Rosberg streaks to 5th consecutive win with victory in Bahrain, Hamilton settles for P3 after more problems at start; Raikkonen lifts Ferrari with P2 after Vettel’s engine blows up on formation lap
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg made the best possible start to his 2016 campaign with a dominant win in Sunday’s GP in Bahrain giving him victories in the first two races of the year. Starting from second on the grid alongside his pole-sitting teammate, Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg had a better getaway than his archival and overtook the reigning World Champion going into Turn 1. Worse yet for Hamilton, Williams’ Vatteri Bottas, who got a blazing start from back in P6 on the grid, tried an over ambitious underneath pass on the Englishman and smashed into the side of his Silver Arrows, sending carbon fiber all over the track and partially spinning Hamilton. Other cars swamped him while he struggled to point the Mercedes in the right direction again and Hamilton’s race was essentially one of damage control from then on out. While Rosberg ran away from the chaos behind him to a dominant lead & eventual victory in the well-lit desert night, Hamilton nursed his injured car to a decent P3 finish. That makes it 5 consecutive Grand Prix wins for Rosberg dating back to the end of last season and the German seems well and truly determined to end his irritating role as Hamilton’s foil and capture a first ever Drivers’ Championship of his own. And if Hamilton can’t figure out how to make better starts from the line when the lights go out he’ll surely be helping Rosberg achieve his dream.
Ferrari had another decidedly mixed day despite showing potentially Mercedes-challenging speed over the course of the first two races. Their ace Sebastian Vettel suffered a shocking engine failure on the formation lap, the second DNF for Ferrari to open the season and a troubling display of unreliability for this year’s car. That left Kimi Raikkonen to shoulder the whole load for the legendary Scuderia and the veteran Finn, who had his own race ending turbo failure in Australia, proved up to the task of saving Ferrari’s blushes on the day. Showing excellent pace after recovering from a sub-par getaway of his own, Raikkonen managed to come home with a reasonably comfortable P2, keeping Hamilton securely behind him and with no signs of any further technical trouble on the SF16-H.
Below the top 3, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo drove another strong and smart race showing off the much improved engine and chassis to take P4. And the Cinderella season for first year American F1 team Haas continued when their French veteran leader, Romain Grosjean, made a risky tire strategy work and fought with gusto for a remarkable P5. Coming on the heels of his stunning P6 in Australia, that makes two excellent points scoring fishes in a row for the Frenchman and the debutante Ferrari-powered team from Kannapolis, North Carolina. Now if they can just get Grosjean’s teammate Esteban Gutierrez to finish a race — the young Mexican crashed out after his terrifying tangle with Fernando Alonso in Melbourne and suffered engine failure in Bahrain — the upstart Yanks could put together something that is nearly unprecedented for a team in this most demanding form of motorsport: a successful first year.
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen recovered from his tantrum in Australia, channeling his aggression into dicing hard with his competitors rather than yelling at his team to come home a solid P6. Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat fought his way up from a poor 15h place qualifying effort to grab P7, while the two Williams of Felippe Massa and Valtteri Bottas must have been disappointed by their mediocre P8 and P9 respectively. Bottas had to serve a drive through penalty after the stewards judged him to be the guilty party in his tangle with Hamilton to start the race. And Massa just never seemed to have any real pace to take the fight to the cars that finished in front of him. It’s distinctly possible that Williams have taken a step back after two strong and competitive seasons — or others have improved around them more than they have.
Taking the last championship point was Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne in his F1 debut. The McLaren reserve driver and reigning GP2 Champion, who was drafted into the car on short notice after Alonso was declared still unfit after his crash in Australia, made an impressive start to his Formula 1 career to say the least. I have to imagine his poised and forceful drive earned himself serious consideration to step in when either Jenson Button or Fernando Alonso hang up their racing shoes. This year’s McLaren is certainly better than 2015’s disaster but getting the Honda-powered chassis into the points is still anything but easy. So hats off to the 24-year-old on the accomplishment. There could be big things in his future.
Top 10 finishers in Bahrain:
|4||DANIEL RICCIARDO||AUS||RED BULL RACING||+62.494s||12|
|6||MAX VERSTAPPEN||NED||TORO ROSSO||+80.929s||8|
|7||DANIIL KVYAT||RUS||RED BULL RACING||+1 lap||6|
|8||FELIPE MASSA||BRA||WILLIAMS||+1 lap||4|
|9||VALTTERI BOTTAS||FIN||WILLIAMS||+1 lap||2|
|10||STOFFEL VANDOORNE||BEL||MCLAREN||+1 lap||1|
The next race weekend April 15 -17 in China. Can Rosberg keep his victory streak alive and Hamilton in his rearview mirrors? Hope to see you in two weeks to find out!