Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Winner and Losers: Bahrain GP

This article is written by Andrew Davies and published on It is re-produced here in its entirety. For the original article, click here.

Vettel was in a class (and race) of his own, but it was Sergio Perez who showed that he can follow a team order to the letter...

Star of the Race

Sergio Perez, McLaren, 6th

Martin Whitmarsh gave Sergo Perez the strict instruction that he had to be more aggressive and having been held up by Jenson Button as early as Lap 8 he took his boss at his word and "used his elbows". McLaren are racers and believe they have the moral high ground over Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull who they see as mere 'strategistas' - racing to percentages. It certainly makes races more exciting. Of course the freedom to race your team-mate includes the maxim don't hit them, but in the past Button and Hamilton have hit each other - in Turkey and Canada to name but two instances.

Perez's problem was that whereas he let Button past cleanly on Lap 27, when Perez tried to take Button back, Jenson felt he had the right to keep the place. The trouble between the two was caused by Jenson holding up what was a faster car. Not only that, it looked very much like he decided to lift at the apex of Turn 4 and let Perez hit him during the 'Laps of Frenzy'. When he had the coming together with Hamilton in Canada there are those that think Button knew exactly what he was doing and where Hamilton was when he moved across on him.

Perez wasn't intimidated by Grosjean and kept his line at Turn 1 when the Lotus driver tried to get past, and administered the wide sweep on Alonso when he overtook Fernando on the inside going into Turn 4. Button had done it on him, so if Checo was going to be censured then that censure would have to be widely spread.

As it was, Button's needless holding up of Perez cost him 5th place. He was closing right up on Hamilton at the finish.

Sergio may have been a bit lively but during the race there were at least two other drivers - Rosberg and Webber - making what looked like double moves and moving under braking (another Button complaint) so it will be unfair if Perez gets singled out in the post-race soundbites. Raikkonen apparently already had a moan in the driver's briefing about Perez after Kimi's half-arsed attempt to pass him in China didn't come off. It only adds further fuel to the argument that Kimi is far from the iceman and is in fact Finland's answer to Victor Meldrew.

Perez took P6 from P12 on the grid under a lot of pressure. All Martin Whitmarsh needs to do is qualify his 'elbows' remark.

Overtaking Move of the Race

Lap 1: Sebastian Vettel on Fernando Alonso for P2

Having been well and truly out-manouevred at Turn 1, Vettel lined up to take Alonso into Turn 4, but held back some KERS for the traction out of 4 into 5 on the inside. On a full tank of fuel it was the most precise of overtakes and a very important one.


Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1st

Vettel made two key overtakes that gave him the lead inside of the first three laps; and from the moment that Fernando Alonso's DRS stuck open he was on a tyre-wear observation run to the finish. Could he have beaten a fully-functioning Alonso? It's very hard to say because he was easing up in stints and easing up in pit-stops with only the rarest flashes of all-out speed, such as to take Fastest Lap on Lap 55.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 2nd

Despite qualifying poorly Raikkonen bided his time and filtered through to an unspectacular P2. He looks well on course to beat Michael Schumacher's record for most consecutive points finishes. Not that it will bother him at all - asked after the race which was his best Bahrain podium finish (of six) he said: "I don't know. It doesn't really matter. Second is obviously better than third place but we haven't won and that's what we try to do. Today we got good points, we didn't lose too many to Sebastian but obviously it doesn't help to finish second if he's winning all the time.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 3rd

Grosjean took a lot of care with his overtakes on his way to P3 - although he said the scariest of his moves was getting past Massa. Very soon he'll have all the same development parts as Raikkonen - and that could prove interesting.

Paul Di Resta, Force India, 4th

Di Resta was combative early on and was held up behind Alonso who could sprint away from him with the DRS open - but was clearly dropping him back in the twisty stuff, and keeping Paul behind (which must have been quite a feat from Fernando). Fourth equals Di Resta's best result but he's never been so close to the podium.

Paul looked uncomfortable at having to be happy in the post-race interviews. He had to admit that it was good points, and a great result etc, but you knew inside he was hurting not being able to be openly gloomy about his thwarted debut appearance in the Pirelli cap. Just as Kimi cannot embrace euphoria, Paul errs towards the negative. He managed to sneak into post-race interviews that Grosjean was only able to get P3 because he had more sets of tyres from failing to get into Q3, as though it had been the Frenchman's great masterplan.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 5th

The new, patient Lewis Hamilton has seen the light both from a spiritual POV and a race tactics viewpoint. Instead of going for it flat out, Lewis played the long game and it got him some points. True he had to have a go at the end, but he was keen to give Mark Webber room on the outside of Turn 4 when most drivers had been washing across the road. It's a fair result given that his gearbox failure (which set him back five places on the grid) came about not through a Mercedes fault, but an outside agency that burst his tyre, bent the suspension and then damaged the gearbox.


Paul Hemberry may have had some anxious moments with the Massa punctures, but the race provided great drama thanks to the different strategy afforded by the tyres.


Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 8th

Now that's what you call a double DRS... Given that he caught up a lot of time without DRS or a Safety Car you have to feel that Alonso lost out on at least P2... plus the fun of some scrapping with Raikkonen. It's hard to know why Ferrari didn't tell him not to use the DRS again after it jammed open the first time. Maybe, like the front wing in Malaysia, they hoped for the best and it was a coin toss that didn't go their way. Just imagine if they told him not to use it, he got to the end of the race, and then it opened perfectly when he tried it out on the slowing down lap...

Adrian Sutil, Force India, 13thAdrian Sutil was the victim of first lap contact as Felipe Massa bumped into Sutil's front-right tyre (presumably against the left side of Massa's front wing, which flapped from then on) and that was his afternoon done. The slow return to the pits was an even bigger blow than Alonso's DRS failure. That's two first lap contacts in successive races.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 15th

The travails of Felipe Massa in Bahrain were part of the great fascination of F1. Before the race, pundits were predicting a Ferrari benefit with Alonso and Massa both poised for a podium finish - and then the race happened. Massa's tyre woes may have been karma from bashing into Sutil, or more likely other debris strewn round the circuit. Felipe's own opinion that the first puncture was delamination (like Lewis in FP3) and the second was debris - looked the correct assessment.

Jenson Button, McLaren, 10th

One race after he got the moniker Mr.Kindly Tyres, that title has to be taken away from him. Perez made his tyres last longer and as noted above, defending unnecessarily against his team-mate won't have prolonged Jenson's tyre life. Through the race he seemed forever destined to come out after a pit-stop behind Nico Rosberg.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 7th

Mark has redefined defensive driving after his performance against Lewis Hamilton in the last seven laps of the race. Had that been Hamilton taking those extreme lines then there would have been a familiar chorus of disapproval. Webber was being so obstructive you thought he might have mistaken Lewis for Sebastian Vettel. To defend so forcibly and then hand over another place to Perez (and almost Alonso) on the last lap was bordering on the comic.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 9th

Before the race Rosberg was confident that he wouldn't hang on to his pole position and his confidence wasn't misplaced. It was hard to work out why he crashed into Webbo, when Mark was out of position, but the car was robust enough to take it. This was Groundhog Day at Sakhir, the same top three as last year and more controversy around Rosberg.

Andrew Davies

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