Bahrain, 3rd April 2016, 6pm local time
Dusk in the desert… a Hermann Tilke creation of slow corners and long straights…32,500 spectators… Hamilton in pole position……
1st = Nico Rosberg – GER – Mercedes
2nd = Kimi Raikkonen – FIN – Ferrari
3rd = Lewis Hamilton – GBR – Mercedes
4th = Daniel Ricciardo – AUS – Red Bull Racing
5th = Romain Grosjean – FRA – Haas
6th = Max Verstappen – NED – Toro Rosso
7th = Daniil Kvyat – RUS – Red Bull Racing
8th = Felipe Massa – BRA – Williams
9th = Valtteri Bottas – FIN – Williams
10 = Stoffel Vandoorne – BEL – McLaren
Rosberg Triumphs Again
For a neutral, the best possible start to a Formula 1 season is for there to be no obvious, untouchable leader. Although with two wins under his belt already, Rosberg will be hoping that this is him. Hamilton’s good start last year bestowed a feeling of stilted inevitability on the season. However his unpredictable form at the start of 2014 managed to generate an atmosphere of precarious excitement.
Thrills and Spills Straight of the Mark!
With Nico Rosberg taking the first podium, Lewis Hamilton throwing away pole position with a bad start – this time colliding with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas on the first corner – and Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo driving exceptionally well to claim fourth place; the second race of the season followed roughly the same format as the first. Thankfully the similarities did not include a repeat of the shocking crash of Fernando Alonso in Melbourne last month.
Early exits included: ‘the greatest threat to Mercedes’ Sebastian Vettel, who together with Jolyon Palmer (hydraulic failure) did not even manage to start, Jenson Button was forced to pull out with a power unit failure, Carlos Sainz Jnr’s race ended due to car damage and Esteban Gutierrez out-braking himself on lap 11.
The absence of Alonso allowed for an impressive debut from Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne for McLaren – finishing 10th.
The Williams team took 9th with Valtteri Bottas and 8th Felipe Massa, Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat taking 7th, and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen came in 6th.
Despite some apparent ‘difficulties’ in the pit, the American team Haas managed a one place improvement on their F1 debut in Australia with Romain Grosjean coming 5th. A great start from the new comers.
Hamilton Battles Back and Shows Some True Grit!
Hamilton’s collision caused him to drop down to ninth and gave Bottas a drive-through penalty and points on his license. Even with a damaged right-hand floor Hamilton somehow managed to fight back to 3rd. The new supersoft tyre choice helping to give him his fastest lap. These tyres are faster, but very sensitive to heat and thermal degradation, so need to be chosen only when the track temperature has dropped to an appropriate level.
Hamilton “wasn’t worried” about the results and with 21 races still to go he has plenty of opportunity to turn it around before the last race in Abu Dhabi in November.
Bahrain’s ‘nearly man’ Raikkonen again failed to take 1st, coming a distant 10.2 seconds behind Mercedes Rosberg to take 2nd.
Predictions were that Ferrari had considerably upped their game before the start of the 2016 competition – though they still appear to have a reliability problem – a turbo engine failure in Australia put Raikkonen out and Vettel’s race ended before it started in Bahrain with his internal combustion engine exploding on the formation lap.
Could the Key to Winning be in the Choice of Tyres!
Could the new game of tyres help to even things out between main players Mercedes and Ferrari? Pirelli are now making three (medium, soft, super-soft) of their five dry-weather tyre compounds – with a total of 13 choices over the weekend’s racing. Reactions to this new format have been mixed; with some loving the further possibility of tactical play and others complaining that it is creating too many pit stops.
Controversy and new rules. Old battles and new talent. The 2016 Formula 1 season has already given us plenty to talk about.