Sunday, 21 April 2013

Bahrain Grand Prix: Wheel to wheel in the desert

The racing was closer than we're used to in Formula One of late and by closer I mean wheel to wheel. There was never much distance between any of the drivers, apart from Sebastian Vettel, at the front of the pack. Vettel was the worthy winner this weekend, in a race that was basically won on the first few laps. He started on the front row of the grid, just behind Rosberg, and by the first corner he had dropped back to third, as Alonso replicated the numerous calm but very quick starts that we have grown accustomed to from him over the last few years. Vettel however, defied his critics, by making two phenomenal passes on two exceptional drivers, launching himself in to first place after only three laps. Apart from the customary position changes, through the first round of pit stops, Vettel pretty much dominated for the race win, whilst the excitement took place behind him.

The real success story, for me, was Paul Di Resta's performance to acheive fourth. I have been praising Force India all weekend and Di Resta showed great resilience all the way through the race, despite losing out to Roman Grosjean in the final laps. It would have been nice to see the Scotsman on the podium, for the first time in his career, but I don't think anybody would argue that it was a great result for him and the team. Alonso, on the other hand, had a torrid race, which turned in to a fantastic salvaging operation, as he carved his way up to eighth place. He was extremely unlucky to have a problem with his DRS, resulting in him having to pit twice in the first eight laps. It was simply another display of his sheer class that he made his way back up through the field to eighth.

The race was packed with small bumps and knocks and sometimes between team mates. Martin Whitmarsh has always been quick to criticise other teams for their in house feuds and the on track antics between team mates. Today he found himself watching his usually-so-sensible drivers fighting rather too aggressively, despite all of the incident and discussion from the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull in the last couple of races. It culminated in Jenson Button moaning on his radio and Sergio Perez actually making contact with Button's rear right tyre on lap 30. Later, on lap 39, Mark Webber had a big bump with Nico Rosberg, which is now going to be investigated after the race. Many Red Bull, and Webber fans, will consider this harsh, but it was a very aggressive closing-of-the-door, in a race that otherwise featured drivers sensibly giving each other enough room all over the circuit. Mark will surely look back and admit that he should have done likewise.

Whilst McLaren looked more competitive today, Mercedes continued to look like they were struggling for race pace. Rosberg tumbled back from first in the opening few laps, replicating Hamilton's start last weekend in China. It must be very frustrating for a team that are consistently qualifying so well. Massa, the only Ferrari driver in contention, really struggled to capitalise on the better fortune he had over his team mate. All through the race he was seen locking up under braking and twice it resulted in tyre failures at the right rear.

My driver of the weekend was Paul Di Resta, with Force India being my team of the weekend. They are going well beyond expectations and its nice to witness the fruits of their labours over the winter. The race was refreshingly exciting, without having any big accidents. The overtaking was unpredictable and brought on by skillful and gutsy driving, as opposed to aids like DRS or KERS. I found myself shouting at the TV screen again, for the first time since last season, so I'm hoping the excitement continues in Spain.