The ban on refuelling gave the race a very different structure to what we saw in 2009, with almost every car one-stopping.
For several drivers that meant a frustrating day stuck behind rivals, unable to get close enough to try a pass.
The oil-belching Mark Webber initially lost places to Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher – but a canny pass around the outside of turn nine got Webber ahead of Button again.
Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil collided while distracted by Webber’s smoke, and fell behind all the other cars except the HRT duo who started their race in the pit lane.
The biggest benefact was Kubica’s team mate Vitaly Petrov, who made up six places with a clean start.
Hamilton stuck behind Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton’s attempt to pass Felipe Massa at the start ended up with him losing a place to Nico Rosberg. That cost him dearly, as the lap times above show.
Despite being able to lap 0.5-1 seconds faster than Rosberg, the aerodynamic wake from the Mercedes prevent Hamilton from getting close enough to try to pass.
After his pit stop, where he’d got ahead of Rosberg, Hamilton was more or less able to keep pace with the Ferraris. Towards the end of the race Fernando Alonso let rip and set a series of fast lap that neither Hamilton nor Felipe Massa, who seemed to have some kind of problem, could keep up with.
I’d only just Tweeted that the race was “coming to the boil nicely” when it all fell apart. Alonso and Massa had been slowly catching Sebastian Vettel but suddenly his lap times increased and it became clear he had a problem.
As the graph shows Vettel coped admirably well with his exhaust fault and brought his lap times back down again. So much so that while it looked at first like he might drop out of the points completely he was able to stay ahead of Nico Rosberg for fourth.
It’s a long season and the points Vettel salvaged today could prove highly valuable later on.
As expected, new teams Lotus and Virgin were very closely matched for pace and we saw some good racing between them. But they were a couple of seconds off the pace of the slowest of the established runners.
They were not a close match on reliability, however. Both Virgins were gone within 16 laps, both Lotuses were classified, although Trulli experienced some hydraulic problems which ended his race early. They were lapped a lot, which is what the spikes towards the end of Kovalainen’s line are.
HRT F1 were further off Lotus and Virgin’s pace than these two were off the rest of the field, but that is to be expected when they’ve had no testing.
The standard strategy at Bahrain was a single pit stop around the lap 15 mark followed by a long 30-plus lap stint to the flag.
Generally it was the drivers who made their pit stops earliest who gained places – Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher for example. The crucial calculation being made on the pit wall is how early a driver can make his pit stop and come out in clean air without a slower car in front.
Race and lap charts
The Bahrain Grand Prix was a processional affair – more on that later.
Most of the pit stops happened on laps 15 and 16 as the field spread out and the front runners found themselves able to pit and resume racing in clean air. Given how most of the front runners were able to get to the end of the race without any obvious tyre problems we could see even early first stops in future races.
Unless the ‘option’ tyre has a significant performance advantage, one-stopping could be the way to go at many races this year.
2010 Bahrain Grand Prix