Bahrain Grand Prix – The Race

Hamilton and Rosberg – do they stand on the brink of war?

So a question to all the critics, doomlords and naysayers who have torn into Formula 1 in recent weeks – was that race exciting enough for you?!!!!
Just when you least expect it (and c’mon lets be honest who really thought in a gazillion light years it would be Bahrain of all places that would re-ignite everyone’s interest and passion in F1 again) along comes a race every once in a while that blows the rest out of the water.
The Bahrain Grand Prix of 2014 was quite simply the most exhilarating and thrilling race since Interlagos 2012. There was a battle of truly epic proportions between the two Mercedes drivers for 1st and 2nd place. The racing was so close, fierce and uncompromisng that you could have been forgiven for thinking you were watching a karting race albeit one showcasing the very best drivers in the world. And that’s before we even mention the ferocious battles that raged all race long behind the front two between Force India, Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams.
And before I forget, a round of applause to the beautiful gesture by the Bahrain race organisers:
 



Schuey winning the Bahrain Grand Prix of 2004

But first #MartinsGridWalk. I think I spoke for a nation when I prayed for it to be a Geri Halliwell-free zone. Surely I must have dreamt all that Christian Horner nonsense. Shudder.
Martin managed to intercept the Master of the Dark Arts himself aka Adrian Newey who was armed with a mysterious red file no doubt jammed full of Top Secret Stuff and Title Winning Modifications. I was however in full agreement with Adrian who pointed out that it was ridiculous for a driver (Ricciardo) to be slapped with a 10 place grid drop when he had already served a penalty in the previous race for the offence in question. It was over to ‘Danny Ric’ (a random Brundle-ism that probably won’t catch on) – the man of the moment – who was still smiling and saying this sort of thing could only make you stronger. Maybe Alonso has given him a lend of his Samurai Book of Motivational Sayings.
Martin then spotted Ron Dennis shooting the breeze with someone from Pink Floyd. Wowsers, Random Celebrities at a Race were ten a penny in Bahrain. Was there also a convention going on in Sakhir for aging posh rockers who feature in the husband’s Jeremy Clarkson’s music collection? Mike Rutherford was in town as well as AC/DC and Jools Holland. Apparently Ron believes that everyone should stop with the whinging and just get on with it. F1 should be proud of their technology and who really gives a xxxx if the cars aren’t that noisy. God at last someone who speaks sense. Enough already about the goddamn lack of noise. And back to Ron – ok its not F1 as we know it but the noise can be fixed. Most of the moans are coming from uncompetitiveness. Could Not Agree More. *Stares hard at Vettel*. Prescient words, Ron, prescient words.

Ron doesn’t think F1 is boring and will fight anyone who says otherwise
Quick chat with lovely Jenson Button who was berating Martin for not wearing a ‘Jenson 250’ t-shirt. Wow is it really 250 races? I remember watching his first race (for Williams) in the not-then-husband’s strange but nice converted church flat back in 2000.

#Jenson250
Its Go! Go! Go! at the Bahrain GP of 2014. Make it a good one guys.
And at the start Hamilton managed to nip in front of his team-mate and the pole-sitter, Rosberg. Brilliant start for Massa and somehow already Alonso was a few places ahead of Raikkonen. Although Fernando was already coming under intense pressure from a Force India. Let us just consider that for a moment. A Ferrari was under pressure from a Force India. How the mighty have fallen. And yet again Magnussen has hit Kimi (who was none too pleased about the situation “Magnussen has hit me again”) and there was a collision between Vergne and Maldonado – Vergne’s not-at-all-hysterical take on the situation was “that guy tried to kill me”. He wouldn’t be the first to say/think that. Methinks that Maldonado won’t be in F1 next season.

The frenetic start to the race

The Hulk made a move stick on the Ferrari of Alonso to move into 7th place. There’s a new game in F1 these days and its called Overtake a Ferrari. There was some delightfully ragged driving by Vettel who took a small detour off the grid after trying and failing to get past Magnussen. On lap 10, Button and then the Hulk passed Bottas. I remain VERY unconvinced by Bottas.
Magnussen’s tyres had given up the fight by lap 12 and Ricciardo blitzed past him. Perez then put a stunning move on Massa to move into 3rd place. From bloody nowhere, Force India were all over this Bahrain Grand Prix. One of many surprises this weekend. Sutil was forced to retire with a puncture – surely not another double retirement this weekend for Sauber. Replays showed that he forced Bianchi off the track. Naughty naughty Adrian Sutil.
Proving not all the bad luck strikes one side of the Red Bull garage, we heard that Vettel in 6thposition had lost DRS and Ricciardo was now swarming all over the back of his car. Team orders to let Ricciardo through were duly issued and astonishingly listened to as Vettel surrendered the place to Danny Ric. Massa was having a titanic battle of his own with Bottas while the Hulk took Kimi.

Bahrain looks beautiful from other angles too
Suddenly by lap 19, Nico Rosberg was all over the back of Hamilton. There was now only a 0.3 second gap. To quote my notes verbatim we then had “some of the best wheel to wheel driving I have seen in years”. First Rosberg passed Hamilton and then Hamilton brilliantly retook the lead. The unbearable tension was slightly alleviated by Hamilton coming in for his first pitstop on lap 20 with what very much sounded over the radio like a change of strategy for Rosberg.
Next to score in the Overtake a Ferrari Game were the Hulk and Perez, both of whom easily passed Alonso. Vettel was told in dramatic tones that the majority of cars were 3 stopping so presumably he was on a 2 stop strategy. Now it was Button’s turn to score a point in Overtake a Ferrari by passing Kimi. Not to put too fine a point on it but Ferrari’s season so far is a total aberration.

Ferrari – a race to forget
On lap 21, Rosberg pitted and he rejoined the track just behind Lewis Hamilton. So as you were. The current running order at the top were the two Mercedes, the two Williams and it was that man again…the Hulk…driving another excellent race to lie in 5thposition.
There was one hell of a scrap brewing down at Williams. Massa and Bottas were all over each other, with the Hulk lying in wait just behind them. On lap 26, Perez overtook the Hulk and somehow Massa clung on to live another day. And now fireworks down at Force India as the Hulk was furious that Perez pushed him off the track. Or as everyone else saw it, Perez just put a good move on and made it stick. He was now up to 3rd place after Massa dived into the pits. The brilliant mercurial Sergio Perez of 2012 is back in business.
HALFWAY POINT KLAXON:
1.     Hamilton
2.     Rosberg
3.     Perez
4.     Hulk
5.     Massa
6.     Button
And a Change of Overalls Moment as Bottas went flying off the track as he failed to notice Kimi was slowing, narrowly avoiding a horrendous crash. Next up to play Overtake a Ferrari was Ricciardo followed by Bottas, followed by Massa (ouch) all passing Kimi Raikkonen within a couple of laps and then Perez passed Alonso for P6 (I’m beginning to lose track now). I fear Stefano Domenicali is dead man walking.
There was a MAJOR ACCIDENT on lap 41 as Maldonado coming out of the pits went into Esteban Gutierrez flipping his car into the air. A real heart in the mouth smash but thankfully Gutierrez was ok. Poor old Sauber. Two double retirements in one week.

Gutierrez airborne 
And unsurprisingly, the Safety Car was deployed which meant anyone who had built up a nice little lead (Lewis Hamilton for example) would now see it all wiped out. In amidst all the melee and sneaky pitstops, Magnussen had stopped and his race was over.
TEN LAPS TO GO KLAXON:
1.     Hamilton
2.     Rosberg
3.     Perez
4.     Hulkenberg
5.     Button
6.     Vettel
The commentators were hotly debating whether team orders had been imposed at Mercedes after Paddy Lowe (very unusually) came on over the radio to tell the drivers “there are only 10 laps to go and can we make sure we bring both cars home” (or words to that effect). Like Brundle, I thought that meant, we’re not imposing team orders but if you do anything daft and take each other out, we will kill you. Generally if teams impose team orders they make it much clearer than that so there is no room for confusion.

Wheel to wheel combat at Mercedes

The Safety Car was coming in…let battle commence! The two Mercedes were fighting wheel to wheel, the two Force India’s were fighting wheel to wheel with Hamilton and Perez somehow managing by the skin of their teeth to hold off their team-mates. Vettel (remember him?) had very, very quietly manoeuvred his way up to 5thplace. And the wheels were coming off (not literally speaking) for poor Jenson Button who was easily passed by Ricciardo, Massa and Bottas. Its says it all about the F14-T that the driver who struggled the most to overtake the ailing McLaren of Button was Fernando Alonso.
And sensationally (no team orders, no dodgy DRS – just fair dinkum racing) Ricciardo overtook Vettel with a brilliant move on turn one. A monumental battle for 4th place was now raging between the Hulk, Ricciardo and Vettel. But before that fully exploded into life, we had another heart-stopping moment on lap 53 as Rosberg squeezed in front of Hamilton, only for Hamilton to seize back the lead almost instantly. It really was a masterclass of defensive driving from Hamilton. Ricciardo, cool as you like, passed the Hulk to move into 4th place.

And things were similarly close at Red Bull
Button had finally conked out. That would be a double retirement for McLaren. Oh dear.
And with Lewis Hamilton clinging onto his lead for dear life by one second, he claimed the win with Rosberg crossing the line in 2nd place in close pursuit. With Sergio Perez completing the podium. And. Breathe. We had the almost surreal but incredible sight (in F1) of cars tumbling all over each other in their team pairings as they raced to the finish line.

A magnificent drive by the reborn Sergio Perez
So here are the results from the extraordinary and electrifying Bahrain Grand Prix of 2014:
Hamilton – Lewis now has back to back wins but this one is one of his finest victories ever. Well played to Team Mercedes for allowing the drivers to race and give us such a great show to enjoy!
Rosberg – A bittersweet result but one which hopefully shows we have a titanic battle on our hands for the title!
Perez – A phenomenal drive to take Force India’s second only podium ever.
Ricciardo – Genuinely ecstatic for Ricciardo who deserved it after that great move on Vettel in the closing stages of the race.
Hulkenberg – Started 11thand finished 5th. What more does the Hulk need to do to prove himself?
So F1 has become boring has it? Well it looks like the drivers didn’t get the memo. To quote the living legend that is Niki Lauda, “anyone who claims this sport is boring is an idiot.” And who would argue?

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