Ferrari’s Mercedes challenge enlivens 2015 contest

2015 Chinese and Bahrain Grand Prix Rate the Race

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The third and fourth rounds of the F1 season gave us a better idea of what to expect from the year ahead: Mercedes may be untouchable in qualifying, but Ferrari are increasingly a threat over race distances.

While that threat failed to materialise in China failed to excite, the Bahrain Grand Prix again produced an intriguing battle, if not one as memorable as last year.

Mercedes were victorious in both races, but it was clear during the final stages of the Bahrain race they are increasingly feeling the pressure from their Italian rivals. As Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari bore down on the leading silver cars first Nico Rosberg then Lewis Hamilton suffered brake-by-wire faults. One more lap and Raikkonen might have snatched an improbable victory.

Here’s what you had to say about the last two grands prix.

Your verdict on the Chinese Grand Prix

Polarised views

While some of you enjoyed the strategic contest between Mercedes and Ferrari, others were failing to stay awake:

Apparently at the next grand prix Verstappen’s mother is going to be there. His sister also. His mother is going to give her a certain bag she wanted for so long. They made a list of which relatives were at the previous races to see which parent cared the most I think.

Also some French people keep saying Franz ‘Toast’, while it is Franz Tost. The commentators spent a full five minutes talking about that.

That was how interesting this race was. Mercedes back to Melbourne ways.
PorscheF1 (@Xtwl)

For the first time ever, I fell asleep (briefly) in the middle of a Formula One race.

I’ve got used to watching races where the first two positions don’t change hands, but there was no excitement in the whole top six for most of this race. I suppose some people like tactical battles, drivers trading tenths here and there and trying to gain an advantage in the pits, but I prefer on-track overtaking myself.

I know there were some decent battles in this race, but they were all for the positions that don’t really matter.

I quite enjoyed that, the race had a lot going on and was good to watch. The battle at the front was nice and strategic, the midfield was chaotic and there was a good battle at the back.

OK there wasn’t a ‘real’ race at the front but it was a prime example of just how comfortable Hamilton feels at the moment. He had the measure of Rosberg all race and was even aware enough to try back Rosberg into Vettel. A supreme performance.

The major disappointment for me was Williams, they had nothing to answer Ferrari’s pace, never mind Mercedes’.

We had Hamilton managing a four car train for the lead to perfection with the added bonus he continues to get under Rosberg’s skin. They may not have been banging wheels and locking into corners trying to dive past, but that isn’t always what Formula One is about. If you didn’t see a tense battle going on, then that’s just because you don’t know the details to look for.

And we did have some real racing going on down the field. I simply can’t believe Verstappen is 17. The patience he has sizing up a pass and the level headed manner he dealt with the engine failure. I am in awe.

So a good race. Not a classic, but it’s the staple kind of racing F1 is typically about. If you didn’t enjoy it, you have the wrong sport.

Was the Safety Car necessary?

The race ended under the Safety Car while a group of marshals made a shambolic attempt to recover Max Verstappen’s car from the pit straight. Could it have been handled better?

Not as terrible as some are making out. Slightly disappointing, but some good overtaking moves: when it was wheel to wheel, it was side by side for a good half lap (Maldonado and Button, Ricciardo and Ericsson).

But the Safety Car at end spoiled it. They could have easily managed the last three laps with double waved yellow on the pit straight. It wasn’t in a dangerous place. Having made the decision they did, it was disappointing that they didn’t at least give the Virtual Safety Car a go. The marshals were like something out of a Carry On film.

Yet another shocking performance from the Chinese marshals. I thought the whole point of the Safety Car was so marshals could enter the track etc… but they took there time even getting to that Toro Rosso aside from their childlike attempt to remove the car.
Mark G (@M4rkjg)

Your verdict on the Bahrain Grand Prix

The Bahrain Grand Prix had a lot to live up to after last year’s thrilling battle between the Mercedes drivers. It may not have had the Safety Car which helped create so much action last year, but many still felt Bahrain’s second race under lights produced plenty of action.

Many will naturally compare the race to last year but at the end of it, classic races are rare (and that’s why they’re classics). However I rate this race nine out of ten.

A good battle at the front and it’s so good to see Mercedes getting a real fight from Ferraris. Some very good battles and like someone mentioned here, Bahrain looks stunning under lights and provides great racing; just shows that not all Tilkedromes are boring.
Neel Jani (@Neelv27)

Good race, but Hamilton looked like he was pacing himself for most of it. Good to see Rosberg start to show some fight and a well-deserved second for Raikkonen. Great stuff from Vettel, but the unforced error was costly.
Tgu (@Thegrapeunwashed)

Never got edge-of-my-seat excited. On reflection, it was worth a seven.

Couldn’t believe Ferrari pulled off a 2.4 second pit stop. I remember the days when someone would forget a wheel and they’d have a big argument with lots of hand-waving while the driver waited patiently.

Ferrari’s renaissance has been best part of season so far.
Martin (@Aardvark)

Barely more entertaining than cricket.

This one was a bit like seeing a cloud on the horizon and wondering if it’s bringing rain. It didn’t.

Glad that Raikkonen got second, but there seemed to be more driver errors than driver excellence here. (yes I know Rosberg had brake problems).

Rosberg’s passing on the Ferraris was… inelegant.

Great race, poor coverage

Does Formula One have a good racing product let down by poor television production? Several of you said so after the last race.

A pretty good race but the shoddy coverage made me miss most of the midfield battles.

Thanks, FOM.
Fsoud (@Udm7)

Enjoyed the race, but agree that the TV Director seemed to be more interested in the driver’s girlfriends than actual overtaking.
Rick Lopez (@Viscountviktor)

I enjoyed the race but suffered from awful camera choices. Many overtakes and midfield battles were missed. It’s a seven-out-of-ten.

It would’ve been higher had Ericsson not suffered in the pits. First time this year that he was clearly faster than Nasr and this had to happen. Shame.
Christopher (@Chrischrill)

2015 Bahrain Grand Prix

Browse all 2015 Bahrain Grand Prix articles

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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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25 comments on “Ferrari’s Mercedes challenge enlivens 2015 contest”

  1. I must say that I enjoyed both races. China was not overtaking fest for the top spots, but it really had enough of that strategic fight and the midfield offered nice enough on track action. In Bahrain the race was enjoyable too, although I heartily agree with those stating that the TV coverage left a lot to wish for.

  2. Bahrain is strangely becoming one of my favourite circuits

    1. This is arguably the most-DRS friendly circuit on the calendar :)

  3. Well retrospecting the last 4 races in the few days, I am more and more inclined to the conclusion that the gap between Mercedes and Ferrari is more or less artificial. Hamilton is basically pulling the F1 train in the front at the speed he chooses to. He is doing an awesome job of making it look like very close racing and then easily winning it.

    While I love to be proven wrong, IMHO Ferrari may have improved overall as a package, they are nowhere close to Mercedes on the sheer pace. Nothing stops Lewis from putting the car on the Pole and then pulling away in the race and creating a 5 sec laps in the first 5 laps. The Race is pretty much over after that.

    My yardstick: I will say Ferrari is competitive when Kimi7 and Seb5 consistently puts the car in pole position.

    1. @tmax Strange Hamilton was not able to pull away at a speed he chooses in Malaysia. Mercedes have a strong one lap pace no doubt. But the race is a different ball game and Ferrari are there whether Merc fans accept it or not.

      Rosberg didn’t finish lower than 2nd all season last year but for the Hungary GP and the Abu Dhabi GP. This year he has already had two third place finishes in a normal race.

      When Kimi and Seb put the car on pole consistently, Ferrari will be dominant, not merely competitive.

    2. It’s a characteristic of the SF15-T that it will always perform better in the race than in qualifying. The same characteristic that allows it to compete with Mercedes in the races – being light on its tyres – also makes it underperform in qualifying, as it struggles to heat the tyres up in time for a single qualifying lap (and by the time it has heated them up, the tyres are past their best). This means they tend to have less grip available for their qualifying laps, and this is also why the Ferrari drivers have been a more prone to making mistakes in qualifying than usual, as they often have to do their Q3 laps with their tyres not being at the optimal temperature (e.g. Melbourne where both Ferrari drivers lost about 3 tenths with mistakes in Q3). This is particularly bad for Raikkonen, whose driving style is heavy on the front tyres, but very light on the rears – this is why he had that terrible first sector in China that caused him to qualify behind both Williams. During the first sector, his car was extremely loose at the rear due to cold rear tyres and he lost a big chunk of time in the first 3 corners, but the tyres then heated up as he continued throughout the lap and his sector 2 & 3 were very close to Vettel’s. Mercedes’ car is very good at heating up the tyres for a qualifying lap, so given Ferrari’s tyre warm-up issues, it seems like it will be difficult for Ferrari to outperform Mercedes in qualifying as long as the Mercedes drivers get clean laps in.

      That said, when Ferrari bring their PU upgrade (scheduled for Canada) the Ferraris may get a lot closer to the Mercs on one-lap pace. It depends on whether or not Mercedes will be bringing PU upgrades in the coming races as well (and how much horsepower they can find), but according to Helmut Marko, Ferrari have found an extra 20-30 hp for their Canada upgrade and their PU will be as good as, if not slightly better than the current Mercedes PU after the upgrade. But again, it depends on what Mercedes are doing with their PU.

      1. It’s interesting that Ferrari’s tyre issues are basically the complete opposite of what Mercedes had back in 2013 – Mercedes’ car was extremely good at heating its tyres up for qualifying, and tied to the good chassis this meant it was the only car that was really capable of challenging Red Bull for pole in the first half of the season (before Mercedes eased off the development of their 2013 car early in order to focus on 2014). In fact, by the Belgian Grand Prix (round 11), Mercedes had 8 poles to Red Bull’s 3. However, the thing that helped Mercedes to be so good in qualifying worked against them in the races – the car would constantly overheat its tyres in the race, especially the rears, giving it extremely high levels of degradation and thus much less competitive race pace. The most extreme examples of this were Bahrain – where Rosberg dropped to ninth in the race after qualifying on pole – and Spain, where Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying but dropped down to 6th and 12th in the race, with Hamilton having to do four stops despite spending most of the race on the harder tyre (two medium tyre stints and three hard tyre stints).

  4. Karthik Mohan
    27th April 2015, 16:07

    Estesark was able to stay awake for the Bahrain GP of 2010, but 2015 was too much? Weird!

    1. That comment was referring to the Chinese grand prix which was much more boring than the Bahrain GP, I too was confused that this section contained both races.

  5. Can’t believe the Chinese gp only got a 5.7! I was expecting a 7 for sure. (Also surprised the 2009 race only got a 6.6…)

  6. I think it’s fascinating that Arrivabene+Allison are working the Todt+Brawn magic at Ferrari. The question for me is: will Wolff+Lowe be able to keep the Brawn magic going at Mercedes?

  7. Ferrari have historically (since at least 2007 now) always been better on softer tyres. I’m fascinated to see how they will perform around Monaco, Canada, and Austria where Pirelli will bring the SS and S tyres.

  8. at least it’s not reliability issues keeping it lively till the end. Hopefully.

  9. I was just pleased to be able to watch both of these races. I just enjoyed watching the race. I am in New Zealand, where F1 was only available on the Sky Sports package, so it wasn’t affordable for me. I had made a decision a few years ago that I would only watch F1 if it was legal and affordable (e.g. free or close to it), so for a long time I had followed F1 via websites like this one. Then, this year, I saw an advert on TV for a thing called Fanpass, and I investigated it, and found that if you have an internet-broadband connection (and data allowance, etc), then you can watch a race on your computer or tablet computer (did both) for about the same amount of money as you would spend on a sports magazine. The quality of picture was very much in the region of high defintion TV, and if you want to pause the race to get a snack or drink you can do so. You can also replay the race at a later time, so if you’re a shift worker or the race occurs at an inconvenient time, then you still get to watch the race. Also, if you want to watch qualifying and all the practices you can as well.
    And no, I don’t work for Sky TV. (sorry, but I suspect this won’t work outside of New Zealand).

  10. Am i the only one seeing much ado about nothing regarding this Ferrari resurgence? For all the exictment regarding Malaysia, I predicted it would all fizzle out in China – and it did. I mean, the Ferrari’s were overtaken 3 times in the race by the slower Mercedes driver – whilst they were all on the same tires!
    And for all the hoolabaloo regarding Kimi’s pace on the mediums, Vettel and Lewis were simply managing their tires during this stint. Vettels pace on his last stint on the mediums was faster than Kimi’s middle stint on the same tires – even allowing for decreased fuel load and temperatures.
    The only reason we are talking is because Kimi was on the faster option tyre at the end. Without it, he wouldn’t have had a hope in hell!

    1. No, i see that too but the hype is to try to offset the perception of “boring” merc dominant races

    2. @kbdavies Such paranoia even when Lewis is winning races :) Does it matter how many times Rosberg overtook the Ferraris during the race? He finished behind one at the end, that is the most important thing here.

      Kimi lost .5 sec to Hamilton in the second stint while being on the harder tires. That is what got him the second place or a chance to fight for it. Without it, there wouldn’t be any possibility for Kimi to use his faster pace in the last stint on softs to get 2nd. More has been discussed in other threads in this site & JAonF1 as to how/why Kimi was able to beat Rosberg to second. Do read up and get enlightened.

      1. @evered7 – The paranoia only seems to exist in your headspace; as i cannot see any paranoia in my statement. I just do not buy the hype regarding Ferrari’s so called threats to the Mercs. Also, Kimi ONLY got second because Rosberg was slower and had a brake issue; and of course because Vettel made a few mistakes and required a new wing. Remember, he could not overtake Vettel earlier, and again, Rosberg overtook him twice as well.
        Mercedes are still faster than the Feraris both in qualifying and race pace!
        It is not only good to read up on stuff; but also to read between the lines.

        1. @kbdavies Mercs had the race pace because of the changes they did post FP2 in Bahrain. The changes which contributed directly to Rosberg/Hamilton’s brake issues. It was mentioned in the round up here as well.

          Mercs are winning races yet you feel the need to say that Ferrari isn’t a threat yet which is what I mentioned paranoia. They might not have the ultimate pace as Mercedes in qualifying but they are surely nearer in the races than Mercedes would probably like.

          Put it simply, Hamilton/Rosberg won’t be able to drive through the pack like last year and gain a 1-2 this season. Ferrari will be there to take the win as well as put some distances between the cars.

          1. @evered – We will have to agree to disagree. I feel all this has been engineered to a degree. Toto and Lauda are far more vocal about this Ferrari resurgence than Ferrari are themselves; and unusually also seem quite happy about it. i find this alarmingly abnormal.
            I predicted a damp squib to the so called resurgence in China – and so it turned out to be. I also predict the same regarding the year as a whole. And Rosberg’s lack of performance is also making the Ferrari’s looking much closer than they really are.h

  11. Tyres,tyres,tyres, can’t we break this addiction, it’s about as rewarding as smoking and just as unattractive. Ok, I understand some, maybe many, of you enjoy the suspense of wondering whose tyres are going to wear-out first but if I wan’t suspense I can read a book, what I want from racing is excitement and as long as we have tyres that suffer catastrophic degradation in close proximity of the car ahead we will be severely rationed on excitement. Suspense is an essential part of race enjoyment but it should be served hot and doused in the sauce of excitement.

    1. Speaking of tyres means facing reality.

  12. There’s one comment that intrigues me:

    Rosberg’s passing on the Ferraris was… inelegant.

    (by @Bazza-Spock)

    Is that meant to be read as a matter-of-fact statement? Should it be read as criticism? I don’t know what to make of it.
    In my view, Rosberg did what was best for his race, and he did so surprisingly fast, considering that Mercedes’s advantage in pace was insignificant. One of these moves was quite a spectacular one, with Hamilton coming out of the pits, and Vettel and Rosberg almost catching him under braking.

    I don’t know what the point is. My problem with “inelegant” isn’t that it’s not true. It’s rather the fact that I could think up dozens, if not hundreds of adjectives that would’ve been more relevant a description.

    1. @nase
      It’s a mild criticism. I saw other drivers make smoother passes. Rosberg’s on turn 1(?) relied on braking late and escorting the other car to the outside white line. Apparently it’s a legal move but plenty of other drivers can manage a pass without it, including rookie Nasr.

      1. @bazza-spock
        Thanks for the clarification! Now I understand what your point was.
        I can’t remember every detail of Rosberg’s passes, did he force Räikkönen and Vettel over to white line? That would’ve indeed been close to an illegal move (albeit one that’s almost never penalised, just think of Hamilton’s defense against Rosberg in Hungary 2014).
        Or wasn’t it rather the case that blocked off the outside line to defend against an opponent who also braked very late, but didn’t actually force them off? That, in turn, would be a move well done in my book.
        I think I’ll have to find replays of the scenes in question, otherwise I’d be speculating too much.

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