F1 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix: What we learned from the race
The Bahrain Grand Prix was filled with thrills and spills, answering many questions yet creating more. Here’s Ben Pascuzzi’s take on what we learned from the race.
(Photo credit: Dave Jefferys)
Ferrari is for real
Last season, Ferrari dazzled in the early stages of the season, with everyone expecting a first genuine threat to Mercedes in an era of dominance that began in 2014. This season however, there is something different in the air down at Maranello. And with the first two wins of the season going Sebastian Vettel’s way, the threat to Mercedes’ four-year stranglehold on the sport just got real.
Starting from pole, Vettel was too good for the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, although the former was hunting down the German and probably would have passed had there been a couple more laps.
Vettel proved he could aid his soft tyres for longer than expected and that Ferrari has the race pace to match Mercedes. But crucially, the Scuderia also proved that they have the qualifying pace to match Mercedes, as both drivers locked out the front row.
Max Verstappen has a long way to go
The Dutchman’s move on Hamilton at the start of Lap Two may have been aggressive, but that is why everyone loves Max Verstappen. However, he can be over eager, particularly early on, as we saw last season when he took out his teammate Daniel Ricciardo in Hungary.
Perhaps Hamilton could have conceded the spot or Verstappen could have left more room for the Brit. Regardless, it’s fair to conclude that Verstappen needs to learn that not everything needs to happen early on, and that far better opportunities will present themselves as the race goes on.
His judgement is something that has come under question throughout his career and is an area he will need to improve if he wants to be consistently competing in races.
The midfield race is wide open
Pierre Gasly and Marcus Ericsson both could stake a claim for performance of the race, exceeding expectations by driving their cars home for points. Gasly was the bigger shock, as he guided his Honda-powered Toro Rosso car to a fourth place finish, the team’s equal-second best finish.
The Frenchman stunned all in qualifying as he finished Q3 in P6, which was then moved to P5 because of Hamilton’s penalty. He was fantastic on race day, holding off the field to finish a clear 13-seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
Ericsson was also superb, driving his Sauber to ninth place and giving the team their first points finish since Azerbaijan last season.
The two McLaren drivers finished in the points yet again, Magnussen brought his Hass home in fifth, whilst Esteban Ocon snagged Force India’s first point of the season with a tenth place finish.
It’s fair to say the midfield race appears to be a lot more competitive this term, and the Bahrain Grand Prix suggested that we’re set for an exciting season.
The lollipop may need to return
Over the past two races, we have seen three botched pit stops which have all cost their respective drivers the chance at completing the race. In Australia, the two Haas cars were released early despite their wheels not being attached properly. Similarly in Bahrain, Kimi Raikkonen was released too early (his old rear-left tyre still on the car), a blunder that left one of his Ferrari pit crew with a broken leg.
Under the current system, teams use a green light to signify when it’s safe to exit. This may be quicker but the old system of having an engineer with a lollipop is arguably a lot safer, and could have prevented all three botched pit-stops. Recent events may bring about change as safety of drivers and crew takes priority over the use of new technology.
The second GP of 2018 was an incredible display of race craft that silenced doubters who predicted less overtaking and a straight shootout between the top teams. Ferrari have taken the battle to Mercedes, and the midfield is getting stronger with improved performances from Toro Rosso, Sauber, Hass and Force India.
Many questions were answered, but more were raised such as: Is this the last straw for Ricciardo? Is Honda’s engine faster than Renault’s? When will Red Bull’s race pace be on full display?
What did you take from Sunday’s race? Let us know in the comments below!