DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH: F1 guru Egmont Sippel says F1's true stars are bringing up the rear in the current field of drivers. Image: AFP / Andrej Isakovic
Cape Town - Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton again struggled with a tardy release of Mercedes’ difficult clutch, which meant that he was again caught up in the thick of first corner action at the 2016 Bahrain GP.
This time he got nudged sideways by Valtteri Bottas, whilst the resultant charge was nowhere near as effective as in Oz, especially as Kimi Raikkonen - who’s got a knack for Bahrain - cruise controlled to the podium’s middle step.
Long awaited renaissance
Which left us wondering whether Sebastian Vettel would have chequered them all? If his tired old team mate could limit the Merc’s winning margin to 10 seconds, Vettel - surely - could have initiated the Maranellian renaissance that’s been in the offing since Fernando Alonso’s arrival in 2009.
But Seb’s virtually new engine, one race young and supposed to thunder out four more, gave up the ghost on the formation lap. This after turbo failure on Kimi’s car in Oz.
READ: As it happened - 2016 Bahrain GP
Even in this early part of the season, 2016 started to smell like a sick old horse trapped in a field - or perhaps shield - of yellow fever.
At least Maranello’s B-team were happy, the Grosjean-Haas combo finishing fifth, one place ahead of Verstappen, the 18-year-old from Holland.
Further back Alonso’s stand-in and Verstappen’s next door neighbour, Stoffel “the Belgian” Vandoorne, acquitted himself fantastically well by outqualifying team mate Button, without ever having driven the McLaren before, and after having been flown in from Japan at the start of the race weekend.
Young Mercedes protégé, Pascal Wehrlein, also raced his Manor hard against faster Force India and Sauber machines, which necessitates a note on Rio Haryanto, his Indonesian team mate, which we’ll deliver in the section on Race 10.
Trouble at the top, then, in Bahrain, and diamonds at the back. F1 might yet have a future.