Race Report: Nico extends title lead with Bahrain win

The 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix may not have had the drama of two years ago but it was an exciting race nonetheless and no thanks to the new qualifying format lest you felt compelled to suggest it played a role in the spicing up of the show.

Nico Rosberg continues his run of victories logging five in a row now and starting to bolster his bank account of world championship points. Mercedes failed to deliver a 1, 2 finish in Bahrain as Nico’s teammate, Lewis Hamilton, had a turn one collision with Williams F1 driver Valtteri Bottas that damaged both cars and left the 3-time champ struggling to play catch up and conservation for the rest of the race.

WinWin

A win for Rosberg means that he’s in a position to mount a serious world championship run and with nearly 20 points lead, he’ll need to capitalize on the misfortune his teammate is experiencing if not the cob webs of winter with regards to Lewis’s poor starts.

Kimi Raikkonen’s poor start didn’t do him any favors but a second place finish in the absence of a missing Sebastian Vettel was the best he could hope for against a still-quicker Mercedes car. That makes 8 podiums for the Fin at the Bahrain GP.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo said before the race that he hoped to stay up front and pick up the pieces if anyone ahead of him should have trouble. That occurred on the formation lap as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel experienced a DNF with engine failure so the smiling assassin from Australia indeed to pick up a much deserved 4th in Bahrain.

A huge win for Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean who finished one spot higher than in Australia and will give Williams F1’s Pat Symonds even more to be upset with over their accused customer car business model. Haas F1 reversed their Australian strategy and read the tea leaves perfectly in Bahrain as the Super Soft tire was the one to be on and in the hands of a confident and fiercely quick Grosjean, the team scored big points. If there were any concerns about Romain leaving Lotus/Renault and going to Haas F1, I think we’ve answered those today.

Two drivers who also get a big win were Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat. Verstappen kept his head down and made a good strategy work for 6th place. Meanwhile, Kvyat had a stonking run from 15th (after a poor qualifying) and muscled his way back up to 7th in a re-badged Renault powered car.

Another huge win for McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne as he scored a championship point on his maiden race standing in for Fernando Alonso. While team boss Ron Dennis was lobbying at the eleventh hour—almost suggesting he had little confidence in his reserve driver—to get Alonso in the car, Vandoorne quietly scored points and that’s something his teammate Jenson Button couldn’t do as he DNF’d over technical issues on the car.

Another big win for Pascal Wehrlein who drove a magnificent race to 13th mixing it up with Saubers, Renaults and Force India cars. It can’t be overlooked just how special this young man is and what he achieved in a car that most likely didn’t belong in 13th.

FailFail

Certainly Lewis Hamilton’s troubles with clutch bite points has let him down again. A slow start put in in position to be punted by Bottas and it’s two races on the trot that he’s struggled. While he claims the two races are separate incidents, it does seem that Hamilton is getting a slow start to the 2016 championship and if his starts were slightly better, he may be able to get his title defense back on track as he’s just a race win away from being back in the hunt and we know he doesn’t like losing to anyone…especially his teammate.

A fail for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel as the team seemed poised to take the fight to Mercedes in the form of 4-time champ Vettel but that didn’t happen as the engine gave up the ghost on the formation lap and left a dejected Vettel relatively mum in press interviews. He wasn’t happy and nor should he be.

A fail for McLaren who had a veteran 3rd fastest in FP3 and yet left him stranded on track with a mechanical issue. McLaren may have two cars in the top ten or at least more points and with a relatively Spartan black car sans a title sponsor, that might come in handy.

A fail for Valtteri Bottas and his drive-through penalty. Was he being opportunistic in turn one? Perhaps but when you leave the door open, Bottas is going to take it and after all, isn’t that what Senna always said and what Lewis has always done?

WTHWTH

For much of the race I was wondering what happened to Force India and Williams F1. I am lead to understand that Williams were nursing wounded cars and while that was relatively obvious on Bottas’s car, I was sure what Felipe Massa’s issues were. This is a team who finished 3rd in the constructor’s title the last two years and it seems they could be slipping further back which won’t do well for prize money earnings.

Force India may have been nursing damage on Sergio Perez as well as Nico Hulkenberg but to not have much of an answer for a Manor is a bit of a surprise for me. I’m certainly willing to admit that Pascal is the real deal, because he is, and that Manor is a new team but Nico’s qualifying performance suggested a much better result for the team.

Results:

Pos Driver Car Gap
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h33m34.696s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 10.282s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 23h26m25.s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/TAG Heuer 23h26m25.s
5 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 23h26m25.s
6 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso/Ferrari 23h26m25.s
7 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull/TAG Heuer 1 Lap
8 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap
10 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Honda 1 Lap
11 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1 Lap
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
13 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1 Lap
14 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
15 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap
16 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1 Lap
17 Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes 1 Lap
Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari Retirement
Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari Retirement
Jenson Button McLaren/Honda Retirement
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Not started
Jolyon Palmer Renault Not started

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS

Pos Driver Points
1 Nico Rosberg 50
2 Lewis Hamilton 33
3 Daniel Ricciardo 24
4 Kimi Raikkonen 18
5 Romain Grosjean 18
6 Sebastian Vettel 15
7 Felipe Massa 14
8 Max Verstappen 9
9 Nico Hulkenberg 6
10 Daniil Kvyat 6
11 Valtteri Bottas 6
12 Carlos Sainz 2
13 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
14 Kevin Magnussen 0
15 Jolyon Palmer 0
16 Marcus Ericsson 0
17 Sergio Perez 0
17 Pascal Wehrlein 0
19 Felipe Nasr 0
20 Jenson Button 0
21 Rio Haryanto 0

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS

Pos Constructor Points
1 Mercedes 83
2 Ferrari 33
3 Red Bull/TAG Heuer 30
4 Williams/Mercedes 20
5 Haas/Ferrari 18
6 Toro Rosso/Ferrari 11
7 Force India/Mercedes 6
8 McLaren/Honda 1
9 Renault 0
10 Sauber/Ferrari 0
11 Manor/Mercedes 0