Bahrain Grand Prix round-up

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Kimi Raikkonen, Heikki Kovalainen, Bahrain, 2008, 470150

Did Felipe Massa’s less stressed engine help him beat Kimi Raikkonen? Why did the Ferraris have much higher top speeds than the opposition? Did wing failure cause Lewis Hamilton’s collision with Fernando Alonso?

Here’s my round-up of the stories from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Raikkonen vs Massa

Massa was quicker than Raikkonen in the first stint despite having a little more fuel on board. But the times were close:

Lap Massa Raikkonen Difference Advantage
2 1:39.522 1:39.809 0.287 Massa
3 1:39.214 1:40.027 0.813 Massa
4 1:36.752 1:37.284 0.532 Massa
5 1:36.538 1:36.620 0.082 Massa
6 1:35.545 1:35.393 0.152 Raikkonen
7 1:34.643 1:35.460 0.817 Massa
8 1:35.200 1:35.281 0.081 Massa
9 1:34.950 1:34.781 0.169 Raikkonen
10 1:34.811 1:34.993 0.182 Massa
11 1:34.742 1:34.844 0.102 Massa
12 1:34.593 1:35.129 0.536 Massa
13 1:34.841 1:35.009 0.168 Massa
14 1:34.885 1:34.322 0.563 Raikkonen
15 1:34.458 1:34.281 0.177 Raikkonen
16 1:34.487 1:34.609 0.122 Massa
17 1:34.294 1:34.224 0.070 Raikkonen
18 1:34.217 1:34.320 0.103 Massa
19 1:34.509 1:34.673 0.164 Massa
20 1:34.178 1:37.309 3.131 Massa

Ferrari’s straight line speed

Ferrari were quicker than everyone else in a straight line – and Massa was noticeably quicker than Raikkonen through the speed trap.

Race

1 Felipe Massa 316.0kph
2 Kimi Raikkonen 314.0kph
3 Heikki Kovalainen 311.7kph
4 Sebastien Bourdais 311.2kph

Qualifying

1 Felipe Massa 314.1kph
2 Kimi Raikkonen 311.6kph
3 Sebastien Bourdais 310.0kph
4 Fernando Alonso 307.3kph

Sebastien Bourdais’ presence in the top four speeds for race and qualifying in the Toro Rosso suggests Ferrari indeed have the strongest engine.

But why was Massa so much quicker than Raikkonen? Neither Ferrari driver started the event with a fresh engine – both used the same units they had in Malaysia, even though Massa had the option of using a new one. Presumably he reasoned the Sepang unit had only done half a race distance and so he could use it in Bahrain and perhaps even use it more aggressively than Raikkonen could.

Given the small margin of performance Massa had over Raikkonen, it might have been enough to make the difference.

Engines and gearboxes

These drivers used new engines in the Malaysian Grand Prix:

Nick Heidfeld
Fernando Alonso
Nico Rosberg
Kazuki Nakajima
Mark Webber
Sebastian Vettel
Jenson Button
Rubens Barrichello
Takuma Sato
Anthony Davidson
Adrian Sutil
Giancarlo Fisichella
Lewis Hamilton
Heikki Kovalainen

And these used new gearboxes:

Timo Glock
Sebastian Vettel

Despite the new four-race gearbox rule the teams are still doing a lot of tinkering with the units during race weekends. Jarno Trulli, Lewis Hamilton, Nick Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello and Takuma Sato all had work done on their gearboxes during the weekend that required seals to be broken, necessitating the approval of the stewards.

Fake launch control

The teams are now openly admitting they are using special ECU settings to mimic some of the effects of the banned launch control. But problems with this for Robert Kubica and Lewis Hamilton gifted the lead to Massa at the start.

Kubica’s system failed to engage properly, leaving him floundering with wheelspin as the cars got away.

And Hamilton simply didn’t press his early enough. Under a late rule change by the FIA there has to be a 90 second gap between the system being selected and it activating, and Hamilton started the sequence too late. His engine stuck in anti-stall mode as six cars passed him before the first turn. It was only the beginning of his troubles…

Hamilton’s problems

The Lewis Hamilton-Fernando Alonso incident in lap two (which we’ve already had over 100 comments about) was one of those moments when you realised just how bad the standard of television coverage we see is. In Britain at least we saw precious few replays of what happened leaving the commentary team (particularly Martin Brundle) clearly frustrated.

It then emerged that damage to Lewis Hamilton’s car before the incident had been largely overlooked. He had in fact nudged Alonso’s car on the first lap as well, weakening his front bridge wing which then fell off shortly before he hit Alonso.

Some people have suggested the loss of the front wing element would have reduced drag and improved the acceleration of the McLaren to the point that it would have impaired Hamilton’s judgement causing him to hit Alonso.

I can’t say for sure whether that’s true or not but it seems a bit difficult to believe. I think it was just a heat-of-the-moment mistake on Hamilton’s part – one he can ill afford at the next race.

The hand of Hamilton

The other talking point concerning Lewis Hamilton was his apparent waving to at least one of the cars he passed during the race – Giancarlo Fisichella’s Force India. See this video at just after 5:30:

Was that a clenched fist of joy? Or a mocking sign indicating his rival is fond of masturbation as David Coulthard dished out to Michael Schumacher at Magny-Cours eight years ago:

I think it was the former because: (a) I can’t see what Fisichella has done to provoke an angry response from Hamilton, (b) he doesn’t lift his hand far enough out of the cockpit for it to be aimed at Fisichella and (c) he doesn’t move his hand the right way either.

But I’m sure Alonso’s fans will be convinced it’s further evidence Hamilton is devil incarnate, just as I’m sure Hamilton’s most passionate supporters are still convinced Alonso brake-tested him despite Pat Symond’s evidence to the contrary.

How badly damaged was Hamilton’s car after the contact? His best lap time was only quicker than Sebastian Vettel (didn’t finish the first lap), Jenson Button (didn’t finish) and Takuma Sato.

Odds & ends

Anthony Davidson set the 14th fastest lap – quicker than Sebastien Bourdais’ Toro Rosso!

Heikki Kovalainen set fastest lap, as he did in Melbourne.

Kimi Raikkonen was fined for breaking the pit lane speed limit on Friday. His first pit stop was 0.7s slower than Massa’s because of a problem with Ferrari’s starting lights system they use in place of a conventional lollipop.