By Thomas Dodd
- Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel wins Bahrain Grand Prix to regain lead in Formula 1 World Championship from Lewis Hamilton
- Brit Hamilton finishes second and falls seven points behind Vettel in standings after pair share opening three races
- Finn Valtteri Bottas had taken pole in Sakhir, but could only finish third.
BAHRAIN – The Formula 1 title fight everyone wants to see moved a step closer in Bahrain, as Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel gambled on strategy to pip Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton and take a second win from three races in 2017.
Sebastian Vettel is up for the fight
It’s been a few seasons since either Sebastian Vettel or Ferrari were in the hunt for the Championship, but Bahrain well and truly confirmed the Scuderia have joined the battle. What’s more they look ready to do everything they can to deliver their man to the front. It was a bold call to bring Vettel in early but it worked a treat as the decision from the team in conjunction with the man pressing the pedals turned the tide in the prancing horse’s favour.
For the second time in 2017 Vettel leaves a Grand Prix weekend the championship leader. In seasons when he has topped the standings at any point, he has never failed to claim the crown. 2017 is hotting up.
Lewis Hamilton is Mercedes’ number one
There were always questions over whether or not Mercedes had a team leader out of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, but it would appear – be it deliberately or by chance – that there is a hierachy between Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. The Finn took pole in Bahrain but struggled with race pace from the off and twice had to yield to his much faster team mate.
A dejected Bottas said tyre pressure problems at the start were to blame for him holding up the field in the early stages, but he is yet to come close to Hamilton over a race distance in 2017, and must start being the first Silver Arrow across the line if he is mount a championship charge.
Esteban Ocon is impressing silently
There were some raised eyebrows in the paddock when Force India decided to sign Esteban Ocon instead of Pascal Wehrlein from Manor over the winter, but three races in it would seem an inspired choice. The Frenchman continued the bright start to his young career by claiming a third straight 10th place finish so start the season.
Wehrlein was one place further back on his return from injury but Ocon demonstrated once again he could mix it with midfield in Bahrain. By finishing in 7th in Sakhir, Ocon’s team mate Sergio Perez claimed his 13th straight points finish in Formula 1.
It’s not getting any better for McLaren
It went from bad to worse for the Woking team in Bahrain, as Fernando Alonso retired for a third straight race with engine failure and Stoffel Vandoorne did not even take the start thanks to a power unit failure. In a week when Alonso announced he would take part in the Indy 500 and not the Monaco Grand Prix, McLaren is having rings rung round them by the midfield teams with even Sauber able to keep pace with Alonso for most of the 57 laps on Sunday afternoon.
Updates are set to come later in the season, and the team seem genuinely more confident for the European races, but on evidence so far it appears even substantial developments will only be enough to push them away from Sauber at the very back of the grid.
Renault’s race pace is cause for concern
Problems with both cars in practice left the team staring at another difficult weekend in the desert, but that was all forgotten when Nico Hulkenburg and Joylon Palmer made it through to Q3 – a first for the Englishman. Unfortunately, both cars went backwards from the start and could only have quiet races in the midfield as opposed to heading the best-of-the-rest charge behind the top three teams.
Hulkenburg at least managed to climb his way back into the points in ninth come the chequered flag but Palmer was the last of the remaining runners in 13th by the end. Despite the input and presence of four time World Champion Alain Prost in Bahrain, Renault now face an uphill battle to hold on to the coat tails of the Force India, Williams and even Toro Rosso.
Next Race: Russian Grand Prix, Sochi, 28-30 April 2017
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