Team-Mate Wars: Bahrain Grand Prix

Date published: April 20 2017

Andrew Davies breaks down the Bahrain Grand Prix team-by-team, looking at who came out on top and why Fernando Alonso claimed the last word.

Mercedes
Hamilton 3 – Bottas 0
Race: Hamilton

A DRS hiccup in Qualifying denied Lewis pole and things spiralled from there. Bottas started the race on the wrong tyre pressures, but even when he changed to a correctly inflated set he was slower than Hamilton.

What was surprising about Mercedes race strategy was that they didn’t move to cover Vettel’s early pit-stop, given that they knew Bottas had a compromised set of tyres on his car. You would have thought that they might have tried the undercut on Vettel.

All sorts of things went wrong for the Silver Arrows this race; wrong tyre pressures, two pit-stops under the Safety car at once, delayed pit-stops because of a faulty gun, Lewis’s pitlane dawdling penalty. However despite losing out on Saturday, Hamilton was still performing at a level significantly above his team-mate.

Ferrari
Vettel 3 – Raikkonen 0
Race: Vettel

Vettel produced exactly the right start to put Mercedes under pressure and managed to split Bottas and Hamilton into Turn 1, unlike his team-mate who cascaded backwards down the field and ended up having to pass Massa twice in the race. In the latter stages Kimi resolved his tetchy traction issues as revealed over team radio and was reeling Bottas in. (The last two races have presumably knocked this ‘iceman’ reputation on the head once and for all, behind the wheel of a Ferrari SF70H he is just a grumpy old man with less drive out of the corners than he’d like).

Had Kimi got a better start then he might well have been on the podium or at least providing us with some Finn on Finn action that we learned to relish in 2015/2016 when Bottas was at Williams. Vettel was too classy for his team-mate and his championship rivals, helped by a Ferrari strategy that benefitted from a Safety Car unlike in Shanghai when it lost out because of one.

Red Bull
Max Verstappen 3 – Daniel Ricciardo 0
Race: Verstappen

I’m sure someone will have the stats on this but I can’t remember the last time a Red Bull exited a race because of brake failure. Max Verstappen had got himself into an excellent position having qualified behind his team-mate yet outfoxing him at the start.

Max had actually been quicker than Daniel in Q2 on Saturday and the first run of Q3 until he had his ‘Brazilian’ issue with Felipe Massa, delaying him in the final run of Q3. The good news is that they’re friends again, despite the reference to national stereotypes.

Daniel was going so well in the first stint that he thought a real result was on the cards. But after his poor re-start on cold tyres he got demoted to P6 and the dreams of more shoey antics on the podium went west.

Force India
Sergio Perez 3 – Esteban Ocon 0
Race: Perez

Yellow flags in Q1 made Sergio an unexpected casualty in the Qualifying hour and he had to give best to his team-mate who qualified 14th against his 18th. However Sergio has always been impressive in Bahrain, stretching back to his McLaren days, and he hauled the pink missile into contention overtaking Wehrlein, Alonso and Stroll on the opening lap (the latter without a hefty shoulder charge this time). The Safety Car pit stop also bumped him forward. Seventh place was a result from where he started.

Ocon wasn’t a match for Hulkenberg’s Renault whereas Perez was able to get past him and move forward. It was a competent performance from the former Manor driver and a double points finish for the Force India team will definitely give Vijay Mallya something to celebrate this week…

Williams
Felipe Massa 3 – Lance Stroll 0
Race: Massa

Lance Stroll is becoming the new boy in school that everyone tries to beat up. In the last race Sergio Perez was expecting too much to get past the Williams driver where he did and Lance lost out from the collision. This race, Carlos Sainz was so fixed on beating his team-mate that he tried an overtaking move on Stroll that must have dated back to his first season in single-seaters. What made it worse was that Sainz tried to blame the whole incident on the Williams pilot.

Stroll is still a long way off Felipe Massa though with a yawning qualifying difference and a flatspot on his tyres necessitating an early stop. Massa enjoyed a great race, mixing it up as he did with a Ferrari and a Red Bull.

McLaren
Fernando Alonso 3 – Stoffel Vandoorne 0
Race: Alonso

Yet again Fernando hauled his MGU-H-shy Honda to a place it didn’t deserve on the grid and gave us the kind of quotes only he could get away with (see below) and remain in a drive.

He was lucky. He had a car to drive. Stoffel Vandoorne didn’t go anywhere. No valiant pitlane start, no joining the race after a couple of laps, the parking mode of his McLaren-Honda was impressive. He was able to achieve a new Personal Best of making it to the reporter’s pen before the race even started

Toro Rosso
Carlos Sainz 2 – Daniil Kvyat 1
Race: Kvyat

Kvyat was unimpressive in the Toro Rosso although it looked at one stage that he could make Q3 and ended up P11 on the grid. In the race he was outmuscled by the asthmatic McLaren and finished behind a Sauber, which wasn’t good.

Carlos Sainz not only ended his and Lance Stroll’s race with a careless lunge on cold brakes into Turn 1, but he picked up a grid penalty for the next race in Russia.

Haas
Romain Grosjean 2 – Kevin Magnussen 1
Race: Grosjean 

Romain spent the race jockeying for position with Nico Hulkenerg and ultimately got the better of him to score an eighth place finish. Given Grosjean’s pace, enough to make Q3, Magnussen should have been a lot further up the grid (20th), but in the race he disappeared with an electrical fault after eight laps. At least it wasn’t brakes.

Renault
Nico Hulkenberg 3 – Jolyon Palmer 0
Race: Hulkenberg

Hulkenberg was impressive in Qualifying, (this is copied straight from China TMW) and compared his seventh place lap on the grid to his debut pole for Williams in 2010. And that was mighty. Jolyon Palmer copied his team-mate’s set-up and with that managed to grab P10 on Saturday. Hulkenberg went backwards in the pitstops but still managed to hold on to 9th, while Palmer went backwards and damaged his front wing while duelling with Kvyat, his own misjudgement.

Sauber
Marcus Ericsson 2 – Antonio Giovinazzi 0
Marcus Ericsson 0 – Pascal Wehrlein 1
Race: Wehrlein

Thankfully for Monica her sicknote driver was able to return in Bahrain and bring the machinery back in one piece at the end of the race. Unlike his predecessor. Wehrlein showed that he is a driver worth waiting for, outqualifying a Force India-Mercedes with a Sauber equipped with a 2016 engine and racing to 11th place, a country mile ahead of Marcus Ericsson

Star of the Race: Sergio Perez
Overtaking move of the Race: Fernando Alonso – on Lap 19 passing Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson for P11. Even with the woefully underpowered McLaren-Honda, Fernando jinked his way past the Sauber without any recourse to DRS.
The Maldonado Award: Carlos Sainz for an attempting a move that wouldn’t even come off in Super-Mario Kart.

The Last Word:
Fernando Alonso finding new ways to express his thoughts on the McLaren-Honda.
“All race long the [absence of] speed we had on the straights was impressive. I have never raced with less power in my life”.

“There were times on the straight when I looked in the mirror, I saw they were 300 metres behind so I started changing things on the wheel or listening to instructions, and then under braking they were right with me and I thought it was not possible.”

Andrew Davies

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