Lewis Hamilton holds on to win Bahrain Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton notched up his third win of the year by taking the chequered flag first at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

It was a nervy final 20 laps for the team as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen mounted a charge and eventually passed Nico Rosberg. Both Silver Arrows cars limped across the line with brake issues and, had the race been a few laps longer, it could have been Raikkonen on the top step of the podium.

Hamilton started the race on pole position ahead of Sebastian Vettel while Rosberg and Raikkonen lined up on the second row. Before the race McLaren confirmed that Jenson Button would not be taking part due to an ERS problem. He had already endured a difficult weekend, completing minimal laps in practice and breaking down on his out lap in qualifying. He instead took to live tweeting during the race. Felipe Massa nearly failed to make the start after stalling on the grid but the team were able to get him fired up in the pit-lane and as a result he started at the back of the pack.

Prior to the race even starting Carlos Sainz was handed a five second stop/go penalty for exceeding the time limit for his reconnaissance lap. Pastor Maldonado also picked up the same penalty for being out of position on the grid. When the lights went out Raikkonen moved up to third ahead of Rosberg. It did not take long for the Mercedes driver to move back ahead, however, and he soon set off on pursuit of Vettel. He overtook his fellow countryman but throughout the race he had to pass him twice more. Vettel pitted twice attempting to make the undercut work – which it did – but Rosberg found a way through each time. It was an uncharacteristically scruffy race for the four time world champion who locked up and ran deep a number of times. On one occasion he ran wide and picked up some damage to his front wing meaning he had to add an extra pit-stop. His advantage, however, was enough that he was able to hold on to fifth position.

While most of the front runners took on the soft tyres again – leaving a stint on the medium tyres on the end – while Raikkonen went in the opposite direction. He pitted for the final time on lap 40 and started reeling the leaders in at a rate of about two seconds a lap. He continued to put the pressure on and Rosberg ran wide at Turn 1 allowing him through. It later transpired that Rosberg had brake issues as did race leader Hamilton but Raikkonen ran out of laps to catch him. It was Raikkonen’s first visit to the podium since the latter half of 2013.

Elsewhere it was an eventful end to the race for Daniel Ricciardo whose engine gave up at the final corner. He limped across the line giving Red Bull a double points finish. In total contrast both Toro Rosso drivers failed to finish – Sainz at the side of the track and Max Verstappen retiring in the garage. Maldonado nearly became a third retirement as he suffered with engine problems during his pit-stop but he managed to keep going. Also in the points were Valterri Bottas in fourth for Williams, Romain Grosjean in seventh for Lotus, Sergio Perez eighth, Daniil Kvyat ninth and Felipe Massa in tenth. Massa’s tyres started to go off towards the end of the race and Fernando Alonso started closing the gap rapidly. When they crossed the line at the end of the race Alonso was just around four seconds behind the Williams driver while he had been 15 seconds back. Alonso had had a battle with the front runners earlier in the race – unlapping himself when they started to catch him.

The next race signals the start of the European season with the Spanish Grand Prix.

2015: Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

In the first back-to-back races of the year, the Formula One circus has moved on to Bahrain after the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend.

Following Ferrari’s time at the top of the podium in Malaysia it was business as usual for Mercedes in China as they recorded a 1-2 finish. There were post-race rumblings of another falling out between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the latter accused the race winner of holding up his progress by driving too slowly. Both made their feelings perfectly clear in post race interviews and things are set to heat up again in Bahrain, where Hamilton won last year. It was yet another Mercedes 1-2 with Force India’s Sergio Perez finishing 20 seconds behind them on the podium.

Whilst Mercedes once again dominated proceedings in China – both on and off the track – Ferrari were the team closest to them, finishing third and fourth. They were followed by the two Williams, Romain Grosjean scoring his and Lotus’ first points of the year, Felipe Nasr, Daniel Ricciardo and Marcus Ericsson. At the back of the field there were reasons to celebrate for both Manor and McLaren as both teams got two drivers to the finish. Jenson Button was handed a five second post-race penalty following a collision with Pastor Maldonado, meaning McLaren were classified 12th and 14th. Manor were classified 15th and 16th of 17th classified finishers, although Max Verstappen pulled off four laps before the end of the race.

Bahrain Stats

Circuit: Bahrain International Circuit
Number of Laps: 57
Circuit Length: 5.412km
Number of Corners: 15
Lap Record: 1:31.447 Pedro de la Rosa (2005)
Previous Bahrain winners still on the grid: 5
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (4 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Soft

Bahrain has been on the Formula One calendar since 2004. It has been held on ten occasions having been cancelled in 2011 due to political unrest. It hasn’t always been in the current format either. In 2010 the race flirted with a longer endurance circuit but it reverted to the Grand Prix circuit for 2012 onwards. The Bahrain Grand Prix became a twilight race in 2014 – starting in daylight and ending in darkness.

Due to the differences in conditions teams and drivers have a lot to take into consideration when setting up the cars. There will be a discrepancy between temperatures during the ‘day’ and ‘night’ parts of the race, resulting in changes in balance and grip levels. It is also a track which gives brakes a good workout as there are a number of slow-speed corners at the end of straights. Qualifying has proven to be of particular importance in Bahrain in the past with the race having never been won from further back than fourth on the grid. Ferrari challenged Mercedes in China during qualifying but ultimately the Silver Arrows came out on top. Rosberg narrowly missed out on pole position, taking the fight to his team-mate.

It is a race where Kimi Raikkonen has performed well in the past but never won. Most recently he finished on the podium for Lotus in 2012 and 2013. He is yet to get a podium in 2015 but has finished in fourth. He has encountered problems, including a loose wheel which forced him to retire from the Australian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel has been demonstrating what the Ferrari is capable – being the only driver to so far beat a Mercedes this year – so Raikkonen could be one to watch out for this weekend. For Grosjean – who has also finished on the Bahrain podium – it will be an opportunity to maintain the momentum from last weekend when he got his first points of the season. McLaren will be hoping to build on the progress they made by getting both cars to the finish and they are set to turn their engines up a bit more for this weekend ahead of further updates in Spain. Red Bull and Toro Rosso both had engine problems in China while Maldonado retired following rear brake failure and an accident with Button who collided with the Lotus driver.

2015: The Chinese Grand Prix in Numbers

Statistics from the Chinese Grand Prix weekend

Total number of laps completed (by driver)

Kimi Raikkonen 151
Max Verstappen 145
Marcus Ericsson 145
Nico Rosberg 140
Sebastian Vettel 138
Carlos Sainz 137
Valtteri Bottas 136
Lewis Hamilton 135
Felipe Nasr 135
Pastor Maldonado 131
Sergio Perez 128
Daniel Ricciardo 127
Jenson Button 125
Romain Grosjean 122
Roberto Merhi 118
Felipe Massa 112
Fernando Alonso 111
Will Stevens 101
Daniil Kvyat 76
Nico Hulkenberg 76
Jolyon Palmer 25

Total number of laps completed (by team)

Ferrari 289
Toro Rosso 282
Sauber 280
Lotus 278
Mercedes 275
Williams 248
McLaren 236
Manor 219
Force India 204
Red Bull 203

Total number of laps completed (by engine manufacturer)

Mercedes (4 teams) 1005
Ferrari (3 teams) 788
Renault (2 teams) 485
Honda (1 team) 236

Number of race laps: 56
Number of safety cars: 1
Number of race starters: 20
Number of times race lead changed hands (includes pole sitter): 4
Number of different race leaders (excludes pole sitter if lead changes off the line): 3
Number of classified drivers: 17
Number of retirements: 4
Number of drivers on lead lap at chequered flag: 9
Number of teams scoring points: 6
Most places gained: Fernando Alonso 6 (18th – 12th)
Number of visits to pit-lane: 39
…of which were pit-stops: 38
Stop/go penalties (added to pit-stop): 0
Drive through penalties: 0
Retirements in pit-lane: 1
Fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton 1:42.208

2015: Chinese Grand Prix – Qualifying Report

Lewis Hamilton went into qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix as the form man, topping all three practice sessions before hand. Last time out’s race winners Ferrari have once again been the Silver Arrows closest rivals. Hamilton lead team-mate Nico Rosberg in Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 3 while Kimi Raikkonen finished second in Free Practice 2.

Q1

Roberto Merhi was first out on track for the start of the session – closely followed by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard broke down on his out-lap in the third and final Free Practice session so was no doubt keen to make up for lost time by getting out early and checking everything was in working order. They were soon joined on track by the Toro Rosso duo and both Ferraris. Merhi set the first flying lap – a 1:44.911 – which was quickly beaten by Raikkonen by four seconds. Hamilton soon went fastest of all, two tenths faster than Rosberg. Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Nasr, Sergio Perez, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Raikkonen, Alonso, and Max Verstappen were the top ten after the first runs. The Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa went out with seven minutes left in the session for their first flying laps. Bottas was fastest of anyone with a 1:38.014, two tenths faster than Hamilton although on different tyre compounds. Mercedes were comfortable on the medium tyres while others went out on the soft. Massa slotted into third. Raikkonen then went fastest before being beaten by Vettel. There were a flurry of times at the end of the session which saw a number of drivers move up the order.

  1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:37.502
  2. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:37.790
  3. Valtteri Bottas – 1:38.014
  4. Romain Grosjean – 1:38.209
  5. Lewis Hamilton – 1:38.285
  6. Max Verstappen – 1:38.387
  7. Felipe Massa – 1:38.433
  8. Nico Rosberg – 1:38.496
  9. Felipe Nasr – 1:38.521
  10. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:38.534
  11. Pastor Maldonado – 1:38.563
  12. Carlos Sainz – 1:38.622
  13. Sergio Perez – 1:38.903
  14. Marcus Ericsson – 1:38.941
  15. Daniil Kvyat – 1:39.051
  16. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:39.216
  17. Jenson Button – 1:39.276
  18. Fernando Alonso – 1:39.280
  19. Will Stevens – 1:42.091
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:42.842 

Q2

The Sauber drivers were first out on track for the start of Q2. Valtteri Bottas’ first effort saw him go fastest of three drivers before being beaten by Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver once again complained about his seat getting too hot. Another driver suffering a reoccurring issue from practice was Daniil Kvyat who complained about having no power on the straights. In the drop zone with two minutes remaining were Felipe Massa, Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr, Kvyat, and Sergio Perez. Ericsson, Nasr, and Massa improved into the top ten pushing Pastor Maldonado, Max Verstappen, and Carlos Sainz out. That meant both Mercedes, both Ferraris, both Williams’, both Saubers, a Red Bull and a Lotus were going through to the all important pole position shoot-out.

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:36.423
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:36.747
  3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:36.957
  4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:37.109
  5. Felipe Massa – 1:37.357
  6. Valtteri Bottas – 1:37.763
  7. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:37.939
  8. Felipe Nasr – 1:38.017
  9. Romain Grosjean – 1:38.063
  10. Marcus Ericsson – 1:38.127
  11. Pastor Maldonado – 1:38.134
  12. Daniil Kvyat – 1:38.209
  13. Max Verstappen – 1:38.393
  14. Carlos Sainz – 1:38.538
  15. Sergio Perez – 1:39.290

Q3

The first flying lap of Q3 came from Valtteri Bottas and it was a 1:37.903 but it was quickly smashed by Lewis Hamilton who went over two seconds faster. Nico Rosberg’s time was two tenths slower than his team-mate while Felipe Massa was three tenths further back. Both Ferrari drivers were out on a set of used softs for their first runs – Kimi Raikkonen went fifth with a 1:37.906 while Sebastian Vettel was fourth with a 1:37.776. The Sauber duo of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson waited in the pits before going out for one run. All ten drivers took to the track for the last two minutes with new sets of tyres on their cars. Rosberg was last out of the garage, just behind Vettel, meaning he would be the last driver over the line to set a lap-time. Raikkonen’s lap was a scrappy one with the Finn having to wrestle the car round the corners. He improved to third but had to wait for everyone else to complete their laps. Bottas improved to third on his final flying lap while Hamilton did not improve on his provisional pole time. Massa went ahead of his team-mate while Vettel slotted into third. Rosberg was not able to improve enough ending up just four hundredths of a second behind Hamilton.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:35.782
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:35.824
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:36.687
  4. Felipe Massa 1:36.954
  5. Valtteri Bottas 1:37.143
  6. Kimi Raikkonen 1:37.232
  7. Daniel Ricciardo 1:37.540
  8. Romain Grosjean 1:37.905
  9. Felipe Nasr 1:38.067
  10. Marcus Ericsson 1:38.158

2015: Chinese Grand Prix Preview

Following Mercedes’ routine 1-2 in Australia, the tables turned in Malaysia when Sebastian Vettel made the most of a different strategy to take a convincing victory. The Ferrari driver finished eight seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton with Vettel favouring a two stop strategy over Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s three.

Now all eyes turn to China to see if Ferrari’s win means there is a genuine threat to Mercedes’ domination or if circumstances on the day helped the Scuderia on their way to victory. While Vettel was winning, team-mate Kimi Raikkonen recovered from qualifying 11th to finish in fourth place. The rest of the top ten read like Noah’s Ark, with the two Williams drivers finishing next to each other ahead of two Toro Rossos and two Red Bulls. At the other end of the spectrum, Ferrari’s sparring partner of days gone past McLaren suffered a double DNF although Ron Dennis revealed last week that both engines would be used again in China. McLaren were buoyed during the race, however, to be fighting with other cars in the midfield. Roberto Merhi got the Manor car to the end of its first race but was the sole representative following a fuel pump problem on team-mate Will Stevens’ car.  Following the much depleted grid in Australia, Malaysia was a much better showing with 19 out of 20 cars making the start of the race – 15 of them made it to the chequered flag.

Circuit: Shanghai International Circuit
Number of Laps: 56
Circuit Length: 5.451km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:32.239 Michael Schumacher (2004)
Previous China winners still on the grid: 6
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (4 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Medium and Soft

From the heat and humidity of Malaysia, Formula One moves on to the cooler climes of Shanghai. The Chinese Grand Prix has been on the F1 calendar since 2004 and provides teams the challenge of setting their cars up for long straights punctuated by a mixture of slow, medium and high speed corners. The track can also be particularly tough on the tyres and Pirelli have brought the soft and medium compound this weekend. In its 11 year history the race has been won by eight different drivers with just Hamilton and Fernando Alonso winning it more than once. Last year saw Hamilton lead from lights to flag, finishing ahead of his team-mate and Alonso in the Ferrari. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest we could see Mercedes return to their winning ways this weekend but Ferrari have certainly put a cat amongst the pigeons by winning last time out. The championship is finely poised after two races – Hamilton leads by just three points from Vettel – but can Ferrari prevent another Silver Arrows 1-2 on Sunday?

Maiden win with Ferrari for Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia

Sebastian Vettel has won the Malaysia Grand Prix beating the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Vettel was one of only a few drivers who opted for a two stop strategy while most others went for three. He also stayed out during an early safety car while Mercedes stacked their cars in the pit-lane. The safety car was deployed due to a mistake made by Marcus Ericsson which saw him beached at Turn 1. He became the first retirement of the race and was later joined on the side lines by Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, and Pastor Maldonado. Both McLarens retired due to power unit problems – Alonso on lap 22 and Button on lap 43.

19 drivers started the race with Manor’s Will Stevens forced to sit out due to a fuel pump problem which also forced him to sit out qualifying. His team-mate Roberto Merhi made his first F1 Grand Prix start and he made it to the end of the race, albeit three laps down. Also finishing outside the points were the Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Both drivers picked up ten second stop/go penalties during the race for separate incidents. Hulkenberg made contact with Daniil Kvyat while Perez made contact with Romain Grosjean. It was another disappointing afternoon for Lotus who failed to get either car to the chequered flag in Australia. Maldonado retired with just nine laps left. Grosjean did finish but outside the points.

Up at the front Vettel finished 8.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton who in turn was 3.7 seconds ahead of Rosberg. Kimi Raikkonen recovered from an early puncture – caused by Felipe  Nasr who finished 12th – to finish an impressive fourth. Valtteri Bottas completed a late pass on team-mate Felipe Massa after the pair had made contact to finish fifth. Max Verstappen took his first F1 points with a seventh place finish, finishing ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz. The Toro Rosso pairing finished ahead of both Red Bull drivers who rounded out the top ten. Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo were both lapped by Vettel.

Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas cleared to race by FIA

Both Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas will return to action for their respective teams at this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Alonso was forced to sit out the entire Australian Grand Prix weekend due to the concussion he sustained during testing. Bottas pulled out on the morning of the race due to back problems but both drivers will return to their cockpits this weekend.

Statements put out by the FIA read as follows:

In accordance with normal procedures, McLaren-Honda [Williams-Martini] driver Fernando Alonso [Valtteri Bottas] was this morning examined by the FIA Medical Delegate and Chief Medical Officer at the Sepang Circuit Medical Centre. During the examination the driver passed all mandatory fitness tests and has thus been declared fit to race in this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

An addition to Bottas’ statement said:

The driver has been informed that in case of a recurrence of pain or any abnormal feeling he must stop at the earliest opportunity.

Alonso also took part in the Drivers’ Press Conference where he faced a number of questions about his accident. He rebuked rumours that he had woken up in 1995 speaking Italian after the incident. He also explained that his steering locked just before the accident. The Malaysian Grand Prix has been good for Alonso in the past – he took his first ever pole position back in 2003 and has won the race three times. He won it for Renault in 2005 before going on to lead home a McLaren 1-2 in 2007. He won the race for Ferrari in 2012. It was a difficult start to the 2015 campaign for McLaren, however, as they qualified on the back row of the grid and Kevin Magnussen’s engine let go on his way to the grid for the start of the race. There is rain forecast for the weekend which could help McLaren get closer than they might be otherwise.