Sunday, 6 April 2014

Bahrain Grand Prix: Team orders by the wayside!

The Bahrain Grand Prix has completely restored my faith in Formula One. This had to be one of the most exciting Grands Prix in a number of years. I genuinely didn't believe we would witness a race like this for the rest of the season. The only thing predictable about the result was the fact that the Mercedes drivers finished first and second. They dominated the entire weekend and at times looked absolutely supreme. Mercedes have totally nailed the combination of a superior engine and a wonderful car design.

Most of us ignored the two front runners, for a vast majority of the race, and then, as the safety car left the circuit and the cars entered the final few laps of the Grand Prix, it appeared that team orders would come in to effect and Hamilton and Rosberg would coast to the chequered flag. How wrong could we all be? Lewis and Nico began the battle of the season so far, and possibly the most exciting and nailbiting battle of the last couple of seasons. They swapped positions over and over, pushed each other off the track a couple of times and looked like they might take each other out. The best thing about the fight was their attitude in parc ferme, where Lewis and Nico engaged in friendly play fighting and banter, showing great spirit and reassuring us that they will battle like this again, in future races.

The amazing thing was that Lewis and Nico weren't the only team mates who were rucking in the final stages. As the race resumed for the final ten or so laps, we were treated to fights between Vettel and Ricciardo, Alonso and Raikonnen, and Massa and Bottas. The Force India cars were like pack hunters, as they closed in the cars ahead of them and then assaulted them from both sides, memorably bullying the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso in to submission. Perez actually managed to bag third place, which was a fantastic effort from a team that has gone from strength to strength over the last couple of seasons.

Sauber have had a terrible start to the season, with both cars DNFing (again). Gutierrez retired from the race in style, when Maldonado rashly hurtled out of the pit exit, ignoring blue flags, and slamming in to the side pod of the innocent Esteban, flipping his car. My heart was in my mouth as the car bounced upside down, before settling the right way up, and Gutierrez appeared not to move for a few seconds. It's the kind of image we desperately fear and dread. He eventually clambered out of the car and walked away, another testament to the safety of the modern Formula One car.

An amusing moment was when we heard, over Sebastian Vettel's team radio, the haunting words "Daniel is quicker than you." I think I could hear Australians around the world united in a cheer, whilst Mark Webber must have been sat at home, sipping on a Fosters, with a wry smile playing across his face. We didn't hear Seb's response, but Ted Kravitz assured us that Seb had responded, rather graciously, with something along the lines of "certainly, old chap! I shall move well out of Daniel's way at the very next opportunity."

My team of the race has to be Williams. There is simply nothing as satisfying as seeing a team that should be battling at the front, but has struggled to be competitive in recent years, beginning to perform at the top again. It looks like they are back in the game and hopefully their success snowballs. Caterham weren't as impressive today, but we all know that teams and drivers can have off-days, so I'm sure they will back in the fight next time.

After this race, I don't give a damn how the engines sound. If the racing continues like this, I couldn't care less if the Benny Hill theme tune comes out of the F1 exhausts.

Check out The F1 Spectator Bahrain GP podcast and listen to The F1 Spectator himself.

The Result:
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes571:39:42.743225
26Nico RosbergMercedes57+1.0 secs118
311Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes57+24.0 secs415
43Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing-Renault57+24.4 secs1312
527Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes57+28.6 secs1110
61Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault57+29.8 secs108
719Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes57+31.2 secs76
877Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes57+31.8 secs34
914Fernando AlonsoFerrari57+32.5 secs92
107Kimi RäikkönenFerrari57+33.4 secs51
1126Daniil KvyatSTR-Renault57+41.3 secs12
128Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault57+43.1 secs16
134Max ChiltonMarussia-Ferrari57+59.9 secs21
1413Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault57+62.8 secs17
1510Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault57+87.9 secs18
1617Jules BianchiMarussia-Ferrari56+1 Lap19
1722Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes55Clutch6
Ret20Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes40Clutch8
Ret21Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari39Accident15
Ret9Marcus EricssonCaterham-Renault33Oil leak20
Ret25Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Renault18Accident damage14
Ret99Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari17Accident22