Ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, Label Sport's Simon Ward brings you a recap analysis of the previous Chinese and Bahrain Grand Prix.
Chinese Grand Prix
Red Bull had a lot to prove going into the third race of the season, after the new bad blood between Marc Webber and Sebastian Vettel grew after the Malaysian Grand Prix. While this row has apparently been settled, it's interesting to see how Red Bull's drivers will respond to each other, with some saying this will be good for the sport.
Qualifying saw Hamilton take his first pole position for Mercedes, followed by Alonso in second and Raikkonen in third. Filling up the rest of the grid was last year's race winner Nico Rosberg, followed by Massa, Grosjean, Ricciardo and Button. Webber's car was insufficiently fuelled and failed to make it back to the pits, resulting fourteenth place on the grid. Red Bull's technical problems continued as Vettel started in ninth after a braking problem in the final qualifying session.
From the off Hamilton lead from the front and held off the two Ferraris to begin with, who overtook Raikkonen as the light turned green. But Alonso was able to take the lead early on due to Ferrari's dominant speed on the straights over the underpowered Mercedes. Rosberg also struggled early on despite a confident start, but technical problems lead to an early retirement from the race.
A few drivers looked slightly out of practice, as there were a number of incidents in the first half of the race. Force India's Hulkenberg lost his back win following a violent collision with Sauber's Gutierrez. Upon returning to the pits, the right rear wheel caught fire, ending his race. Webber had a seemingly minor collision with Torro Rosso’s Ricciardo, but a few laps later the Red Bull lost it's rear wheel before the final straight. Raikkonen nearly ruined his chances of a promising finish after a driving into the back of Sergio Perez. Fortunately, the damage was not serious enough to warrant a stop.
The race was dominated by tyre strategy. Those who started on the harder compound tires lead the race, being the most durable available and warranting later stops. Vettel pitted just a few laps from the end and had newer tyres, with Raikkonen and Hamilton in his sights with just one lap to go. He ran wide in the later corners and was undone by the superior straight-line speed of the Mercedes.
Alonso took the lead from early on, and the power of the Ferrari helped him build a confident lead, staying in control for the remainder of the race. Raikkonen and Hamilton finished in second and third, narrowly beating Vettel despite starting in ninth.
Bahrain Grand Prix
The following weekend saw Formula 1 travel to Bahrain, despite concerns over the political protests occurring recently. These doubts were thankfully put to rest, with Bahrain now set to receive a new five-year contract by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.
A surprise pole position from Mercedes’ Rosberg saw fellow countryman Vettel miss out on pole position yet again. Alonso and Hamilton made up the second row followed by Webber, Massa and surprise starts for Force India’s Di Resta and Sutil in the fourth row.
It was always going to be interesting to see how Mercedes would fare after a disappointing result from last weeks race. Rosberg’s lack of power resulted in an aggressive performance, constantly shutting out Vettel in the early laps. The battle for first changed consistently until Vettel began to pull away, leaving Alonso to deal with the almost ‘wild’ Rosberg.
Alonso’s attempt to chase down Vettel for the lead was short lived, as Ferrari was crippled by technical faults. Alonso‘s DRS failed with the rear wing having to be shut for the majority of the race. This lost crucial straight-line speed and he fell down the grid before Massa suffered a puncture and an earlier pit stop, resulting in a miserable weekend for the team.
Massa wasn’t the only driver to have trouble with his tyres though. Mercedes had raised concerns over tyre degradation as the humidity and poor cooling meant both drivers had to make four pit stops each. Qualifying had been poor but Raikkonen worked his way to second while multiple scraps for fifth place were going on behind. Grosjean had a great race as well, managing a podium finish after overtaking Di Resta a few laps from the chequered flag. A great finish for the young Scot, but it could have easily been his first podium finish.
A second first place for Sebastian Vettel results in a ten-point lead over second place Raikkonen, with Hamilton in third, followed by Fernando Alonso. No doubt a commanding and confident drive from Vettel, but every F1 fan is hoping that this isn’t a glimpse into what the rest of the season will be like…