- Mar 22, 2014
While the name at the top stayed the same, all three podium finishers had reasons for positivity in Sakhir
As far as Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are concerned, the line between triumph and disaster can’t come much closer than it did on Sunday.
Despite delivering another commanding performance to lead his team to their third straight win of the season, Hamilton will be thanking his lucky stars after sustaining a brake failure on the final lap – the same that cost teammate Nico Rosberg P2 – which very much jeopardised the Brit’s victory.
With Hamilton’s Mercedes losing over two seconds to the second-placed Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen through the final three sectors, the race may go down as a question of ‘what if’ for the Scuderia, who had difficulties with tyre strategy and the other car of Sebastian Vettel over the course of the race. Regardless, as the first Asian swing of the season comes to a close, Ferrari has to be pleased they can still claim a monopoly on the non-Mercedes podium spots through the first four races.
So as the F1 circus packs its bags for Europe, let’s have a look at some of the major talking points from the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“The Other Guys” – Rosberg and Raikkonen make their mark
There’s no denying that as the “other man” in the Mercedes, Nico Rosberg is under a microscope for his 2015 performances – yet, perhaps no one has a hotter seat than the one belonging to Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari. As much as Rosberg has failed to answer questions about whether he truly has the ability to take it to his teammate, the question for Raikkonen is: can he do it anymore? Thus given their circumstances, Sunday was a welcome return to form for both.
For Rosberg, it had nothing to do with the place and everything to do with how he got there. From the very start of the race the German was forced to duel with the Ferraris – beaten off the line, he immediately fought back, first on Raikkonen, then on Vettel. When twice an undercut forced him to do Vettel again, he did so with no hesitation, putting together a drive that showed he was capable of the sort of calculated aggression that up to this point in the season had been completely lacking.
For Raikkonen, it was a timely reminder that Vettel is not the only world champion in Ferrari’s midst. While his more accomplished teammate racked up the mistakes, Kimi simply drove to the opportunities that presented themselves. Making the most of his first change onto mediums, Raikkonen drove himself into podium contention with an otherworldly stint on the inferior tyre, and then proceeded to bang in the fast laps at the end that had a pre-brake-failure Mercedes sweating. Considering Mercedes still had the faster car, such a challenge showed us just what the Iceman is still capable of.
With that said, could Bahrain mark a turn of the tables for both drivers? It’s possible, but (particularly in Rosberg’s case) unlikely. Qualifying seems to be another question entirely, and that counts for even more when the names of the guys ahead of you are Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. What it should do is give them the motivation to keep pushing both themselves and their teammates, and that could lead to some seriously tasty four-way battles for race victories in the near future.
A lap from victory, does Ferrari need to raise its 2015 expectations?
While reliability may have accounted for the close-ness of the call in Bahrain, the fact remains – Ferrari are comfortably on track to meet their two-win goal for 2015. For Maurizio Arrivabene and co, maybe it’s time to get greedy…
Even before Raikkonen’s second place on Sunday, the prancing horse laid down an ominous marker with his teammate’s P2 in Saturday qualifying. It wasn’t the first time they’d bested a Merc in qualy this year, and after their shock win in Malaysia, it shows Ferrari are continuing to trend upward.
With the championship’s return to Europe almost upon us, you can be certain the Scuderia has some major upgrades in store for the SF15-T. Of course, Mercedes will as well, but to be so close so early, with the resources Ferrari have, there’s plenty of cause for optimism.
Not to mention, the race pace of the Ferrari is no joke – as we saw in Bahrain, it manages tyres better and has less reliability concerns than the Silver Arrows. Combined with the credentials of the drivers piloting it, is it not within the realm of possibility to rack up the occasional win, a bunch of P2’s and the same place in the driver’s championship?
Certainly, it’s a testament to the work Arrivabene has done since he took over that Ferrari is in such a position, such that the modesty that had him pre-apologising to his drivers in February must be long out the window. If the team is serious about a title fight in 2016, now’s the time to get started.
Hamilton says he doesn’t need to be “number one”, but maybe it would help?
Lewis Hamilton may not be in demand of the vaunted “number one driver” tag in his ongoing contract negotiations with Mercedes, but he’s not afraid to let everyone know who’s best.
Speaking on the weekend about his future with the team, Hamilton couldn’t stop himself from taking a shot at Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, both of whom he suggests have such a clause that guarantees them preferential treatment within their teams. From Hamilton’s point-of-view, he’d rather ‘beat the guy, at his best, next to me’.
But does such a clause really matter? Historically, such a guarantee has been a privilege the sport’s best have had no qualms demanding should they have the necessary leverage in contract negotiations. You really don’t have to look far for examples – after all, it was the very foundation on which Michael Schumacher won five championships with Ferrari.
As such it does raise an interesting question: perhaps it’s actually preferable for the team to have a number one driver? Hamilton himself would be a really great case study, as he has famously clashed with Alonso, Rosberg, and even to a lesser extent Jenson Button (remember when he got mad because he thought Button unfollowed him on twitter?). It’s not unusual for dominant athletes to be very exacting in their professional relationships, and clearly fighting with your closest co-worker over the same prize just adds to that problem. Maybe if you’re Toto Wolff, and you know Hamilton is the guy who can lead you to championships, considering the recent past, he should go ahead and give it to him anyway.
Thoughts on Rosberg and Raikkonen’s Bahrain performances? Is two wins too little for Ferrari in 2015? Is having a designated #1 better for the team? Sound off in the comments!