Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018

2018 Bahrain Grand Prix Star Performers

2018 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel, Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson were RaceFans’ stars performers of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. Here’s why.


Pierre Gasly

In only his seventh F1 race weekend Gasly produced a performance of remarkable quality – it’s hard to see where he might of done better. Granted he got his hands on Toro Rosso’s new bits a day before his team mate did, but even so he undoubtedly made great use of them, sailing into Q3 and qualifying ‘best of the rest’ behind the quick cars.

From fifth on the grid many suspect he might fall prey to the Renault customers and the rapid Haas pair but no, he kept them at arm’s length, thanks in part to robust driving at the restart when Magnussen prowled. Then he let his speed do the rest. Mightily impressive stuff.

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018
Vettel felt the heat from Bottas
Having not been entirely happy with the Ferrari in Australia, Vettel was more comfortable with it in Bahrain. Even so he slipped up on his first lap in Q3 and was perhaps fortunate his team mate found traffic on his final run.

In the race he did a superb job to eke out the life of his soft tyres despite the growing threat from Valtteri Bottas behind him. Judicious use of his energy boost was crucial, as it meant Vettel only came under DRS attack on the final lap, and had just enough in hand to clinch victory.

Kevin Magnussen

Perhaps fourth place was possible for Magnussen but fifth was still an excellent result which matched the best to date for Haas. He but his more experienced team mate firmly in the shade.

Marcus Ericsson

While his highly-rated team mate over-drove his car off the road in qualifying, Ericsson quietly claimed the better starting position of the pair. One of several drivers to switch to medium compound tyres mid race, he can justifiably feel proud of out-racing the Mercedes customers to ninth.


Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018
Contact with Hamilton ruined Verstappen’s race
Out in Q1, race wrecked on lap two. How much of the blame does Verstappen deserve for this? It’s hard to exonerate him on both counts.

He blamed his Q1 crash on a sudden surge of power from his engine. The team has not yet verified whether this was the case, and Red Bull have not exactly been slow to point the finger at Renault when something has gone wrong at this end of the car in the past.

His tangle with Lewis Hamilton was a straight racing incident: Verstappen was never going to be charitable leaving space to, of all cars, a Mercedes. But the risk you take with moves like this is the other driver may also be willing to suffer contact. Luck decided it was Verstappen, not Hamilton, who should pay the price.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned from both incidents is that leaving a little more margin would go a long way.

Romain Grosjean

Missing out on a place in Q2 by 0.000 seconds (Fernando Alonso set the same time as him earlier in the session) was tough, but the Haas clearly had the pace to make it. He didn’t make a great start either and picking up barge board damage meant he spent the race struggling to escape the midfield.

And the rest

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2018
McLaren bounced back from a poor Saturday
Kimi Raikkonen was having a nondescript race when Ferrari’s pit stop calamity brought it to a premature end. Valtteri Bottas must rue not having been more forceful with Vettel on the final lap, and not being able to get within range of his DRS sooner. Hamilton said the amount of time he lost in the opening laps destroyed his chance of winning, having started five places further back due to a gearbox change.

A dejected Daniel Ricciardo had been edging towards Raikkonen when his Red Bull let him down. Nico Hulkenberg was the last finisher on the lead lap, not far ahead of the two McLaren drivers who bagged points after missing Q3. Esteban Ocon looked a bit timid in battle and should have finished been ahead of Ericsson.

All weekend long Carlos Sainz Jnr wasn’t as happy with his Renault as Nico Hulkenberg. Leclerc flat-spotted his tyres early in the race and tried an aggressive strategy, to no avail. Neither Lance Stroll not Sergey Sirotkin could do much about the fact Williams were way off the pace.

Sergio Perez and Brendon Hartley were demoted to last after the Toro Rosso driver failed to regain his starting position from the Force India pre-race – a strange oversight which brought hefty penalties for both. They also clashed on lap one, for which Hartley copped the blame.

Over to you

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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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23 comments on “2018 Bahrain Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Sainz should be on the strugglers list, not feeling happy with the car is no excuse, he was consistently off the pace and Hulk dominated him during quali and the race. He better raise his game for the upcoming races, or at least start to buy is own fruit

    1. * his

      damn you mobile keyboards

    2. Agreed – he was well off Hulkenberg all weekend and wasn’t too close during the race in Australia either.

      Another few races like this and he’ll be worrying that Red Bull might jump over him in the line of succession to Gasly, should Ricciardo call it quits with the team.

      1. Gasly keeps it up they might well, Sainz & Verstappen have already shown they can’t be team mates.

  2. The midfield is incredibly tightly packed at the moment, with Haas, Toro Rosso, McLaren, Renault, Force India and now possibly Sauber coming to races expecting points (Williams appears to be nowhere, for whatever reason).

    Granted it’s only one race of many, but what I saw at this race were several standout performances at those teams with one driver comprehensively outperforming the other; the gap now filled by cars from other teams, rather than blank track. All weekend Gasly and Magnussen were miles ahead of Hartley and Grosjean respectively. Hulkenberg seems to have an edge on Sainz, Perez was far scrappier than Ocon, while Ericsson has surprised almost everyone by outqualifying Leclerc twice and now taking points.

    Driver performance seems to be counting for a lot more this season than the last several years.

    1. Agree pretty much with everything. Perez being the exception, he lost a lot of time at the start when Hartley crashed into him.

      I also wouldn’t say Ericsson finishing ahead of Leclerc is a surprise at this stage, after all if Ericsson has something on his side is experience, which Leclerc clearly lacks at the moment. It was definitely a good race for the swede, shame it took him this long to make this sort of performances

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        9th April 2018, 19:22


        I still think Ericsson has had better performances than this. This is the sort of race where retirements of 3 top teams drivers helped him stand out to others. Although one of those 3 was basically at fault for retiring. It seems like he’s more likely to get voted on forums as one of the driver of the day just because he’s in the points. I do think he had a great race, but there were several just as good or better races he’s had in the past where he was only just outside the points. This was because none of the top teams had issues. Very few noticed these. And I almost feel this may have gone a similar way if he was 12th which he would have been if the 2 red bulls and Ferrari were still on track. That said, I do still think myself that this was a very good performance by him. I juts disagree that it has taken him so long to have this sort of performance. I’s say it is just a shame that he doesn’t do it more regularly. He has had these sort of performances quite a few times, but given how long he’s been in F1, I can agree that isn’t that good. There were several occasions even in 2014 where he looked a fair bit better than Kobayashi which I don’t think people remember either.

    2. COTD!

    3. Yes. All 2018 teams were within one second on free practice except the best three and a Williams.

    4. The reason for williams are drivers 1 sec off the pace!

  3. The BBC are comparing Lewis shooting 3 slow fish in a barrel to Mansell, Piquet, Senna and Prost’s battles in equal cars. I could almost shed a tear that the new ‘racing’ is now overtaking cars that ended up back-markers.

    1. Indeed – I’ve just come away from a good chuckle at that article. Sure, it was very good and terribly exciting to see four cars coming into the first corner so close together, but it’s far, far from being one of the best overtakes ever. I could name five overtakes from Hamilton himself that were better.

      A Mercedes that is a good 1.5 seconds per lap faster than the next best in the move, with the tow of three cars and with DRS, the closing speed was huge. Absolutely fair play for getting it slowed down cleanly without locking up or missing the corner, the sparks looked exciting but come on. The other cars had conceded it by the time he was alongside anyway.

      1. Yeah his car was better, but then you look at how well regarded that battle between Senna and Alesi back in 1990 is.
        A Mclaren Honda against a Tyrrell Ford. And people call it epic and pure genius and stuff.

        1. People call it genius on Alesi’s part. I don’t think anyone considers that a highlight in Senna’s career :)

          1. And people seem to forget how good the Pirelli that season , most notably the softer an qualy compounds were on the beginning of the year compared to Goodyear’s. And that Tyrrel was really well designed and incredibly stable, definitely not a backmarcker . And this was a highlight for Alesi career, as pointed out.

  4. a sudden surge of power from his engine. The team has not yet verified whether this was the case

    Dr Helmut Marko also mentioned on TV the 150hp power surge. @KeithCollantine
    Can’t believe he would say that just to protect Max.

    1. He would.

  5. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    9th April 2018, 16:41

    “it’s hard to see where he might of done better”

    Not you too @keithcollantine

  6. Neither Lance Stroll not Sergey Sirotkin could do much about the fact Williams were way off the pace.

    It wasn’t just the Williams being off the pace; both drivers had a big hand in the poor result by having various unforced errors.
    I would reward them with the Struggler award before anybody else.

  7. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    9th April 2018, 17:01

    One amazing thing is that out of the stars and strugglers lists so far this year, Verstappen has been a struggler twice and Ericsson a star performer once. Did anyone every expect this? Verstapen was rated 2nd best last year by keith and Ericsson 18th I think. It will take Verstapen 4 races being a star performer to be ahead of Ericsson is this way of things unless Ericsson has several dreadful races coming his way. I know it is not the best way of measureing things, but it does show Verstappen has had a dreadful start given his hype.

  8. I think Grosjean should have gotten a place in Q2. The rule is fine for Q3 and starting positions when there’s no alternative, but there is zero reason to say Q2 HAS to only have 15 drivers not 16, even though 2 of them tied on time. Just seems unsporting to use an arbitrary rule until you have to. Err on the side of more driving, more drivers, more action.

    1. Come on – 1/1000 quicker and Grosjean would be in Q2.

      Magnussen was almost 1 full second quicker than Grosjean in Q1.

      My grandma could have been quicker than Grosjean in Q1.

    2. @chaddy what do you mean, “arbitrary rule”? Regulations are clear:
      – only the fifteen fastest drivers go to Q2
      – if two or more drivers set identical times during Q1, Q2 or Q3 priority will be given to the one who set it first

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