Bahrain GP 2018: Glorious win for Seb but pit stop tragedy for Kimi

The second round of the season brought the F1 circus to the dessert of Bahrain. Against all odds it was the red team that dominated the qualifying. For the past six years the Sakhir Circuit has suited the Silver Arrows perfectly, but this time Ferrari clearly had the upper hand. In terms of drama, it was Max Verstappen’s turn to be in the limelight. The Dutchman was 4th after his first flyer, but he lost control of his RB14 on his second attempt, ending up in the barrier nose first! The crash meant a very modest P15 on the grid for the hot-headed Dutchman. Hamilton in his Mercedes was the only driver who opted for the yellow-marked middle compound in Q2. The reigning world champion had been handed a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change on Friday. In spite of the tyre choice, the Briton was second fastest in the second segment.

The shootout for pole was hair-raising. The Iceman took provisional pole, whilst teammate Sebastian made a small mistake at the final turn. The second runs proved the true pecking order. Sebastian put together a mesmerising lap and conquered his 51st career pole in the darkening night of Bahrain. Kimi made it a sensational front row lock-out for the red team. Bottas was the leading Mercedes in third, only two hundredths of a second down on his compatriot. Hamilton had to settle for P4, which turned into P9 on the grid due to his penalty. The most positive surprise in the qualifying was Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, who made it as high as P6, converting into P5 on the grid. But Sebastian’s performance was very close to perfection; this was the first non-Mercedes pole in Bahrain in six years!

If the season-opening Australian GP was described as a boring race due to no overtaking, last weekend’s Bahrain GP was definitely something else. What a thriller of a race! The drama started, as the lights went out. Sebastian on pole took an outstanding start and held on to his lead. Teammate Kimi, who had started on the dirtier side of the track, suffered from a wheel spin and lost his second place to his fellow countryman Bottas. Red Bull had a pitch-black start to the race. Verstappen, who had taken a rocket start, was challenging Hamilton for P9 already on the second lap. The Dutchman had no patience to wait for the overtaking to happen and made an aggressive move on the Briton. It led into contact between these two rivals. Hamilton in his W09 got away without any damage to his car, but Verstappen suffered a rear-left puncture and had to limp into the pits. The collision had also caused significant damage to his RB14, and he had to retire a few laps later. Meanwhile, teammate Ricciardo’s RB14 was suddenly hit with a complete shutdown, and both Red Bulls were out of the race!

Hamilton, on the other hand, showed what overtaking was really about. He didn’t settle to pass his rivals one by one but overtook three cars simultaneously on the finish straight! McLaren’s Alonso, Force India’s Ocon and Renault’s Hulkenberg couldn’t but witness, how the four-time world champion made his way up to P6. What a sight it was; four cars side by side, sparks flying from all of them! Hamilton had begun his hunt, and by lap 8 he had jumped 4th already.

Ferrari and Mercedes had a different tyre strategy. Sebastian and Kimi pitted for a fresh set of soft Pirellis, whilst Bottas switched to the white-marked hardest compound. Hamilton, who had started the race on the soft tyres, stayed out for a longer first stint. Sebastian, however, was significantly faster than the Briton, and in no time the German had caught race-leading Hamilton. Hamilton’s tyres were done, so there was nothing the Mercedes ace could do to prevent Sebastian to make a move and snatch the lead. After losing the lead, Hamilton pitted for a similar tyre choice to his teammate and re-joined the track in P4.

Ferrari had planned a two-stop strategy, as Kimi was called in on lap 36. But what a tragedy the Finn’s pit-stop turned! For some reason the mechanic didn’t manage to remove Kimi’s rear-left tyre, but despite that the Finn was given green light to go. Kimi naturally wasn’t aware of the unremoved tyre, and the mechanic got run over by the Iceman, who was leaving the pit box! Kimi was immediately told on the team radio to stop the car, and the Iceman’s promising race was over. It turned out, that the mechanic Francesco Cigarini was seriously injured; he had a shinbone and fibula fracture and had been taken to the hospital for surgery. What a disappointing and frightening turn in the race! Ferrari needs to investigate thoroughly what went wrong in that pit stop, as an incident like this mustn’t happen again! I hope Francesco a speedy recovery!

Sebastian had the race perfectly under control until there were about ten laps to go. Bottas in 2nd was clearly faster than Sebastian, whose tyres were done. However, a second pit stop would have dropped the German down to P3. With three laps to go, the Finn was already within DRS distance from Sebastian. Gosh, how my heart was pounding! I was crossing my fingers down to my elbows, hoping that Sebastian would be able to defend his position! Bottas got one chance to make a move, but, luckily, it proved unsuccessful. Sebastian crossed the finish line as the race winner! Bottas finished the runner-up, and teammate Hamilton completed the podium. But there was one team, which was celebrating like they had won the race, and it was Toro Rosso. Gasly had finished the race in superb P4! Worth mentioning is also Ericsson’s P9, which meant the first points of the season for the Swiss team.

Sebastian has had the most perfect start to the season with 50 points in the championship standings! Hamilton is now second with 33 points and teammate Bottas third with 22 points. But who would have predicted to see Alonso in P4? The next round is just around the corner, as the F1 circus is moving to China already this week! Everything is looking very promising for the red team at the moment, although Ferrari have some homework to do in terms of the pit-stops. In Bahrain Sebastian won purely by driving, not by luck. Hopefully the Italian-based team will be the team to beat also in Shanghai! Forza Ferrari!

With passion for racing red, 
Iina Huhmarniemi

Apr 11, 2018