My word. What. A. Race. Like seriously, that was one of the best season opening grand prix I’ve ever seen. The race wasn’t chaotic, there wasn’t particularly any surprising results and there weren’t really any major crashes; it was just damn good and exciting. I’m still not over it and don’t think I will be until Imola in 3 weeks. Let’s discuss some key talking points from that race and speculate on what could be an incredible season.
Hamilton vs Verstappen, Mercedes vs Red Bull
This is what everybody has been wanting to see for a long time; two of the best drivers of this generation battling it out over the course of a race to determine the winner. Hamilton and Verstappen were in a class of their own in Bahrain, finishing 37 seconds ahead of Bottas. Even with his 10 second pit stop effectively making it 27 seconds, this was a huge margin. All weekend these two have been battling against each other, with Verstappen having the edge on all practice sessions and in qualifying. Especially in qualifying Max looked unbeatable, and Lewis has admitted that Mercedes just don’t have the pace in qualifying atm. It looked like Verstappen could walk away with the race win, but on race pace these two were similarly matched, which allowed us fans to just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
Despite their successes on track over the past 5 years, we’ve not really seen that much of Hamilton vs Verstappen, particularly when it comes to race wins. In 2019 we got our first glimpse of a rivalry forming between the two drivers. At the Hungaoring in Budapest, Verstappen clinched his first pole position despite already winning a handful of races. During the race, Verstappen was leading and Hamilton was trying to overtake but just could not get the pass done, as both drivers were on the same strategy. On lap 49/70, Mercedes made a bold move and decided to pit Hamilton for fresh tyres. Red Bull were forced to stay out, because by the time they could pit Verstappen, Hamilton would have gained the track position. With 4 laps to go, Hamilton was on the back of Verstappen after questioning if this strategy was going to pay off. An epic two lap battle followed in which Hamilton eventually overtook Verstappen, who was struggling for rear grip on his worn tyres. This was our first glimpse at an epic rivalry forming between the two.
In spite of this, Verstappen and Hamilton have never really fought closely for the race win- apart from in Brazil 2019, where Verstappen was just untouchable all weekend and it was more of a ‘mugging’ than a race win, according to Martin Bundle. We were denied this in 2020, as Mercedes often had the dominant car and Max just couldn’t catch Lewis’ pace. The 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix however could signify that we’re going to see this epic rivalry play out across the entire season.
Mercedes and Red Bull were locked in an intriguing strategic battle all race, with neither team knowing what the other were going to do next. This time round, it was Verstappen who was catching up to Hamilton and we all know what happened next. Verstappen did overtake Hamilton but had to hand the place back, as he left the track limits and then couldn’t quite complete the move, with Hamilton winning the race. Firstly in regard to track limits, I think it’s fair that Verstappen had to give the place back, as you can’t just create more track to overtake someone. But these limits should have been regulated consistently and properly all weekend, and the stewards need to make sure the rules are much clearer in future races. Secondly, how exciting and tense were those final laps. I was sat watching with my heart pounding and I actually didn’t care who won; that battle was just so exciting, and it was great to see the win being decided in the closing stages of the race.
With the two teams evenly matched on pace, and hopefully Perez being able to be in the mix with the big boys, then this season could be a fascinating, strategic battle between two of the most successful teams in the modern era of Formula 1. I, for one, am extremely hyped about this possibility.
Formula 1.5 providing the action YET again
Oh Formula 1.5; you never let us down do you. For those wondering, Formula 1.5 refers to the midfield battle for best of the rest that occurs each season. This year, as there is only a clear top 2, the top spot for Formula 1.5 is 3rd and we have potentially 5 teams that could compete for that spot. Realistically, we’re looking at Ferrari, McLaren and AlphaTauri who will be competing for 3rd, but Aston Martin and Alpine could be in the mix if they find a bit more pace. Let’s not forget Alfa Romeo either, who look a lot quicker this year with that improved Ferrari engine.
The midfield action in Bahrain did not disappoint, with tantalising battles and overtakes everywhere. Highlights included: Norris vs Leclerc’s battle at the start, that 3-way battle between Vettel, Alonso and Sainz (Sainz’s double overtake was stunning) and Yuki Tsunoda being an absolute boss and just dive bombing everyone- including a 2-time world champion. It was amazing to see cars actually being able to follow another closely behind, and then have the pace to complete an overtake. Bahrain has never been a particularly exciting track; it’s always been decent but never amazing. Yet, this race provided us with some real drama and excitement. I definitely think the track is elevated by the floodlights, as the cars looks unreal under the lights and I love seeing the sparks fly.
The Ferrari’s look much better this year and it was nice to see the Ferrari drivers actually being able to race and have decent pace, instead of just being sitting ducks on the straight. Clearly that Ferrari engine is much better, and I hope they can achieve a few podiums this year; Formula 1 needs a competitive Ferrari team. McLaren looked mega fast, and I actually think Norris’ 4th place slipped under the radar a little bit. Some expected Ricciardo to trounce Norris this year, but I think Norris will have a very good season (although apparently Ricciardo did have some damage to the floor which hampered his downforce). Those two will have a decent rivalry this season and it’s also good to see McLaren’s fighting near the top again. AlphaTauri had a strange race, hampered by Gasly losing his front wing on lap 4 who could have challenged Norris for that 4th place. Tsunoda had a great time climbing from what was 16th at one point, to finish 9th and become the first Japanese driver to score points on his debut. They had a mixed weekend, but have a seriously strong car, and the close battle between these three teams will carry on throughout the season and will provide us with some real excitement. Formula 1.5 is back with a bang.
Mazespin excels in his first weekend and oh dear Vettel
Oh Seb. You’ve not had a good time recently have you. You’ve got to feel for the man. He went from being the top dog at Ferrari, to being surprisingly booted out and now still having a torrid time in his new Aston Martin team. He did not have a good qualifying session, qualifying 18th but then being demoted to last place after failing to ignore yellow flags. I’m really not sure what Vettel was doing and how he messed qualifying up so badly. Nonetheless, he started in P20 and had a decent start to the race, despite Aston Martin putting him on a stupid 1 stop strategy. He was sitting nicely in P12 until lap 45 and Ocon was fast approaching. Down the inside of turn 1, Ocon made a lunge and got the pass done. Vettel, for some reason, decided that he’d try and get back at Ocon in the same corner and effectively drove into the back of the Alpine, causing both of the cars to spin. He then had the audacity to claim that Ocon drove into him, despite this clearly not being the case. The stewards thought so too and handed Vettel a 10 second time penalty, which effectively ruined his race. I really hope Vettel can have a good weekend soon and find some form; he’s a really nice guy and deserves to have a few more decent seasons before he retires.
Another driver who had a woeful weekend is Nikita Maze(s)pin. Funny how this is the first time he’s mentioned on my blog, and it’s for being an absolute tool. The Russian spun 5 times over the course of the weekend, ruining many laps at the end of Q1 and bringing out the safety car on lap 1 of the race, after he spun out at turn 3. He couldn’t even make it past turn 3 before he’d already beached the car. I’ve seen so many memes about Mazespin, including the fact that Bottas’ pitstop was longer than his race, and the fact that he’s completed more formation laps in F1 than actual race laps.
That Haas car does
look an absolute handful tbf, with Mick Schumacher also spinning the car after
the restart on lap 4. Thankfully, Mick was able to recover the car and finish
his first race in Formula 1- despite trundling around at the back. I also found
the different reactions to the two Haas drivers spinning so funny, with Mick receiving
a lot of love despite his spin. It’s almost like if you’re a bit of a d**k,
then people don’t really like you. Funny that. Mazespin (yes, that is how he’s
going to be referred to on this blog now) really needs to improve both his
actions on track and off track so that he can be considered a decent F1 driver and
maybe gain some popularity- however I feel this is too little too late for some
people and that’s fair enough.
I have such high hopes for this season and if this race is anything to go by, it’s going to be a classic. Let’s hope that the teams remain evenly matched so we can have these close battles all season long and actually have a title fight; wouldn’t that be nice for a change.