Monday, April 16, 2007

Bahrain – Race Analysis

This time we had a reasonable F1 race. Unlike the first two races of the season, the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix had a little bit of a fight for the victory. The race was fun to watch, with many overtaking manoeuvres, although most of them for positions outside the points. Drivers had a hard time controlling their cars, especially when going out of the race line and onto the thin sand that covered the least used asphalt. Due to that, there were many off-track excursions. Rising above all the problems, Felipe Massa got his first win of the season and Alonso had his worst result – 5th – making the championship battle even closer.

Felipe Massa drove like a champion

Massa really drove like a champion. This is what Jean Todt said on the radio after Felipe crossed the line. He got the hat trick – pole position, best lap, win – which is already impressive. Hamilton’s pursuit did not alter his concentration. Add to that the fact that he came from a disappointing result last week, after a mistake that was solely his fault, and we may have two ‘icemen’ in Ferrari.

I have written in this blog that I believe Massa is the strongest contender for the title (‘Felipe Massa – 2007 F1 world champion?’) and have given many reasons for this. The speed and focus that he showed yesterday are two characteristics of a champion. I also have a feeling that Michael Schumacher treats him like his pupil. Massa has admitted that they spoke about Malaysia right after the race. That cannot hurt, can it? If I were Raikkonen I would start listening to Schumacher as well.

Lewis Hamilton rewrites the record books

Hamilton is a great driver, who got to Formula One better prepared than most before him. And Ron Dennis gave him a great car. Now he takes his 3rd consecutive podium, in his first 3 races, and he is the only rookie to have ever accomplished that. He beat Alonso all weekend long. There is nothing else to say about this guy.

Wait, there is. After Malaysia’s press conference, some people had the point of view that he was way overexcited, maybe even joking about Massa’s mistake. I do not think that was the case, he is just a young kid having fun. To strengthen my point of view, after yesterday’s race he put his car right next to Massa’s and applauded his opponent’s performance. He may only be a kid, but he is definitely one who respects his adversaries.

What is wrong with Raikkonen?

Kimi Raikkonen may never show his emotions, but deep down he knows he has found his match at Ferrari. Massa will drive many other races like he did in Bahrain, and Kimi will not be able to catch him. There is one extra pressure: he gets paid a lot more than Felipe, so he is expected to be faster.

He seems to have taken a hit from Massa’s phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes. His race was filled with apathy. He was not the driver he normally is, who pushes hard even when the car is not great, trying to force the others to make mistakes. He did the right thing at the start, trying to overtake Hamilton, but then he paid the price of not being able to finish the move and got passed by Alonso. Good thing he had a couple more laps of fuel during the first stint, otherwise he would ride all the way to park fermé stuck behind the McLaren. He has 3 weeks to think about his performance before the next grand prix.

Heidfeld vs. Alonso

Heideld got by Alonso with a fantastic move on the outside. BMW seems to be stronger every race, and maybe they will challenge Ferrari and McLaren for the win in a few races. Since they do not seem to have as much top speed, it is more probable to happen at a track with less straightaways. Well, Monaco is only two races away...

Alonso would have to have a bad race at some point. This was it. Heidfeld got by him because he made a small mistake. It will take him a while to digest Heidfeld’s pass, but the 4 points he got will count a lot by the end of the season. I am sure that if he ends up behind Heidfeld anytime soon, he will go for a bold move in exchange for the one he got yesterday.

Bahrain’s quick notes

- Anthony Davidson had a good race until his engine blew up. It seems like it could have been even better, though. For some reason Super Aguri filled his tank with a lot of fuel, so he only made his first pit stop in lap 28 of 57. His car seemed fast enough to match the others with equal amounts of fuel, so there was no reason for him to have a different strategy. Maybe they already knew that the engine could probably not take the extra revs...

- RBR is showing more speed. Chief engineer Adrian Newey is certainly behind this, as his nickname should be ‘continuous improvement’. Hopefully they will solve the reliability problems in a few races and fight for points. Both Webber and Coulthard got out with transmission problems – gearbox and driveshaft, respectively.

- Williams seemed to be a car that could finish in the points, but both Rosberg and Wurz made many mistakes and finished only 10th and 11th. Rosberg seemed to be suffering from the same disease that plagued Massa in Malaysia: lack of patience.

- Like yesterday, Rubens Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher had memorable battles in the past, when Rubens drove for Ferrari and Ralf for Williams. Those where battles for more relevant positions though, worth championship points or places on the podium. They met more than once in Bahrain, but both have disappointing cars now. Ralf took his Toyota to 12th place and Rubens his Honda to 13th. Their battles were fun to watch, as usual.

- Trulli drove very well, maintaining his fame of a driver who is almost impossible to be overtaken. He held both Williams’ drivers at one point, causing them to make many mistakes. In the end, he finished 7th, holding a faster Fisichella, who tried hard to go by on the last few laps.

Star of the race:

Nick Heidfeld. I could also say Felipe Massa, but the Heidfeld’s performance had a surprise appeal that got him this award. Passing the current world champion on the outside also helped.

Shame of the race:

Adrian Sutil. He had an excuse for every trouble in the beginning of the previous two races. Now he just hit Scott Speed from behind, period. He came back to finish the race, but he needs to improve his concentration if he wants to keep his job.

--Andre N.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Well, i think Ferrari winning 1&3 is impressive.
Massa coming out from shawdow of Kimi.
Hamilton is playing safe by sticking to the 2nd position, I think he will try to improve his position for the next race and then we will come to know how much he can last.
The race was good and entertaining and i think it is good for F1 that we are having so many mixed results.