The 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix saw plenty of early-race accidents but some equally fine performances up and down the pack. A German who drives for a leading team notched his fifth straight win, while a Finn showed his true pace in the same race. A certain driver from France proved that his team’s result in the previous race wasn’t entirely down to luck, while also strengthening his personal image in the paddock. A debutant displayed why he is rated so highly and a Dutch driver continued to impress with another strong finish and some fine moves.
Nico Rosberg’s stellar form continued in Bahrain as he recorded the fifth consecutive victory of his career.
Rosberg had been in good shape all weekend, beating Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to the top spot in the opening two practice sessions. Many had expected the German to take pole position on Saturday, but Hamilton’s lap time - the fastest ever in Bahrain - was out of his reach.
Nevertheless, he arrived well placed on Sunday, starting on the front row of the grid. When Hamilton made a poor getaway, Rosberg quickly inherited the race lead, avoiding the mess that happened behind him.
From there on, he held on to his position, extending his advantage to as much as 17 seconds by the end of the first stint. Traffic after his final pitstop reduced the gap to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, but he never looked threatened, eventually winning the race by a margin of 10.282 seconds.
Bahrain has been a happy hunting ground for Raikkonen and 2016 was no different.
Having taken the role of the lead Ferrari driver following Sebastian Vettel’s engine failure on the formation lap, Raikkonen jumped to second place at the start, passing slow-starting Hamilton.
From there on, he kept Rosberg honest, although his Ferrari wasn’t quick enough to put on a serious challenge to the Mercedes.
There were some fine overtaking moves too, such as one on the outside of Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, showing he still has got fire burning inside him.
Should the Finn carry on this form, he might well get another contract extension at the end of this year. And the extra points he scores this season will come handy for Ferrari in the constructors’ stake.
Romain Grosjean missed the final leg of qualifying on Saturday, gaining an extra set of tyres for the race.
And Grosjean duly adopted an aggressive three-stop strategy, using three set of supersofts tyres and one quartet of soft compounds to make it to the finish.
In between, Grosjean made some textbook moves on the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa. After the race he admitted that he had full confidence in the car and braking that allowed him to make such moves.
The fifth place finish proves that Haas’ Australia result was no fluke and the American team can fight for points on a regular basis.
Drafted midway last week to replace Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne had little time to get used to the MP4-31.
But the Belgian was quickly up to pace, hooking a lap that was good enough to beat teammate Jenson Button in qualifying.
While Button retired from the race due to power unit gremlins, Vandoorne carried on, impressively overtaking the Force India drivers, despite the obvious power difference between the Mercedes and the Honda engine.
He collected the final championship in 10th place and believed that he maximised the opportunity bestowed on him.
For someone who has proved his mettle so often in feeder categories - with a dominant 2015 season in GP2 being the highlight - it’s chagrin that he’s yet to find a full season’s drive.
After a difficult weekend in Australia that was primarily down to the ill-timed safety car, Toro Rosso were back in form at yesterday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen started the race from 10th place and used a three-stop strategy to make it to the finish. Verstappen made some of his characteristic moves, passing Kvyat late in the race to take sixth position.
It was another fine drive from the Dutchman; conversely though, Toro Rosso needs to sort out problems on the other side of the garage if they are to achieve their ambitious goal of finishing in fifth place in the standings.
Honourable mention goes to Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein for finishing in 13th place, ahead of the Sauber of Felipe Nasr and the Force India pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.
by Rachit Thukral