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