Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2017

Vettel divides and conquers Mercedes duo

2017 Bahrain Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

This was a close one. Over the 57 laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix there were perhaps a dozen moments which could have swung the outcome one way or another.

But when the chequered flag fell it was Sebastian Vettel at the head of the field. His second victory from the opening three races confirmed Ferrari’s status as genuine championship contenders for 2017.

Bottas struggles in first stint

Bottas kept his lead but tyre pressures proved a problem
The first significant moment came before the race even started. Valtteri Bottas had taken pole position for the first time in his career but a problem with a generator meant his tyres were accidentally over-pressurised.

He kept his lead at the start, but soon had a train of cars backed up behind him as he struggled for pace. Vettel led the pursuers thanks to the race’s second significant moment: He overtook Lewis Hamilton on the run to turn one at the start.

“It was crucial for us to get between,” Vettel said afterwards, “to not allow them to get in their rhythm, pull away, do their thing. So, upset them a bit.”

“I think we all had more or less the same start. Mine initially was maybe a tiny bit better than Lewis, which put me just about side-by-side – but their car is really long so it’s a long way to get side-by-side.”

The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen got away poorly, losing places to Max Verstappen (who also got ahead of his team mate for fourth) and Felipe Massa. It took Raikkonen until lap eight to retake Massa in the DRS zone, but the leaders were lapping so slowly he only lost around six seconds.

Red Bull suspected Bottas was doing some kind of extreme tyre saving but his team later confirmed the tyre pressure problem in the radio. Ferrari were looking for a gap further back into which Vettel could emerge following a pit stop, and by lap nine they believed they had one between the Force Indias and Jolyon Palmer.

Vettel duly arrived in the pits on lap ten for a rapid service from the Ferrari mechanics. Once back on the circuit he immediately lapped almost two seconds quicker than Bottas in the middle sector of the lap alone. But would he be able to sustain a quick enough pace once he hit traffic? This was never put to the test.

Safety Car helps Vettel this time

Lance Stroll, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2017
Stroll’s wrecked Williams prompted the Safety Car
On lap 12 Carlos Sainz Jnr, returning to the pits after his own stop, thumped into Lance Stroll’s Williams, putting both out. The Safety Car was summoned to recover their cars.

This could have gone either way for Vettel. In China last week the Safety Car ruined his race, allowing the leaders to quickly pit and maintain their positions. But this time the Safety Car was deployed as the leaders neared the end of the lap, meaning they stood to gain less. And there was another reason why Vettel returned to the lead after the Safety Car period.

“There was a problem with the pit stop,” said Bottas. “We lost a lot of time and maybe it would have been very, very close. Maybe I would have been just in front but the team is still investigating what was the issue there. I think there was also some traffic as well because the stop was slow. One of the Red Bulls came into the pit lane and we couldn’t exit immediately so double the time.”

This was bad for Bottas and worse for Hamilton, who had to wait until his team mate was serviced before taking fresh tyres of his own. Hamilton’s situation worsened when the stewards ruled he had held Ricciardo up on his way in, handing him a five-second penalty. Mercedes at least took the opportunity to cover their options, giving Bottas super-soft tyres and Hamilton softs.

Hamilton’s challenge fades

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2017
Hamilton took Ricciardo at the restart
When the race restarted Bottas immediately put Vettel on defence. “I thought I had a decent gap leaving the last corner,” said Vettel, “and then, I don’t know, it felt like I had more headwind than in the whole race on that particular lap.”

“I was fairly confident halfway down the straight, just looked in the mirror to check and he was coming. I saw sparks behind me everywhere and then I obviously had to defend.”

Bottas kept the pressure up as far as turn four, where Vettel forced him to the outside line and ended the matter. Behind them Hamilton had immediately pounced on Ricciardo, who found so little grip from his soft tyres that Raikkonen also passed him before the end of the lap.

Soon afterwards Mercedes received word of Hamilton’s penalty. Bottas was faring better on his second set of tyres but still not lapping quickly enough. Even so the team appeared reluctant to force their drivers to swap places.

First Bottas was told to let Hamilton through, then the order was rescinded. A few laps later the decision was taken: Bottas was told to let Hamilton by and this time they did exchange positions, on lap 27. Three laps later Bottas pitted for the final time.

Vettel had no problem covering Bottas off with his own stop three laps later. But what was Hamilton going to do? Even if he could nurse his soft tyres until the end Vettel would only have to finish within five seconds of him to win the race.

Lance Stroll, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2017
2017 Bahrain GP in pictures
Mercedes opted for a final pit stop in which the five-second penalty could be served (more successfully than they did for Nico Rosberg in Germany last year) and Hamilton given a fresh set of tyres to chase Vettel down with. But which tyres would he take for the final stint? A set of super-softs had been left untouched during qualifying.

“I was expecting him to be quick on a new set of super-soft tyres,” said Vettel afterwards. Two laps before Hamilton came in Ricciardo pitted for super-softs of his own. But Mercedes felt softs were the way to go.

“I thought it was going to be a super-soft but honestly I think the tyre was the best one,” said Hamilton, “particularly for 16 laps pushing at the pace I was going was a long way to go. I don’t know if the super-soft would have lasted that long.”

But even after Mercedes ushered Bottas aside for a second time, Hamilton seldom looked quick enough to make the difference. Vettel lost some time in traffic but not enough to bring his rival within range. Hamilton had got the gap down to 5.87 seconds with three laps to go. Without his penalty, he might have got within DRS range.

McLaren can’t start or finish

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2017
Alonso endured a race but at least he started
Bottas took the final spot on the podium despite slipping back into Raikkonen’s clutches over the final lap. Ricciardo came in a lonely fifth after Max Verstappen retired early on with a sudden loss of rear brake pressure.

Massa claimed sixth for Williams ahead of Sergio Perez, who thanks to a great start, several passes and a bit of luck with the Safety Car made up eleven places to finish seventh.

Nico Hulkenberg earned Renault’s first points of the year with ninth behind Romain Grosjean and one place ahead of Esteban Ocon, who was the final points-scorer for the third race in a row.

On his return to Formula One, Pascal Wehrlein had a quietly solid run in the Sauber, bringing his car home 11th after being the only driver to one-stop. The team’s other car suffered a broken gearbox.

Wehrlein had Alonso in his mirrors with a few laps to go, the McLaren driver again making a series of comments about the shortcomings of his Honda engine before retiring. The explanation given by McLaren for his retirement was that “he felt something wrong with the car”, with no explicit cause for his stoppage being given.

Did his car fail or did he decide it wasn’t worth driving anymore? His headline-grabbing change of priorities for the end of May suggests he’s already made that decision. His team mate didn’t even get a car to drive today: Stoffel Vandoorne failed to start with more power unit problems.

Sweet victory for Vettel

The race which began with a first-time pole sitter ended with what is now the usual two faces on top of the podium. Mercedes demonstrated they’re prepared to take unpopular decisions to maximise their chances of victory, though it didn’t deliver this time.

But they will surely reflect that despite Ferrari’s speed, there were several points during the Bahrain Grand Prix in which opportunity to win the race were lost. This was a nip-and-tuck fight between F1’s two fastest teams which could have gone either way, something which will surely make Vettel’s victory taste even sweeter.

75 comments on “Vettel divides and conquers Mercedes duo”

  1. 1. Whichever way you cut it, Ferrari won it through superior strategy and pure pace.

    2. Hamilton/ Merc fans: Take the L and move on. Your driver wouldn’t have found a way past VET even without the penalty.

    1. 1. Of course.

      2. Are you arguing with someone? You’re the first comment here.

    2. Two Ferrari wins this year, and both have been the result of a superior strategy. Ferrari used to be notorious for blowing their chance of a victory through unwise or over-ambitious tyre/pitstop choices (see e.g. Singapore 2016). What’s happened? Has there been a change in the staff responsible?

      1. A quick car will always have the better strategy.

      2. I give it to you that Ferrari failed to make as crucial an error as they did last year in Australia in either race. But I don’t think they really won it on strategy @charleski.

        When you are the one driving the pace and picking the strategy, as Ferrari seemed to be in the warmer weather both here and in Australia, you have the upper hand. I think that just as @todfod mentions, at these two races Ferrari just was the faster car on race day.
        I suspect that we might see this playing out for a large part of the year where the cooler temperatures give the upper hand to Mercedes while warmer days mean Ferrari is the faster car for the race. Or at least until Mercedes finds updates to make their car less harsh on the tyres.

        1. @bascb
          Bahrain qualifying 2016: Vettel in 3rd on the grid, qualifying 0.519s off the pole time.
          Bahrain qualifying 2017: Vettel in 3rd on the grid, qualifying 0.478s off the pole time.
          So … yeah the Ferrari is 0.041s faster in a relative measure. I don’t think that explains why they’re doing so much better this year so far. And yes, I know we can all do lots of hand-waving about how quali pace is different to race pace, but at the end of the day, numbers is numbers.

          It’s clear Mercedes lost the race in the second stint, when Bottas couldn’t get his new supersofts to work and Hamilton wasn’t doing much better on softs. Unfortunately it’s impossible to compare Vettel’s race performance here in ’15 or ’16, but I can’t help feeling that if this were last year we’d be talking about how Vettel threw away his lead with an unnecessarily late second stop.

          1. there is a difference between all out top laptimes done in qualifying and actual race stints pace. Ferrari seems to hold up better than Mercedes in warmer temperatures, especially on the SSofts @charleski.

            And off course Vettel did make a mistake in that quali lap, so the pace of the car was a bit higher than what the actual lap shows.

          2. Yes, well F1 always gives us lots of space for hand-waving, and there’s never just one factor that produces a win. I’m just glad that we’re no longer talking about Ferrari throwing away their advantage.

    3. Well Ferrari won because Bottas was so absurdly slow. I don’t know if they would have in a straight fight but it would have at least been a lot closer if Hamilton started in the lead instead.

      1. @george Vettel overtook Hammy at the start of the race. Ham was not able to catch or pass Vettel in the opening part of the race. I think that was a straight fight that Ham lost.

        1. @rojov123 @bascb
          With the cars so close on pace it was always going to come down to strategy rather than on-track overtakes (see how Vettel couldn’t overtake Bottas despite him going >1sec slower than Vettel’s pace), however if Hamilton was in the lead Ferrari wouldn’t have had a golden opportunity to undercut, and Mercedes wouldn’t have shot themselves in the foot by leaving Bottas ahead.

          That’s not to say Vettel wouldn’t have come out on top, but it would have been much closer looking at Vettel and Hamilton’s pace in the middle stint once Hamilton got into clean air.

          All hypothetical of course, even if Hamilton started on pole he still might have lost two places and been in the same situation.

      2. Yeah, as the team confirmed they had an issue that meant Bottas tyres were too high pressure, making them not work for him @george but since Hamilton was behind both of them, and not looking like overtaking either, it would have just meant that the three of them might have had a larger gap to the cars behind, Vettel could clearly have gone faster too, had Bottas been somewhat faster.

        That would not have changed much for how the race played out.

    4. Vet is just lucky. If Verstappen didn’t have brake failure he would have passed him on track. Verstappen was looking after his tyres and is the best passer and racer in F1 so ferrari just lucked in

      1. That’s why for each the first 3 races RBR ended up 30+ seconds behind the leader?

        Now I get your name (dim)

        1. While aI think it’s a bit much to say Verstappen is the best overtaker and racer, much of those 30 seconds where due to a lack of performance by the car, not Max.

          I really wonder what could have been if it hadn’t been for a brake failure…

          1. Ludwig Valenzuela
            17th April 2017, 19:24

            Nothing really… the results will also be the same.

      2. These Verstappen fans are hilarious lol.

        1. I think delusional is a better word.

  2. And the bell rings once again in Maranello !!!!!

    Good job so far by Ferrari …. hope they can sustain the momentum once the caravan moves to Europe !!! What’s up with Kimi. He is struggling a bit this year …

    1. Shivang (@angelicdarkness)
      17th April 2017, 4:57

      Struggling a bit? That’s the understatement of the century. LOL!

    2. @tmax
      This race he was good. Not great but good. His slow start cost him the chance to fight the Mercs. He finished 2 seconds behind Bottas.

    3. < Kimi fan from his 2005 season and onward…

      I am started to get worried about his pace. The constructors battle is intense too. Ferrari is leading by just 3 points an this because Bottas made an error in China and finished 6th.

      Makes me wonder if they will replace Kimi if he finishes outside 4th. Not trying to be cruel but this will surely cross the minds of the Team.

      1. So the only reason Ferrari are leading by 3 points is because of an error in China by Bottas? Wow delusional. Maybe u should watch the races again. Don’t give Vettel any credit for putting his foot down and gaining ~ 3 sec/lap prior to the safety car. Don’t pat Ferrari’s strategist on the back for making decent calls (for once), etc etc. What is it about a change in the leadership for once in YEARS that brings out all the crazies? It may not last but try and open your eyes in the meantime.

  3. Irrespective of “ifs and buts”, I’m just happy at the prospect of a legitimate championship fight between two drivers in two different cars.

  4. Why does a ‘generator’ problem on the grid affect only one Mercedes car? A face saving excuse for the driver?

    1. @frasier because there’s 1 generator per car, mate.

      1. Frasier (@frasier) Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) I think that it is possible that something was lost in translation regarding the equipment. I am sure that the machine that is being referred to here is a compressor and not a generator. On the grid, they have a pre filled compressor which is pre set to the correct pressure and the tyres are checked just before the race start. Either the regulator on the cylinder was set incorrectly or the regulator was faulty. There is a pre charged nitrogen cylinder for each car on the grid. Hope that clears it up a bit.

  5. I’ve read a lot of people saying that if it wasn’t for the 5s penalty Hamilton would’ve had a close fight with Vettel at the end. That could well be the case but:

    1 – He deserved the penalty. So there’s no IF in this case. He made a mistake, he paid for it. It was nobody’s fault but his.

    2 – VET was controlling the race the same way we’ve seen Hamilton do a zillion times. So, it is reasonable to say VET wouldn’t have lost as many seconds if HAM was 5s closer to him to begin with. It was a calculated management. I believe it is naive to read too much into the numbers without putting them in context. Had the difference been -5s to begin with, VET would’ve conceded less of his gap. There’s no point in keeping a 15s gap when you can keep a 5s one with the other guy running out of laps. In the end, it is important to save the car whenever possible. No one can afford a DNF in such a tight run for the champioship.

    All in all, great race from VET and HAM. It seems like we are in for a treat in 17.

    1. I am a big Ham fan and yes the penalty was deserved and I think he was lucky not to get a reprimand for his actions, they were unnecessary, unprofessional and unsporting … he definitely lost some brownie points for that.

      Regardless of the penalty the race win was Seb’s once he had passed Valtteri.

      2017 could be a great season if the last 2 races are an example of what is in store for us, just hope Valtteri can pick up his race pace and we don’t see many more team orders from Merc. The prospect of a 5 way fight between Seb, Lewis, Valterri, Max and Daniel could add some spice, unfortunately I don’t see Kimi joining the party.

      1. I think we should see Bottas’ pace pick up because it must have been car issues as he isn’t that slow

    2. There’s also the fact that SC helped out Mercedes to some extent yet again really.

  6. mark jackson
    17th April 2017, 0:24

    Bring back Rosberg! Bottas isn’t cut out to be in that Mercedes.

    1. Of course he is. He just got pole. And LH didn’t win the race either.

  7. So sad for Kimi7. He needs a podium!

    1. He won’t like the sparkling juice though!

  8. I’m so happy to see a battle between two teams. This one proved Ferrari are all in for a title challenge, but I still have my doubts on how long that’ll last. I still reckon Mercedes have the potential to improve a lot during the year, and I’m not sure yet if Ferrari can do it at the same pace.

    But at this point, it’s great. A championship battle between team mates isn’t as exciting as two different guys driving two different cars and engines fighting it out on track. Hope Bottas gets it together soon so we can have a 3 way fight, or maybe Red Bull can catch up fast and be in the mix as well.

    1. I’m not so sure. Fundamentally Ferrari is a better car. Mercs still have the super duper engine mode in quality and they are more pointy. That’s why they take qualifying. Last race should’ve played into the hands of the Mercs because it’s not all downforce (look at the difference between 2016 and 17 times) and Ferrari was still faster in race trim. Vettel was managing the last stint. Look at bottas with a similar tyre life for comparison.

  9. Ferrari won because they have Vettel.

    Ferrari’s strategy would have never worked out without the German’s great start from P3 to P2. Then, his constant pressure on Bottas, the undercut executed to perfection, the way he set the pace, mastered/managed the race and controlled Hamilton’s effort was nothing short of superb!

    True vintage Vettel.

    1. Antonio (@antoniocorleone)
      17th April 2017, 11:13

      Why do you think it wouldn’t have worked without the good start? Even if hamilton was in front of him in second place, bottas was slow so the top 5 would have been within 3-4 secs of eachother. The undercut worked fantasticaly well and if bottas or hamilton pitted without the safety car they would have been 7-8 secs behind vettel. The safety car helped mercedes massivelly, as they weren’t 10 secs behind vettel but right up his gearbox at the restart and bottas almost got him there. Hamilton fans tend to forget about the help that mercedes got from the safety car and talk only about those 5 sec of penalty he got for trying to hold ricciardo as much as possible, even though he wasn’t the one he was fighting – so, that was stupid from lewis. All in all, ferrari in sebs hands was a bit faster on race day, no matter the penalty to lewis, or bottas slowing hamilton, or whatever other reason we seem to read in the media. I wonder why didn’t Keith mention “safety car helping mercedes”???

    2. Yes, like MC Laren win because they have Alonso !!! The same situation ….

  10. While I’m not a fan of Verstappen’s attitudes on and off the track, this race would’ve been much more amazing with him in the mix, maybe a battle for 4th with Kimi?

    Kimi disappointed, again. With 2 competitive cars, Mercedes could, like today, split the strategy and double the challenges to the car in front. Ferrari has to get it right every time, because Vettel is really the only Ferrari fighting for wins here. Ferrari seems to be on par with Mercedes’ race pace in all 3 races this season, perhaps even better, but they are still down on Qualy. That means they would be the chasing team most of the time, and they can’t keep on being handicapped like in today’s race.

    1. Good analysis. Mercedes having a qualifying advantage and Bottas effectively becoming the 2nd driver could be a championship decider. Even if Ferrari has a pace advantage in the race, if that Mercedes can keep Bottas in front of Vettel, Vettel will have to get passed two cars while Hamilton will have a nice buffer which will give him enough for some easy wins, such as Monaco.

      But it’s the third race, let’s hope Ferrari can bridge the gap in qualifying to at least split the Mercedes drivers.

    2. Verstappen would have been in a sure fight for P2 or 3.

      He followed Vettels strategy and came back on track right behind Vettel, beating both Mercedes drivers on their game.
      It would have been up to Hamilton and Bottas to fight for that 2nd spot Max just took.
      It could have been another epic battle if it wasn’t for that unfortunate brakefailure.

      Raikkonen and Ricciardo would have been left behind, they could not make a difference… a bit like Bottas, this race. To have Ferrari, Mercedes and RBR together sharing the stage would have been epic.

  11. Vettel:

    but their car is really long so it’s a long way to get side-by-side

    ha!

    1. Haha that’s hilarious!

      1. Well you say this but Lewis said the same thing last weekend.

        Commenting on Monaco, Lewis said his car was really long and he was not sure how they were going to be competitive there as the Ferrari is quite a bit shorter.

        1. Apparently they plan on doing 3-point tunrs at Loews. Should not be much of a problem with the cars now wider and hence harder to overtake.

  12. Positive race, exciting, competitive all over the field and full of action.
    Red Bull had me hoping for a moment they’d found the way, and indeed both drivers feel they could have finished ahead of the Mercedes if not for safety car. Regardless, here’s hoping the field bunches up and we get a three horse race. Would make the title race more exciting if it wasn’t just Vettel and Hamilton finishing first and second the entire time.

  13. Mercedes lost the race due to 2 mistakes:
    1. They but Bottas car on the wrong tyre pressures
    2. They didn’t prioritise Hamilton over Bottas soon enough

    @1. This is self-explanatory. It kept the Red Bulls and Raikkonen in contention for a while and allowed Ferrari to attempt the undercut.
    @2. When Vettel went for the undercut, Hamilton should have followed him. Now Bottas probably had pit stop priority, being the car in front, but he was too slow by 1 – 2 sec/lap. Alternatively, they could have ordered Hamilton past Bottas the moment the Ferrari went for the pits. Both options would have at least kept one of the Mercs in contention, now they lost the race on lap 10.

    1. 1. That is correct. Remember Italy 2015…
      2. That was tough because that was just the first stint in which Bottas was slow and if his second stint would have been better, that would have been disgusting to see Lewis in front because of team orders when Valterri would be faster. This was not the case and Bottas continued to have a slow pace and Mercedes realized this too late that they did not even bother covering Vettel in the first stop. Mercedes should have splitted their strategies. Either pitting Bottas just after Vettel’s stop or Lewis getting that call and the other one doing Lewis’ strategy yesterday.

      What really lost Mercedes this race..
      1. Lewis not holding 2nd place at the start… This was really important because Lewis was clearly faster and we all know that he was the quickest of all yesterday. Also, the penalty… you cant do that here…
      2. Mercedes taking too long to decide… When Vettel stopped, I was expecting one of the Mercedes to cover him to at least protect the chance of winning. This did not happen.
      3. Mercedes’ policy. We love how Mercedes let their drivers race but this race could change a lot. Bottas wont be like that in the succeeding races because that was due to a generator fault. The problem is who to prioritize because Bottas might be getting quicker and then matching Lewis. Do we have 2 drivers like last years or do we go to the 1 and 2 status?
      Mercedes lost this clearly. They had the chance to win it but threw it away. Lewis’ start only made it even harder but decisions need to be made quicker..

      1. Well, Hamilton keeping 2nd place at the start wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Vettel still could’ve pulled off the undercut. Unless Hamilton was allowed in front of Bottas very early in the opening laps and we can assume that would not have happened.

      2. I agree – Mercedes need to prioritise beating Ferrari over giving equal treatment to their drivers.
        That doesn’t mean team orders, but it does mean making strategy calls based on the former and not the latter. It’s no longer Hamilton vs Rosberg with the rest nowhere; they don’t have the luxury of ensuring absolute equality any more, if they want to win the championship.

    2. in hindsight, maybe a bad strategy call by Mercedes not stopping Hamilton straight after Vettel. but Hamilton would likely have ended up behind Vettel anyway, and we all know Mercedes car cant follow in dirty air, so the team tried a different strategy.

      1. Once Vettel peeled into the pit lane, that gave Hamilton a little gap up to Bottas, it was at this point Hamilton went purple, if he pitted the very next lap he’d have come out comfortably in front of Vettel, who, having only done his out-lap, was slower at that point. It was only when Hamilton caught the back of Bottas that Vettel started going much quicker.

        Merc didn’t react quick enough.

    3. Once again Mercedes seemed to have put themselves in some sort of half way house strategy wise and got the worst of both by:

      1)Annoying fans by using team orders
      2)Trying to avoid team orders for so long in the race that they gave themselves the worst chance of coming back at a win.

      Same as in Monaco last year. They were lucky with the win there, not so here.

  14. The SC didn’t help Vettel in the least. He already overtook 4 cars and had no traffic before the SC. SC nearly ruined his race. His lead over Botha’s would have been close to 10 seconds if it weren’t for the SC.

    1. Ludwig Valenzuela
      17th April 2017, 20:02

      This is so true!

  15. un appassionato
    17th April 2017, 8:58

    “Safety car helps Vettel this time”. I don’t think so. As Wolf said, SC helped Mercedes to pit and to come back on track very closely to Vettel, without loosing too much time. Before SC Vettel was virtually ahead by many seconds, so SC could only penalize him.

  16. Funny thing,
    since Jock Clear and, especially, Paddy Lowe left Mercedes,
    they seem to fail in terms of strategy and setting up the car.

    I get the feeling that Mercedes long-version car (wheelbase)
    might be a disadvantage concerning tyre usage etc.

    Massive blow for Bottas, no. 2 driver after 3 races and getting his first pole position.

    No doubt, a Vettel-Hamilton fight if they don’t hit mechanical problems..

    1. “I get the feeling that Mercedes long-version car (wheelbase)
      might be a disadvantage concerning tyre usage etc.”

      +1

    2. VB is not now a designated number 2 driver. His letting go of LH was a no-brainer yesterday, but that does not set his role for the season. Sure so far it appears that LH has the upper hand on race pace and it may turn out that VB becomes a natural number 2. Three races in LH is still obviously the much more engrained driver on the team. Let’s give VB and the team some time to see how things evolve.

  17. The superior pace was put to the test, VET on his out lap was up 0.3 and first full lap out on the undercut was 2.7 quicker than BOT, so he was in the lead effectively before the safety car hit. He was able to overtake cars easy on fresh rubber as demonstrated on his second stop as well. Without the SC he would have likely been 6s plus up the road, if MERC pitted BOT the next lap. Then the race would have been about whether Merc could have caught and overtaken on track –

    VET wins anyway

  18. Just an alternative point of view. When Hamilton joined Merc he spoke at length about Merc having just one chief strategist. He highlighted the difference with his old team were they had a chief strategist for each car- essentially competing against each other. When Merc were dominant- perhaps that wasn’t an issue as basically he’s job is to bring both cars home in formation- 1 and 2.

    Now that is clearly not the case anymore. So I have to question whether Mercedes having only one chief strategist is the best structure moving forward and whether he is out his depth given the circumstances of a 2 car championship we have now.

  19. Andrew Purkis
    17th April 2017, 11:05

    the Ferrari is the quicker race car on the whole not by much but its enough with a good strategy to win

    the loss of merc and especially RBR trick suspension has cost them dear

    ham lost this race in qualifying he needed pole and decent start to control the race as merc has done in the past

    bottas needs to up his game rosberg is being missed

    so we are down to a development race between merc and Ferrari

    barca well be interesting as its when the 1st upgrade package will come

    I am glad that we are actually gonna get a proper championship

  20. I am not sure if Ferrari really had the best strategy here. Post the safety car, Mercedes cars were 2nd and 3rd and on two different strategies. So, they could have used either to jump Sebastian and win the race.
    What really undid the race for Mercedes were its drivers. One couldn’t drive fast enough and other unnecessarily got a penalty. The first factor allowed Sebastian to open a large enough gap which ensured that Sebastian wouldn’t get undercut by Bottas and the second completely eliminated the need for Sebastian to overtake Hamilton on track.

    Mercedes strategy was fine. Ferrari did a gamble with the early stop but it wasn’t a winning move by any means.

  21. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    17th April 2017, 11:17

    Oh well, even if Bottas has had another race that didn’t look perceptually strong, I still think he’ll have some very decent races later in the season. He has always been very strong at Russia. 3rd on the 1st ever race there, then in 2015, he would almost certainly have had a podium if Raikonnen hadn’t knocked him out of the race right on the last lap. Then even in a weaker car last year, he still managed 4th. If there are not more team orders, I think Bottas could well have a chance for a win next race. He had been very strong in qualifying too in Russia. In 2014, Hamilton praised him for his strong pace and said it was fantastic so I think Mercedes should let the two race here.

    1. I think they will definitely be allowed to race at Merc. I think it is a mistake to assume that just because VB got an order yesterday, that means he is now a designated number 2. That’s just not the way Merc rolls 3 races into a season. In recent years they have even given orders in the first race. That has never meant a designation of roles on the team for the rest of the season. The order to VB was simply a no-brainer just as it was for Nico when he let LH past at Monaco.

  22. I swear if Ferrari match Mercedes’ development pace throughout the season I’ll die cheering for them!

  23. Ferrari got it: the priority is a consistently fast car for the race and not the fastest car for a pole lap.

  24. Great race and I m really happy there seems to be some real racing at the front row.
    But I m also happy to see that there is potential in overtaking despite the cars being wider and more affected aerodynamically. Especially if we take into account what Alonso said last race, that he did a lap over the limits (which are not that high at that McLaren) and Ricciardo In Bahrain who never understood where he got the pace. Both in qualifying.
    I think that drivers have been used to a specific driving style over the previous years, taking corners at certain speeds, expecting a certain behaviour of their cars, something like a routine. So they have not yet fully undertsood the true potential of their cars.
    If I m right, it wont change the fact that Mercedes and Ferrari are faster but the one who will unlock that potential first will have an advantage.
    But then maybe I m all wrong but excited of the start of the season.

  25. Beyond the headlines, we have a tight, highly entertaining, spirited four way battle for ” best of the rest ” in the midfield.
    ’17 is being way better up front, yes, yet Bahrain was super enjoyable to watch, challenging from a strategy–wise down to 12th, complete with heartbreak and underdog glories ( i.e. Hulk quali, PER dragging an overweight FI from 18 to 7 ) – could not blink let alone doze.
    Keep it up, Midfield! That’s where racing is happening.

  26. Merc are melting down and look like incarnations of the previous seasons’ Ferrari on the pitwall.

    Merc’s decision to order BOT aside was poor indeed as it wouldn’t have made a difference to their points haul given HAM’s penalty and their decision to stick to the soft compound for HAM’s pursuit of VET. Given how few laps there were in his final stint, putting HAM on used softs rather than the new supersofts he had in reserve did little else than reinforce the notion they treated BOT as a #2 driver. Softs would just not yield the delta needed to catch, pass and stay ahead.

    Fight back, BOT. Make it impossible for Merc to overlook you!

  27. Antonio (@antoniocorleone)
    19th April 2017, 0:21

    For all those who think that Hamilton would’ve won without the 5 second penalty. He got the penalty under the safety car, so lets assume there was no SC at all. Even better, lets run a scenario of what would have happened without SC. I took Mercedeses weak showing on the SuperSoft tire and other factors into consideration.
    Lets go:

    Vettel makes the undercut, Mercedes make the mistake to not pit one of their cars, so now Vettel is 3 seconds a lap faster of which 2 seconds in the middle sector alone. Vettel sets the fastest lap of the race, and after 4 laps on the new rubber he is third only 12 seconds behind Hamilton who’s second. Bottas decides to pit as the leading car, and he is now 12 seconds behind Vettel. The race goes on and Mercedes are thinking one stop for Lewis as his advantage crumbles as Vettel is 3 seconds a lap faster.
    Lap 15:
    1) Ham (0 stop) SS
    2) Vet (1 stop) SS +10.364
    3) Bot (1 stop) SS +22.148
    It seems that Mercedes have been caught napping by Ferrari as Vettel is rapidly closing the gap to Hamilton,

    Lap 16: The gap is now 7.776 as Vettel can now see Lewis.

    Lap 17: Hamilton in the pits, the last gap to Sebastian was 4.6 seconds, and he comes out on soft tires probably trying to go to the end. The gap now at around 20 seconds to Vettel. Pos: 1) Vet SS 2) Bot SS 3) Ham S

    Lap 31: Vettel in the pits and he comes out with the soft tires on behind both the Mercedes drivers, Hamilton 8 seconds ahead of him.

    Lap 33: Vettel with the fastest lap of the race 2.5 seconds faster than Hamilton ahead of him. The gap now 4.8 seconds

    Lap 34: Bottas goes in for his final stop and he comes out behind both Lewis and Sebastian. The gap is around 20 seconds to Lewis and around 18 seconds to Seb.

    Lap 36: Vettel now in the DRS range of the Mercedes. Can Lewis hold him for 21 laps on 14 laps older soft tires? I’ll give you the answer to that – its more likely that I’ll hold my breath for 21 laps than Hamilton holding the Ferrari.

    Lap 38: Vettel is in the lead. Great move by the German into turn 4, around the outside of Lewis. That was a fantastic move there. The Ferrari now is flying away and creating a gap.

    Lap 39: Lewis dives to the pits as his one stop strategy didn’t work. He comes out in third, 26 seconds behind the leader Vettel and 10 seconds behind his team mate who is second.

    Lap 41: Lewis is purple in all sectors, fastest lap of the race. He took 2 seconds of Vettel and around 2.5 of his team mate. Can he catch the Ferrari? Is there enough laps? Can the tires hold up such a blistering pace? We’ll get the answers to that in no time.

    Lap 46: Mercedes radio message to Valteri: “Lewis, Is, Faster, Than, You”. We all know what that means.

    Lap 47: Poor Valteri, he had to give up his second place with no fight. Hamilton now second, 17 seconds behind the leader Vettel in the Ferrari.

    Lap 50: Lewis 1.1 seconds faster than Seb in this lap, the gap now 12.8 seconds. Could this be enough? Its hard to imagine that the Ferrari is giving its all, Sebastian clearly managing the pace. Cruising…

    Last lap: Sebastian Vettel wins the Bahrain GP for the third time ahead of a charging Hamilton by 7.6 seconds. It’s his 2 victory this season and now he is leading the driving championship by 7 points. Valteri Bottas in the other Mercedes comes in third, some 20 seconds adrif, with Kimi Raïkönën 2.4 seconds behind him in fourth.

    Mercedes and Hamilton would have lost however you put it, they just got lucky to be right behind Vettel when the SC was called, and not at least 10 seconds behind after no SC at all.

    Cheers

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