Bahrain GP: Team by team analysis

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

The world's most competitive 'train' in the opening stint, a charging Hamilton and a commanding Ferrari-victory. That is in nutshell what the 2017 Bahrain GP offered under its spectacular floodlight which was topped by a thrilling firework.

Formula One seems to have returned from its three-year-long holiday. Exciting races instead of a one-team-controlled show, mesmerizing cars with breath-taking speed, durable tyres, but adequate playground for differing strategies, fierce on track battles. My old formula seems to be working well. If the on-track battle at the sharp end of the field is there, the whole circus is in impeccable harmony.


Race: 1st for Sebastian Vettel, 4th for Kimi Räikkönen

The team’s fastest lap: 1:33.720

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:29.247

Ferrari had quite an intense weekend over the Bahrain GP. On Friday, the team experienced a series of problems with reliability. The Ferrari 062 power unit was struck with load of problems. In Räikkönen's car, smoke spewed from the turbocharger while Vettel's machinery had electrical glitches. That urged the team to change multiple components of the power unit of both cars. However, Ferrari is confident that it can manage the situation later on in the season, these early changes could make later penalties inevitable.

Ferrari is understood to have tuned its turbochargers down to make sure it holds on in the desert. It was obvious that Ferrari constantly lost out to its arch-rival Mercedes on the long straights. Ferrari lost around three tenths of a second through the first sector which seemed to be its Achilles' heel over the whole weekend. The car was, however, incredibly strong in the long corners of the second sector where the SF70-H had the upper hand over the whole race. The difference in the last sector between the two teams was almost nothing.

Kimi Räikkönen continued to suffer from heavy understeer. It seems to be a recurring problem for him and a difficult one to solve as the balance shift from last year is a natural consequence of the much wider tyres which changed the balance between the front and rear tyres. However, the Finn showed very promising pace in the race as the heavy acceleration zones of the Bahrain Circuit demand a lot from the rears and the high rear degradation shifts the balance towards the front.

Ferrari made a strategy trick with both its drivers. Vettel was called into the pits on lap 9 after he could not manage to overtake Bottas. Vettel's first lap on his fresh supersofts was 1:34.597. He was flying on those three laps despite to the need of overtaking drivers on the track before the safety car was deployed because of the Stroll-Sainz accident. Without the safety car, Vettel would have had a lead with a gap of around 6-7 second to the duo of Bottas and Hamilton.

Team’s view on the race in short

Sebastian Vettel: "A great result thanks to all the team! At the start, it was important for me to get second place, and I managed. . We decided to pit early and this tactics proved to be working. Towards, the end, I tried to manage the gap I had over Lewis. I expected him to charge through, of course I was concerned, with all the traffic ahead of me. But it the end it was all OK. The car was like a dream to drive today. I felt right from the beginning that we had the speed to win today. I had a good feeling yesterday already, and it was just confirmed today.. I haven’t changed my mind: to become world champion, you must first beat the Mercedes We’ll take it race after race.”

Kimi Räikkönen: “In a way, a lot of good things happened this weekend, but the end result is still disappointing. The car was working pretty nicely and to be honest I expected that. Today I had a bad start and because of that, the first two corners were really bad; obviously after that I was catching up, I got past Massa reasonably quickly. Then I did my pit stop, but I was unlucky with the Safety Car. The overall feeling was good, I was fast but obviously the time lost at the start did not help: we put ourselves in a difficult position."


Race: 2nd for Lewis Hamilton, 3rd for Valtteri Bottas

The team’s fastest lap: 1:32.798

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:28.769

Mercedes' non-executive chairman Niki Lauda said in the dying minutes before the race that the Bahrain GP was an incredibly important one as the nature of the track and the heat could indicate which cars can be strong on a regular basis throughout the 2017 campaign.

Mercedes excelled in qualifying. It was neck and neck with its fierce rival Ferrari in the first and second qualifying segment, but when it switched its special qualifying setting on in the all-important third qualy part, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton pulled away from Sebastian Vettel. The Finn was mesmerizing in the first sector of the track, he beat his team-mate in the traction zone at the exit of turn three and four. Bottas secured his first pole position in his 80th qualifying session. The Finn, however, experienced a series of troubles in the race. On the grid, the team found a generator problem which meant there was no time to optimize the tyre pressure which left the Finn with a slightly unideal starting pressure for the first stint. However, the Finn could not really up his relative pace in his second and third stint either. Constantly overheating rears meant that Bottas was lagging behind and his podium place was only saved from a late charging Kimi Räikkönen by Felipe Massa who managed to make a jump on the Ferrari's Finn thanks to the safety car.

Lewis Hamilton was down after the qualifying session as he got beaten by his team-mate. However, the Briton had easily the upper hand in the race trim. He managed to treat his rear tyres very well. He was stuck behind the Bottas-led train in the first stint. The triple world champion made a mistake when the safety car was deployed. When all cars dived into the pits, he cruised into the pitlane to hold Daniel Ricciardo up to give his team time to complete the tyre change for his team-mate Bottas. However, that trick was 'banned' after an earlier similar incident in a Belgian GP. Lewis' second stint was incredibly consistent after his team asked Bottas to move away and let the Briton pass by. He had a short last stint on the softs compared to his direct rivals and showed mesmerizing pace with hardly any drop off.

Team’s view on the race in short

Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a challenging weekend. The start of the race was OK but Sebastian was in my blind spot so I didn’t know where he was and I lost a position there. It was really hard to follow but we generally had similar pace. Under the Safety Car, I just misjudged it myself the situation; that was my fault, so my apologies to the team. I had good pace in the second and final stints and we honestly thought we could catch Sebastian. But the five second penalty made that twice as hard. I believe it was the right choice to go with the Soft in the final stint."

Valtteri Bottas: “Not a good day. We had an issue with the tyre pressures at the start. I don’t know what it was but I could really feel it in the first stint and was sliding around as early as Lap 2. The pace wasn’ t good and Sebastian put us under real pressure. I tried to extend the first stint but I couldn’t keep up with the pace. The second stint was better but I was still struggling with oversteer and then I couldn’t get the rear-end to work in the last stint."

Red Bull

Race: DNF for Max Verstappen, 5th for Daniel Ricciardo

The team’s fastest lap: 1:33.495

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:29.545

Red Bull prepared itself for a complicated race weekend in Bahrain because it expected the long straights of the track lying in the desert to highlight its weaknesses. However, the RB13 behaved really well which was a sort of testament that the Renault R.E. 17 isn't the ultimate reason for the currently lack of pace compared to the field-leading Mercedes and Ferrari.

Red Bull's real strength proved to be its traction over the weekend. It was 354 tenths of a second in the first sector, 250 in the middle part of the track and 226 in the last segment off the best sector times of the qualifying session. It all added a deficit of 0,776 to Mercedes' pole lap which is a huge relief compared to the gap of 1,2 second in Australia and the gap 1,3 of second in China.

The RB13 was really strong in the opening stint of the race before Max Verstappen was sidelined by failing brakes. Daniel Ricciardo admitted he had hopes even for the race win, but the prospect for a victory was fading as Red Bull seriously lacked of pace in the second stint on softs and in the last stint on supersofts.

Team’s view on the race in short

Max Verstappen: “I had a good start, Kimi struggled a bit off the line so I passed him straight away and then I went round the outside at turn one and overtook Daniel which put me in a good position. After that I could keep up with the leaders, the car was performing really well on the tyres and the pace was good. I think we made the right call with the pit stop to try and undercut the two Mercedes but then the rear brakes failed on lap 12 and it was race over."

Daniel Ricciardo “For me it was a race of two halves really. At the beginning of the race I genuinely thought we had a chance to win. That stint was looking very competitive and I could see Valtteri was struggling.The safety car worked for me in that we jumped up to third but it wasn’t so good for our tyres and that’s where we lost a lot of ground. Even once we settled into a pace and the chaos settled we fell back and I was struggling with grip at the front and rear. We never really got that tyre working for us today.”

Toro Rosso

Race: DNF for Carlos Sainz, 12th for Daniil Kvyat

The team’s fastest lap: 1:34.985

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:30.923

Toro Rosso had a 'cursed' weekend in terms of reliability. Carlos Sainz experienced a rather woeful weekend with a series of technical issues. He started the race from 16th after engine problems in qualifying. He started off well, made up lots of positions before making a horrible mistake when he left the pit and crashed into the side of Lance Stroll's Williams with a manoeuvre which was called 'rather ambitious' by the FIA. The Spaniard got a three-place grid drop for the next race in Russia.

Kvyat had a hopeless race after he made a mistake in the opening lap. He went off the track coming onto the last straight which sent the Russian to the back end of the field.

The drivers, especially Sainz hailed the Toro Rosso for its good handling. The car lacked of pure, qualifying pace on Saturday compared to its direct rivals Haas, Williams and Renault, but the car came alive in race trim and showed a good balance on the track which puts so much demand on the rear tyres.

Team’s view on the race in short

Carlos Sainz: “It definitely hasn’t been a good weekend for us. We’ve had reliability problems on Friday and yesterday, which meant that today we had to do a race starting from the back. It started well, and recovered from P16 to P11 during the first lap – we were definitely catching the points positions there! Unfortunately, all of a sudden after the pit-stop I was involved in an incident with Lance and that was the end of my race. On the positive side, the car feels very good to drive and we can fight for points regularly, so I look forward to the next races.”

Daniil Kvyat: “After my first lap I think my race was over, unfortunately. I had very little grip on lap 1 and went off the track because of a misunderstanding with another car – I locked my wheels, went off and that made me drop to last… We will need to analyse what happened there, as I felt I had less grip than anyone else. From that point onwards it was a very busy race, but we were battling for nothing unfortunately as the points positions were too far away. Today was just not our day and we can’t afford situations like this as the midfield is very tight. Hopefully in the next race in Russia, my home Grand Prix, we can fight for more points, because that’s what we need and we have a car that can do it.”

Haas-Ferrari Race: DNF for Kevin Magnussen, 9th for Romain Grosjean

The team’s fastest lap: 1:34.948

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:30.763

The Kannapolis-based team had a race of two halves. Kevin Magnussen had to reire from the race while Romain Grosjean had a good weekend after a disastrous China GP. Haas which has showed very promising one-lap pace so far was nine tenths down on Renault, seven tenths down on Williams, two tenths up on Toro Rosso and nine tenths up on Force India to pick out its current arch rivals. The mid-pack was not that tight this time and Grosjean charged to the ninth place, but he thought Perez only overtook him with the safety car period. Magnussen retired from the race due to a sudden loss of power. The root cause of the problem has not been identified yet, but Haas and Ferrari seem to suffer from the the same issues with minor electrical glitches and woes with the turbocharger.

The VF-17 was a very well balanced car on the Sakhir circuit both in qualy and race trim. However, the team lost out a relatively big chunk of time in the middle part of the track which indicate that the peak downforce through the high-speed corners isn't there yet.

Team’s view on the race in short

Kevin Magnussen “The car stopped for some reason. I don’t know what the cause is yet, but I lost power. I had to stop, unfortunately. It happened suddenly – just the power disappeared. Conditions until then were pretty good. The tire wear was a bit lower and it was easier on brakes. It would’ve been a good race. I just look forward now and am happy with the car. It’s running in the points and qualifying in Q3. We’ve had three straight weekends where the car’s been in points positions. I’m looking forward to this continuing.”

Romain Grosjean: “It was a pretty good race. I made a decent start and my first stint was pretty good, but it was tough to stay behind the Renault. Then we had the bad luck with the safety car, as we’d pitted just before. I saw (Sergio) Perez come out and I thought, ‘How did he come out in front of me when he’d been 10 seconds behind?’ He gained 12 seconds with the safety car and that cost a position. At the restart I struggled a little bit with the top speed.”

Force India

Race: 7th for Sergio Perez, 10th for Esteban Ocon

The team’s fastest lap: 1:34.609

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:31.684

Force India had a rather disappointing qualifying. Esteban Ocon only qualified 14th with over two second adrift the best Q2 time. Sergio Perez's qualy charge was curtailed when Carlos Sainz' car stopped in the dying minutes of the first qualifying segment. That left the Mexican with the 18th position to wrestle his way through the field into the points.

Perez made good benefit from the first lap when he gained five positions. He followed a conventional strategy with two pitstops. He had luck with the safety car as it helped him to overtook Romain Grosjean who completed his pit stop right before the safety car was deployed. Sergio's second stint was incredibly consistent, his opening and closing lap was a 1:36.9. Force India seems to treat the rears very well on tracks and in conditions where and when the rear degradation is higher then the front.

Ocon continued his point-scoring form with his third consecutive place inside the top ten. The former F3 and GP3 champion blamed the safety car for losing valuable track position, but hailed the race pace of his VJM 10. It had a very good top speed at the speed trap and at the sector closing lines thanks to the Mercedes M08 EQ Power+.

Team’s view on the race in short

Sergio Perez: “I’m very proud of my team today. To finish seventh after starting from P18 is an amazing recovery and we can be very happy tonight. The first lap was very important for my race because I made up five places and was up in P13 by the end of lap one. I had great tyre life in the first stint; we stayed out as long as we could and the safety car played into our hands just when I needed to make a pit stop.”

Esteban Ocon: “It’s good to get another point, but the timing of the safety car didn’t help me today and probably cost me three positions. It’s a shame because the team did everything right, but the safety car came out just after I had made my first pit stop. So the luck was not on my side. My start was very strong – I gained four places in the first few corners and that was really enjoyable. We showed again that our car is strong in race conditions – probably better than in qualifying – and that’s important because you only score points on Sunday. My target coming into the season was to score points in every race so I’m pleased to have scored in all three so far. As a team we are doing a good job and I think there’s much more to come from us in the next few races.”


Race: 7th for Nico Hülkenberg, 10th for Jolyon Palmer

The team’s fastest lap: 1:35.372

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:29.842

Renault proved once again how good its 2017 machinery is in qualifying conditions. The works team was only three tenths down on the Renault-propelled Red Bull. Hülkenberg's one lap pace was evident on all compounds. The RS 17 does not know the word 'compromise'. The former GP2 champion was seventh fastest in the first two sectors while he beat Max Verstappen in the third segment to become the sixth quickest there.

Jolyon Palmer's fastest qualifying lap was 1,057 second slower than his team-mate's one. That further highlights how Hülkenberg excels when it comes to qualifying.

However, in race conditions, Renault loses relatively to Haas, Williams and even to Force India. Hülkenberg managed to salvage the ninth place to get his first points of the year. The one-time pole-sitter admitted that the balance of the car is not the best over a complete race distance.

The managing director Cyril Abiteboul revealed the team is yet to understand the tyre management better in order to up its race pace. The Frenchman also hinted that Renault would try out its first big updates during the post-race Bahrain tests.

Team’s view on the race in short

Nico Hülkenberg: “It’s good to have the first points of the season on the board and I think I had a good race given the pace of the car; I really wrestled with it a lot and two points were the best we could do on the strategy we ran. We are a lot better in qualifying, but over the 57 laps of the race we exposed some of the areas where we need to improve. Fortunately, I am testing here on Tuesday, so we have a great opportunity to make progress. We have some updates for evaluation when I’m in the car, which will hopefully improve our race pace by a big chunk for Sochi.”

Jolyon Palmer: “It was a tough race; I had a good fight with Alonso and Kvyat after the safety car bunched everyone up, but the couple of touches with Kvyat didn’t help things. I didn’t really have the pace to get further after that and the degradation seemed to be more for us than the cars around. It made for a difficult evening, unfortunately, where we struggled with a lack of pace.”


Race: 6th for Felipe Massa, DNF for Lance Stroll

The team’s fastest lap: 1:34.256

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:30.074

Felipe Massa had a solid weekend. He was outqualified by Nico Hülkenberg's Renault, but the veteran Brazilian got off the line very well from the dirty side of the start-finish straight. He nursed his tyres very well and meant a blockage for Ricciardo and Räikkönen two times during the race. Massa's FW 40 was a very well balanced car and was particularly strong through the downforce-demanding second sector.

Lance Stroll's race ended on lap 12th when he was outboxed by Carlos Sainz in the first corner. The Canadian former F3 champion's performance was hailed by his team, but he was 491 tenths of a second adrift Massa's equivalent Q2 lap time .

The Sao-Paolo-born's eight championship points were a good reward for Frank Williams who celebrated his 75th birthday on Sunday.

Team’s view on the race in short

Felipe Massa: "I would say it was a great day and I managed to have a great race with a perfect start. What a great first lap - I passed Hulkenberg and I managed to pass Kimi at corner four. I kept the tyres working in the right way. The positon I finished today was like a victory and it’s important for the whole team. Today is Frank’s birthday, and although he deserves a victory, it is like one. I am sure he is happy and very proud of his team."

Lance Stroll: "I saw Sainz coming out of the pitlane, I was 50 or 60 metres in front of him in the braking zone, and was already turning in and he drove into my side. I think the race wasn’t going badly. I had a bad start and lost a couple of positions, but boxed early and had a really good beginning to the stint on the soft tyres."


Race: DNF for Marcus Ericsson, 11th for Pascal Wehrlein

The team’s fastest lap: 1:36.786

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:31.414

After a long period of different wild speculations, Pascal Wehrlein made his return to the F1 action and at the same time his race debut at the Sauber Team. The German-Mauritian driver had to delay, then abort his 2017 campaign after sustaining serious back injuries in Miami on the Saturday action of the Race of Champions event. "I can still feel it in my back a little, but it was not a problem to do the long runs. It can be like that for another half year," German reports quote him as saying.

Marcus Ericsson was not in his top form over the weekend. The Sweden did not find the sweetspot with the balance of the car.

Wehrlein set a 1:31.414 to qualify on the 13th place while Ericsson set only a 1:32.543. The German-Mauritian's time was far off the super-qualifying Renault, but Sauber was much closer to Q3 than it was in China and Australia.

Wehrlein's top speed was 329,1 in the qualifying which shows that the 2016-specification Ferrari power unit isn't that much of a hinder even if Sauber has to sacrifice some downforce to reach those top-speeds. With that top-speed, Wehrlein was 12th fastest in the first sector, 13th fastest in the last sector, but only 16th in the middle part of the circuit which requires huge downforce in its never-ending fast, long corners.

Team’s view on the race in short

Marcus Ericsson: “It was a disappointing race. The start was good, I was the only driver on soft tyres. The safety car phase came at a bad time for us, so we decided to stay out. At the re-start I was in P8, however, the other cars on fresh tyres were able to overtake me. After boxing for the supersoft tyres, the lap times were looking good. In the end, I had a gearbox failure, which forced me to stop the car on track.”

Pascal Wehrlein“I am very satisfied with how the weekend went – being in P13 in qualifying and now finishing the race in P11. It was a tough race, as we decided to only make one pit stop. The result is the maximum that we could have achieved today. It is obviously a pity that we have missed this point by only one position. Nevertheless, I am already looking forward to the next Grand Prix.”


Race: DNF for Fernando Alonso, DNS for Stoffel Vandoorne

The team’s fastest lap: 1:35.595

The team’s fastest qualifying lap: 1:32.054

McLaren-Honda endured another weekend cursed with horrific reliability woes.

Stoffel Vandoorne was unable to start the race after Honda found a problem with his power unit on the reconnaissance lap. Honda has not revealed the cause of the problem, but believed it is the same MGU-H problem that caused multiple failures over the course of the weekend. Alonso described the situation as "unacceptable" as he felt sorry for his GP2 champion team-mate.

The Spaniard himself was fighting outside the points and showed some entertaining battles with Jolyon Palmer and Daniel Kvyat. Alonso who shocked the world with his start in the famous Indy 500 race said during the race that he had "never raced with less power in his life". He urged Honda to make great strides as soon as in the following Russian GP.

The MCL 32's problems are still the same. Honda has woeful reliability despite to the improvements on the vibration side. The deficit in pure peak power is also incredible. During the race, it became obvious that there is just no power in the second part of the long straights compared to the Renault, Ferrari or Mercedes power units. Honda thinks the internal combustion engine which was heavily revised for 2017 is the root cause for the lack of power. The Japanese manufacturer wants to test an upgraded version during the post-Bahrain test, but it did not dare to define an exact date for the introduction. On the chassis side, the car is also very hard to control, its balance is completely unpredictable. The drivers have to cope with understeer on the exit, but also with sudden rear instability.

Team’s view on the race in short

Fernando Alonso: “It was a frustrating race. The deficit in power and performance we had on the straights today was amazing. Sometimes I looked in the mirrors at the beginning of the straights and saw the other cars 300, 400 metres behind, so I forgot completely about that car and started changing settings on the steering wheel and doing my own things, then the next thing I see when I come on the brakes is that car alongside me. We’ll keep working hard, and we hope to improve in due course.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “It’s a real shame that we weren’t even able to start the race today. The team discovered a water-pressure issue on the way to the grid. It’s frustrating when you do all the preparation work. We’ve lost quite a bit of mileage so it’s definitely not an ideal situation, and we need to make a good step forward soon. Hopefully we can show that at some point in the next few races.”