in tenth place which is a lackluster performance from the team.
The STR Ferrari team failed to score any points as did Caterham, Marussia and surprisingly the Sauber team. Last year’s Sauber team were showing big improvements and had some impressive races but seem to have lost all of that for 2013 so far. I’d like to see Sauber back at the front of the pack fighting with Mercedes, McLaren and Lotus.