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Alonso nears the top, Ferrari beats Merc: 5 things we learned from #BahrainGP

2018-04-09 11:15

Charlen Raymond

Image: AFP / Giuseppe Cacace

Cape Town - Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain GP on Sunday (Apr 8) to take his second win of the season to lead the 2018 championship on 50 points. His challenger for this year’s championship, Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes-AMG, finished the race in third place and trails Vettel by 17 points in the title race.

Hamilton’s team mate, Valtteri Bottas, finished second behind Vettel and really put up a strong challenge for the win in the closing stages of the race. The Bahrain GP, first held in 2004, was the first Formula 1 race to be held in the Middle East. From the 2014 edition onwards, the race was held at night under flood lights.

But this year’s race delivered in spades to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Here are five things we learned from the 2018 Bahrain GP. 

1 Bring back the lollipop

In Australia a couple of weeks back both Haas cars left their pit box before their respective pit stops were complete. This past Sunday, again, the same happened with Vettel’s team mate, Kimi Raikkonen, when the driver drove off from his pit box when his pit stop was not yet completed.

Why? Because in both races, for both teams, the green light that signals a completed pit stop went off before the time. And the drivers are conditioned to drive when the lights go off. But in Bahrain Raikkonen knocked over one of his pit crew and the injured staff member suffered a double leg break.

Technology is great and using the light system is an advancement, but gremlins can creep in and cause the lights to go off too soon. Back in the day teams used a lollipop man to signal when a pit stop is complete, and maybe it’s time for a rethink to bring that position back. Yes, the lights are faster, but the lollipop is a safer option and will minimise the risk of someone getting injured.

2 Bottas’ missing ingredient 

Bottas may have given Vettel a run for his money towards the end of the race, but it became evidently clear that he lacks that killer instinct all F1 champions have. Using the same machinery as team mate Hamilton, the latter made greater on-track progress than his team mate. Hamilton fought from starting in ninth place to finish the race in third, while Bottas moved from third to second at the start of the race to finish the GP in that position. Even on better-condition tyres than Vettel, Bottas could not pass the Ferrari driver, but Hamilton, behind the leading two, gradually closed the gap to them. And any betting man would put his money on Hamilton had his role been reversed with Bottas’.

3 Honda faster than Renault?

The biggest surprise came from Toro Rosso after driver Pierre Gasly finished the race in fourth place. Not only that, but it appears that the Honda engine powering the Toro Rosso could be slightly more powerful than the Renault unit.

At the end of 2017 McLaren separated from engine partner Honda and became a customer of Renault’s, but Fernando Alonso managed only eighth place. Did McLaren react too hastily by dropping Honda? Or was this great result by Toro Rosso a once-off that might not be repeated again this year? Interestingly, Red Bull Racing and McLaren, both Renault customers, have suffered engine-related issues over the first two races.

4 Alonso climbs the log

It’s 12 years since Alonso won his last championship in F1 and over the years a series of questionable decisions kept him from achieving that feat again. And between 2015-2017 he was at the receiving end of poor Honda engines; bringing up the rear of the overall classification. And though 2018 is only two races young, the Spaniard currently occupies the fourth spot on the overall log, behind Vettel, Hamilton, and Bottas. That is sure to change in the coming races, but this feather in the cap should do well to boost team and driver morale.

5 Ferrari vs. Mercedes

During pre-season testing it became abundantly clear that Mercedes will be the team to beat again this year. But in these early stages of the year Ferrari has had the German team’s number and does the Italian team have a 10-point lead in the team’s championship.

This early advantage Vettel and Ferrari are currently enjoying over their rivals should not be taken for granted, because if 2017 taught them anything it’s that things can change in a single race’s time. And that could swing things back in favour of Merc.

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