Bahrain Grand Prix round-up

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Did Felipe Massa’s less stressed engine help him beat Kimi Raikkonen? Why did the Ferraris have much higher top speeds than the opposition? Did wing failure cause Lewis Hamilton’s collision with Fernando Alonso?

Here’s my round-up of the stories from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Raikkonen vs Massa

Massa was quicker than Raikkonen in the first stint despite having a little more fuel on board. But the times were close:


Ferrari’s straight line speed

Ferrari were quicker than everyone else in a straight line – and Massa was noticeably quicker than Raikkonen through the speed trap.


1 Felipe Massa 316.0kph
2 Kimi Raikkonen 314.0kph
3 Heikki Kovalainen 311.7kph
4 Sebastien Bourdais 311.2kph


1 Felipe Massa 314.1kph
2 Kimi Raikkonen 311.6kph
3 Sebastien Bourdais 310.0kph
4 Fernando Alonso 307.3kph

Sebastien Bourdais’ presence in the top four speeds for race and qualifying in the Toro Rosso suggests Ferrari indeed have the strongest engine.

But why was Massa so much quicker than Raikkonen? Neither Ferrari driver started the event with a fresh engine – both used the same units they had in Malaysia, even though Massa had the option of using a new one. Presumably he reasoned the Sepang unit had only done half a race distance and so he could use it in Bahrain and perhaps even use it more aggressively than Raikkonen could.

Given the small margin of performance Massa had over Raikkonen, it might have been enough to make the difference.

Engines and gearboxes

These drivers used new engines in the Malaysian Grand Prix:

Nick Heidfeld
Fernando Alonso
Nico Rosberg
Kazuki Nakajima
Mark Webber
Sebastian Vettel
Jenson Button
Rubens Barrichello
Takuma Sato
Anthony Davidson
Adrian Sutil
Giancarlo Fisichella
Lewis Hamilton
Heikki Kovalainen

And these used new gearboxes:

Timo Glock
Sebastian Vettel

Despite the new four-race gearbox rule the teams are still doing a lot of tinkering with the units during race weekends. Jarno Trulli, Lewis Hamilton, Nick Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello and Takuma Sato all had work done on their gearboxes during the weekend that required seals to be broken, necessitating the approval of the stewards.

Fake launch control

The teams are now openly admitting they are using special ECU settings to mimic some of the effects of the banned launch control. But problems with this for Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton gifted the lead to Massa at the start.

Kubica’s system failed to engage properly, leaving him floundering with wheelspin as the cars got away.

And Hamilton simply didn’t press his early enough. Under a late rule change by the FIA there has to be a 90 second gap between the system being selected and it activating, and Hamilton started the sequence too late. His engine stuck in anti-stall mode as six cars passed him before the first turn. It was only the beginning of his troubles…

Hamilton’s problems

The Lewis Hamilton-Fernando Alonso incident in lap two (which we’ve already had over 100 comments about) was one of those moments when you realised just how bad the standard of television coverage we see is. In Britain at least we saw precious few replays of what happened leaving the commentary team (particularly Martin Brundle) clearly frustrated.

It then emerged that damage to Lewis Hamilton’s car before the incident had been largely overlooked. He had in fact nudged Alonso’s car on the first lap as well, weakening his front bridge wing which then fell off shortly before he hit Alonso.

Some people have suggested the loss of the front wing element would have reduced drag and improved the acceleration of the McLaren to the point that it would have impaired Hamilton’s judgement causing him to hit Alonso.

I can’t say for sure whether that’s true or not but it seems a bit difficult to believe. I think it was just a heat-of-the-moment mistake on Hamilton’s part – one he can ill afford at the next race.

The hand of Hamilton

The other talking point concerning Lewis Hamilton was his apparent waving to at least one of the cars he passed during the race – Giancarlo Fisichella’s Force India. See this video at just after 5:30:

Was that a clenched fist of joy? Or a mocking sign indicating his rival is fond of masturbation as David Coulthard dished out to Michael Schumacher at Magny-Cours eight years ago:

I think it was the former because: (a) I can’t see what Fisichella has done to provoke an angry response from Hamilton, (b) he doesn’t lift his hand far enough out of the cockpit for it to be aimed at Fisichella and (c) he doesn’t move his hand the right way either.

But I’m sure Alonso’s fans will be convinced it’s further evidence Hamilton is devil incarnate, just as I’m sure Hamilton’s most passionate supporters are still convinced Alonso brake-tested him despite Pat Symond’s evidence to the contrary.

How badly damaged was Hamilton’s car after the contact? His best lap time was only quicker than Sebastian Vettel (didn’t finish the first lap), Jenson Button (didn’t finish) and Takuma Sato.

Odds & ends

Anthony Davidson set the 14th fastest lap – quicker than Sebastien Bourdais’ Toro Rosso!

Heikki Kovalainen set fastest lap, as he did in Melbourne.

Kimi Raikkonen was fined for breaking the pit lane speed limit on Friday. His first pit stop was 0.7s slower than Massa’s because of a problem with Ferrari’s starting lights system they use in place of a conventional lollipop.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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15 comments on “Bahrain Grand Prix round-up”

  1. For once Massa was just faster, the much I dislike him he master some circuits and normally make good races when he just have to drive the full race in po 1

    On the LH-FIS thing I don’t really know what that meant but I still don’t see the point of such a risk just before a pit.

  2. Friend of Max
    12th April 2008, 10:07

    It wasn’t just with Fisichella. He did something similar to a Super Aguri, seen in the "Classy Ham" clip here:

    The hand-movement with Fisichella looks a bit "What are you a doing Fisico… I’m a inna McLarena, you are a in a Force India… capito?"

  3. regarding Hamilton’ s broken upper front wing, surely if his car goes THAT MUCH FASTER without it….. why is it there in the first place?

  4. Pedro Andrade
    12th April 2008, 12:26

    Sush: the car is faster in a straight line, but hopeless in a corner. That’s why in Monaco the wings are big and in Monza they’re small.

    (I hope I’m not saying anything stupid)

  5. Interesting point about Hamiltons timing, I actually thought that the lights took ages to go out in Bahrain, what would have happened if the lights had went out a few seconds earlier?

  6. Kimi was like this last year, on and off on different circuits.

    Regarding the simulated launch control, I was waiting for this to happen some day, since its very difficult to time how long it takes the grid to settle down after the formation lap.

    Regarding the loss of LH’s front wing element causing  the accident, I will have to agree with that. One reason being the cars require down force to stop quickly. In the absence of sufficient downforce the car will lose braking ability and secondly even if the driver lifted his feet from the throttle, there will be reduced rates of retardation. The car would be essentially running on only the rear wheels reducing friction with the road and promoting good acceleration. It probably happened too fast for the driver to be aware of it.

    Most drivers tend to wave a lot or use hand gestures be it for over taking back markers or just the elation of going past another car. Alonso is one driver even who tends to do a lot of hand gesticulation.

  7. theRoswellite
    12th April 2008, 18:22

    Launch control…………it won’t go away!

    It would seem to me that a GP driver with years of racing behind him, with probably hundreds of starts, could do a very good job of maximizing a start.  I’ll also bet that it is difficult for those engineering the engine/car performance to give up that control. 

    Let’s trust the driver’s instincts a bit more….. remembering Hamilton’s start-line problems, and Heikki bumped button…and design the cars to enhance them.

  8. My understanding of the 90 second engine map rule was that you couldn’t change map for 90 seconds after the start of the race.

  9. It seems you just can’t stand Massa… Once he wins, you rush to find an explanation to diminish his merit…

    Had Raikkonen won on the same circunstances, that would never be a point of debate…

    Anyway, I can’t deny you made a good job by pointing that Massa’s engine was "less stressed"…

    And, by the way, I applaud you for admitting (better late than never) that Hamilton’s crash was entirely his own fault.

  10. Daniel I didn’t say Massa didn’t deserve to win. I’m doing what people expect from a website for F1 fans – looking at the information and asking questions.

    Some people need to learn that not everyone is out to trash one driver and talk up another. That has never been my approach with this website and, given the detail I’ve gone into above trying to figure out what happened in the race and why, I hoped you might appreciate that.

    Similarly I haven’t "admitted" anything about Hamilton. It’s not my place to "admit" anything because I’m not the one driving the car. If he’s made a mistake it’s up for him to own up to it – I’m just a guy giving my opinion.

    Don, you may be right about the 90 second engine rule – any more information would be appreciated.

  11. I agree with KB, to me the cars sat for ages on the grid before the lights started so would have expected people to have pressed their magic buttons too early rather than too late.

  12. Keith: Yes, I admitted you made a good job, in fact, a very good one… The thing is… I’m pretty sure you would have never searched for the same data had Raikkonen won…

    In fact, if you didn’t do what F1 fans expect, I wouldn’t visit your website so often… :)

    As for Hamilton, I was a bit angry for such a hot debate concerning Alonso’s supposed fault for something that was cleary, from the start, purely down to Hamilton (driver’s or car’s fault included)

    By the way, I hope I didn’t offend you with my "harsh" approach, and If I did, I apologize, but since the first message I pointed that you made a good job…

    And as for Massa, I’m not saying you simply "go out to trash" him, as if you purely dislike him or so…

    Just said that you’re so strongly convinced that he’s not a match for the top three (Kimi, Fernando and Lewis) that whenever he does something worth of applause, you always ask yourself… "how could he?" :)

  13. Yep I think you’re right thanks Don. I thought the 90 second delay applied to any change of engine map but apparently it only locked teams to the same engine map for the first 90 seconds of the race. That makes more sense!

    It has to be said if that ruling by the FIA isn’t stopping teams from using those maps at the start of the race then surely it isn’t working and it either needs to be scrapped or changed?

  14. By the same token… Massa is a GOD at Bahrain, Istanbul and Interlagos. Lets wait to see him get some consistency.

    Or is it consistancy?

    Either way, GO FELIPE!

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