Fernando Alonso wins the Chinese Grand Prix and proves that the Ferrari team seem to have a car that is undoubtedly better than their car last year which keeps him in the championship hunt. Also, Mark Webber finds himself having a three grid penalty heading into this race due to the incident with Jean-Eric Vergne in China.
I have previously that I was a bit surpised that Lotus and especially Kimi Raikkonen was not able to challenge for the win in China, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season and will Kimi be able to keep himself in the hunt after this weekend?
Also, Hamilton in his Mercedes could be able to challenge this weekend and put a stop to Alonso’s, Raikkonen’s and even Vettel’s championship fights. But have Mercedes learnt their lessons and corrected their mistakes from last year? Meanwhile, Vettel despite all the media scruinity around him regarding his actions from the Malaysian Grand Prix still is still leading the fight for the championship and is the man to beat at the moment. Can anyone stop him?
Before heading to Bahrain, Heikki Kovalienen has now been announced as the reserve driver of the Caterham team, is testing out new parts for the team and takes Van Der Garde’s place in Friday’s Practice One. If rumours are true in the paddock, this is down to not receiving adequate feedback from Charles Pic and Giedo Van Der Garde. Personally, I believe that the team should have kept Heikki for another season to keep continuity within the team. But we shall see how Heikki performs in the first practice session and see if Caterham and more importantly Heikki has made the right decision for himself and if it will help the team.
In terms of the circuit, The Bahrain Grand Prix is one of the most modern circuits on the Formula One calendar. But the circuit does not get used very much throughout the year (and is known by the paddock to have ‘sandy’ conditions) and will take time to ‘rub in’ and evolve. Braking is also important for the teams and the drivers to keep control of due to the high ambient temperatures and will be closely monitored throughout the whole race weekend.
This Grand Prix will be one full of questions of who again can go longer on their tyres, who can save the most tyres for the race on Sunday, which car has got their car set up the most competitive and race ready? Alongside these questions, questions if Red Bull, Lotus or Mercedes will be able this weekend to help their own fight in the championships, can McLaren small improvements on their cars help them this weekend before Spain where an upgrade is planned to take place on the car, who will be competitive from the off, who has the quickest car and who will win this race on Sunday?
The race weekend begins now….
Strap yourselves in. The new season begins now…
Practices 1, 2 and 3
The main headline from the Practice sessions is that both the Ferrari’s and the Lotus’s look like the team to beat this weekend as weather conditions test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.
Practice 1 saw Felipe Massa top the timesheets with a time of 1.34.487 followed closely by Alonso with a gap of 0.077 seconds, Rosberg in third with a gap of 0.134 seconds, Vettel in fourth with a gap of 0.303 seconds and Di Resta with an impressive fifth with a gap of 0.462 seconds. Adrian Sutil impressed the paddock again by topping the timesheets in 8th place with a gap of 0.632 seconds behind Massa. The McLarens of Button and Perez could only manage a brilliant 6th for Button and Perez in 11th places. And the Lotus’s of Raikkonen and Grosjean could only manage 9th and 10th places.
Within Practice 1, there was a lot of lock ups throughout the session. Max Chilton, Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber all experienced lock ups throughout the session. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez both ran off the circuit while trying to find the grip throughout the session.
Practice 2 saw Kimi Raikkonen top the timesheets with a time of 1.34.154 followed by Webber with a gap of 0.030 seconds, Vettel in third with a gap of 0.128 seconds, Alonso in fourth with a gap of 0.156 seconds and Di Resta in fifth again with a gap of 0.389 seconds. Adrian Sutil again managed to achieve a top 10 finish with 10th place with a gap of 0.778 seconds behind Raikkonen showing that Force India may have the pace to get some good championship points this weekend.Button and Perez could only manage 11th and 13th places indicating that both maybe do not have the pace needed to have a strong weekend but very much hoping they can work on that during the weekend.
Practice 2 sees more incidents and spinning throughout the session. Sebastian Vettel again goes off at the final turn trying to find the grip on the track. But the main talking point of the session was the incident between Esteban Guiterrez and Charles Pic on track. On track, Guiterrez while trying to pass Pic touched in his Caterham and ended up suffering a puncture which did not have any other effects to his Sauber.
Practice 3 saw Fernando Alonso top the timesheet with a time of 1.33.247 followed by Vettel with a gap of 0.101 seconds, Webber in third with a gap of 0.133 seconds, Raikkonen in fourth with a gap of 0.199 seconds and Hamilton in a fifth with a gap of 0.208 seconds. Paul Di Resta also impressed the paddock with 8th place with a gap of 0.453 seconds behind Alonso. Again, the surprise of the session is Adrian Sutil managing to grab 7th place with a gap of 0.349 seconds behind Alonso showing that he does have good pace within the Force India car. The McLarens of Button and Perez could only make 12th and 13th places, which show that McLaren may have a fight on their hands to get into Q3 and to gain some championship points today. The biggest surprises of the session was that Massa did make the top 10 after showing very good speed and promise in the early sessions.
However, within Practice 3, Van Der Garde and Grosjean both experience lock ups within the session. Also, Sebastian Vettel has yet another off on the circuit again. Max Chilton experiences a problem with trying to cool down his KERS in his Marussia.
The main talking points within the session is that Fernando Alonso spins off at Turn 2 into the gravel as the car was unsettled. Rumours around the paddock believe that this could be due to the temperature surrounding the circuit but this has not been clarified. Also, Lewis Hamilton experienced a set back on his qualifying programme with a rear left puncture on his Mercedes that caused damage to the suspension and it also lost him valuable running time and also losing valuable information for the team also.
You would be stupid not to bet against Vettel to gain pole position again this weekend. As he is the master of qualifying at the moment and the momentum is with him from claiming Pole Positions in two rounds of the championship so far and being in the top 6 in all three sessions this weekend. Alonso and Massa also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top five places at the moment.
Button seems to be getting happier with the McLaren and seems to be making good and solid progress and Perez at the moment seem to be struggling. It seems from looking at their performances that the pace is coming slowly and steadily and both drivers I will admit will struggle to even make Qualifying 2 or maybe even the points in the race and it will take a lot of skill and talent to do that in a car that is not capable, unless a bit of unexpected rain happens (which is very unlikely). However, I think that Force India, Mercedes and Lotus have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix again like last weekend and could qualify well here. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…
Before heading into qualifying, Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Guiterrez find themselves having a five place grid penalty. Hamilton after suffering a rear tyre failure in Practice 3 has had no choice but to replace the gearbox and also the suspension from the damage caused. And Guiterrez has a penalty from his part in the incident between himself and Charles Pic in the Caterham.
It looks like Ferrari, Mercedes, Lotus or Red Bull are looking like the teams to beat heading into the session who look set to challenge each other for pole position today. But Force India may spring a surprise and throw a spanner into the works based on their early pace and promise within the Practice sessions. And it is looking likely that it will be a challenge for the Williams drivers of Bottas and Maldonado to clear Q1 and also the McLaren drivers of Button and Perez to clear Q2 as both teams do not have the pace within their cars to challenge the top teams this weekend. Let the battle for Pole Position begin…
In Q1, Alonso tops the timesheet with a time of 1.32.878, Vettel is second with a time of 1.33.327, Rosberg is third with a time of 1.33.364, Grosjean is fourth with a time of 1.33.498 and Hamilton is fifth with a time of 1.33.498. And a surprise for Di Resta who finished the session in 6th place and also Sutil who was in 10th place. At the end of Q1, we lose Maldonado, Guiterrez, Pic, Bianchi, Van Der Garde and Chilton.
In Q2, Vettel tops the timesheets with a time of 1.32.746, Rosberg was second with a time of 1.32.867, Webber was third with a time of 1.33.098, Raikkonen was fourth with a time of 1.33.146 and Alonso was fifth with a time of 1.33.316. Button could only manage 10th place. Di Resta and Sutil set brilliant times to gain 6th and 9th places. At the end of Q2, we lose Grosjean, Perez, Riccardo, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Vergne. The battle for pole position is on…
In Q3, Rosberg tops the timesheet and claims a brilliant pole position with a time of 1.32.330, Vettel was second fastest with a time of 1.32.584, Alonso was third fastest with a time of 1.32.667, Hamilton was fourth fastest with a time of 1.32.762, Webber was fifth fastest with a time of 1.33.078, Webber was sixth fastest with a time of 1.33.207, Di Resta did a brilliant lap to claim seventh fastest with a time of 1.33.235, Sutil was eighth fastest with a time of 1.33.246, Raikkonen was ninth fastest with a time of 1.33.327 and Button was tenth fastest.
It would seem that Mercedes and Ferrari genuinely has the pace to challenge for the race win again this weekend which I am absolutely not thrilled about. However, both drivers seem to have the cars underneath them to do this. You cannot discount Massa, Raikkonen or Vettel to be challenging also for the race win in order to keep their seasons off to a flying start. Rosberg could also be the dark horse to take the win away from Red Bull and Ferrari to gain some points on his rivals for the championship.
Di Resta, Sutil and Button could also have a decent race tomorrow and pick up some much needed points for Force India and McLaren before heading to the next race in Spain. Will it rain tomorrow? Nope. Who will win the Grand Prix tomorrow? I really don’t know (hoping for a Button win!). Who will lead the championship after this race? Will it be Vettel, Hamilton, Massa, Hamilton or Alonso? I don’t know. The Grand Prix has been set up nicely, just like the last race. Let’s see what happens…
Prior to the race, Mark Webber now starts from ninth place on the grid due to the three grid place penalty from his part in the incident between himself and Jean Eric Vergne. This is one driver I will be watching as Webber could spring a surprise and could fight his way back into contention for some good points today.
The F1 world is watching and waiting to see if the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix will live up to expectations and who will be the winner? Here we go…
All 22 drivers are lined up on their grid positions, five red lights and its GO!!!!!!!! Rosberg gets off the line and covers Vettel to keep his position and leads into the first corner. While this is going on, Alonso manages to get past Vettel and takes second place. Massa and Raikkonen at the start seems to have been bogged down and not had good starts. Di Resta has had a brilliant start and is now in third place and has Massa trying to pass him for position.
There is also a battle between Button and Perez and Van Der Garde and Perez for position. Into the first lap, Massa and Sutil have a collusion at Turn 4 which sees Sutil running slowly on the track. And at Turn 7, Vettel tries to pass Alonso for position at Turn 7 but cannot get past.
Lap 2 sees Rosberg lead the Grand Prix by 0.277 seconds to Alonso. Vettel manages to pass Alonso for second place and then tries to pass Rosberg for the lead. Meanwhile down the field, there is a battle between Button and Raikkonen for track position. Vettel passes Rosberg for the lead but then has to yield his position. At the end of the lap, Guiterrez pits and Vergne pits with a puncture.
The next lap sees Rosberg lead Vettel by 0.146 seconds. Vettel then tries at Turn 1 to pass Rosberg and can’t. By Turn 4, Vettel has passed Rosberg for the lead of the Grand Prix. Raikkonen and Perez are battling down the field for position. Alonso then passes Rosberg for second place. It seems that Rosberg seems to be struggling for pace and tyres at this early stage of the Grand Prix.
Lap 5 sees Vettel lead the Grand Prix by 1.7 seconds to Alonso. Alonso is then able after a great battle to pass Rosberg securely for second place. Lap 6 sees Di Resta pass Rosberg for third place. Massa after his collusion with Sutil at Turn 4 on the first lap looks to have damage on his wing but is still able to try and challenge Rosberg for position. Meanwhile, further down the field Van Der Garde seems to have lost his front nose.
Lap 7 of the race. Vettel has a 3.5 second gap lead to Alonso. Di Resta is now looking at trying to pass Alonso. Massa is also trying to pass Rosberg. At the end of the lap, Alonso pits as his DRS on his rear wing is stuck and needs to be fixed. Alonso has a 4.5 second pitstop and rejoins the race in 16th place. The next lap sees a battle between Perez and Button taking place on the track. Alonso’s DRS on his rear wing is stuck again and needs to pit to fix the problem at the end of the lap. Also, Webber and Grosjean pit for new tyres at the end of the lap.
Lap 9 and there is a 5.2 second gap to Di Resta. Massa finally is able to pass Rosberg. At this point of the race, Di Resta’s tyres look to have finally reached the ‘cliff’ (no grip at all). At the end of the lap, Button and Rosberg pit for new tyres which sees them rejoin the race in 13th and 12th places. The next lap sees Vettel, Massa and Perez pit for new tyres.
Lap 11 sees Paul Di Resta leading Kimi Raikkonen by 4.8 seconds. Rosberg and Button are able to pass Pic on track for position who pits at the end of the lap. The next lap, Jenson is able to pass Nico on track for position and Hulkenberg pitting for new tyres.
Lap 14, Di Resta leads by 3 seconds. Perez and Grosjean are battling for track position on track. At the end of the lap, Di Resta pits for new tyres with a pitstop of 3.2 seconds and rejoins the race in 9th place and gives the race lead to Raikkonen. On Lap 16, a battle for fourth place between Rosberg, Button and Massa is ongoing. At the end of the lap, Raikkonen pits for new tyres with a pitstop time of 3.6 seconds and rejoins the race in 10th and hands the lead back to Vettel.
Lap 17 sees Vettel leading Webber by 8.3 seconds. On track, Grosjean and Perez passes Massa for position. Massa is going slowly on track due to rear damage on his Ferrari and has to pit at the end of the lap. Also, Vergne has to retire his Toro Rosso. By Lap 19, the battle for third place between Rosberg and Button is hotting up.
Lap 20, Vettel has a 12.8 second lead. The battle between Rosberg and Button is still ongoing. However, Button manages to pass Rosberg for third place! And Rosberg is losing places quite rapidly and loses his position with Grosjean and Perez able to pass him easily. At the end of the lap, both Perez and Rosberg pit for new tyres. The next lap sees Button and Webber pitting for new tyres and rejoining the race in 12th and 9th places.
Lap 22, Vettel leads by 16.4 seconds. Yet again, the battle between Rosberg and Perez is ongoing, with Perez winning the battle this time. There is also a battle between Massa and Bottas for track position further down the field. Lap 23 sees Mark Webber passing Alonso and Maldonado for position, Rosberg trying to retake the position just lost of Perez.
On Lap 24, Vettel leads Grosjean by 22.1 seconds. Jenson manages to pass his team mate for position. At the end of the lap, Alonso pits for new tyres with a pitstop of 2.7 seconds and rejoins the race in 15th place. The next lap sees Vettel pit from the lead of the race for new tyres with a pitstop of 2.7 seconds and goes back into the lead of the race.
Lap 26, Vettel has a 3.1 gap to Romain Grosjean. Di Resta in third is now looking at trying to pass Grosjean for second place. The battle between Perez and Button continues and Perez manages just to stay ahead of his team-mate. Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg manages to pass Rosberg on track to claim 8th place in the race and then has to pit at the end of the lap. Lap 27 sees Paul Di Resta passing Grosjean to take 2nd place in the race with a great move. Button is able to take 6th place away from his team mate Perez and also Grosjean has to pit for new tyres with a stop of 3.3 seconds and rejoins the race in 9th place.
Lap 28 sees Vettel leading the race from Di Resta by 7.2 seconds. The battle between Perez and Button is still ongoing and swapping places all the time. Hamilton further down in the field takes 10th place away from Bottas. At the end of the lap, Massa pits for new tyres with a pitstop of 2.7 seconds and rejoins the race in 13th place. Lap 30 sees the battle between Perez and Button intensify when Perez clips Button’s tyres which could have stopped both cars continuing in the race.
Lap 32 sees Vettel leading by 14 seconds. Kimi Raikkonen is now chasing Di Resta’s Force India quickly. Perez again tries to get past Button again, but is forced onto the road as Jenson holds on using the racing line. The next lap sees Grosjean able to pass Perez for 6th place.
On Lap 34, Vettel leads Raikkonen by 17.8 seconds as Raikkonen has caught Di Resta and has been able to pass him to take second place. Grosjean then passes Button on track for position. At the end of the lap, Button and Raikkonen pit for new tyres.
Lap 36 sees Vettel having a 20.9 second lead on Raikkonen. Hamilton is able to pass Perez on track for position. At the end of the lap, Di Resta and Massa with right rear damage on his Ferrari this time pit for new tyres. Lap 38 sees Raikkonen on track passing Perez. Also, Jenson is now looking at trying to pass Webber and on track both Webber and Rosberg touch each other. At the end of the lap, Hamilton pits for new tyres with a pitstop of 3.3 seconds and rejoins the race in 10th. Lap 39 also sees Perez and Alonso pitting for fresh rubber.
Lap 40 sees Vettel leading the race by 28.4 seconds. The incident between Rosberg and Webber will be investigated by the FIA. Lap 42 sees Vettel and Grosjean pit for fresh rubber and rejoin the race in the lead and in fourth place. By Lap 44, Vettel has a 8.4 second lead. The incident between Rosberg and Webber will be investigated by the FIA after the race has finished. On track Grosjean passes Lewis for position and Perez passes Alonso for position. At the end of the lap, Rosberg pits for fresh rubber with a pitstop of 3.2 seconds and rejoins the race in 10th.
Lap 45 sees Vettel lead by 8.3 seconds. Hamilton is able to pass Jenson on track. By the next lap, Jenson has also lost another position on track as his team-mate Perez and then Alonso are able to gain track position which would suggest that Jenson is struggling with grip and pits at the end of the lap with a stop of 2.9 seconds and rejoins the race in 10th.
Lap 47 sees Alonso passing Perez on track. Lap 49 and Vettel leads by 9.7 seconds. And Hamilton in his Mercedes is looking to catch Webber on track for fifth place before the chequered flag. Lap 51 and Vettel is leading Raikkonen by 9 seconds. Grosjean is trying to catch Di Resta for third place. Lewis meanwhile is trying to get past Webber and passes him on Turn 4 on the track to claim 5th place.
On Lap 52, the FIA have announced that they will be investigating Gideo Van Der Garde for unsafe release at his last pitstop. And Grosjean finally is able to pass Di Resta and British hearts everywhere sink. Lap 53 sees Webber re-passing Hamilton for track position. Lap 54 sees Perez re-passing Alonso for track position.
Lap 55 and Vettel is comfortably leading the race by 9.7 seconds from Raikkonen. And the battle between Hamilton and Webber is still ongoing on the track and on the last lap, Hamilton gets the job done and passes Webber. And Sebstian Vettel wins the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of second place Kimi Raikkonen 9 seconds behind him, Romain Grosjean claims third and the final spot on the podium 19 seconds behind Vettel, Paul Di Resta equals his best position in Formula One with a fourth place 21 seconds behind Vettel, Hamilton drove a brilliant race to claim fifth place 35 seconds behind Vettel, Perez drove well to claim sixth place 36 seconds behind Vettel, Webber claims seventh place 37 seconds behind his team mate, Alonso after all the problems gets eighth place 37.5 seconds behind Vettel, Rosberg claims ninth place 41 seconds behind Vettel and Jenson Button claims the final point with tenth place 46 seconds behind Vettel.
Sebastian Vettel leads the Driver’s championship with 77 points, Raikkonen is second with 67 points, Hamilton is third with 50 points, Alonso is fourth with 47 points, Webber is fifth with 32 points, Massa is sixth with 30 points, Grosjean is seventh with 26 points, Di Resta is eighth with 20 points, Rosberg is nineth with 14 points, Button is tenth with 13, Perez is eleventh with 10 points, Sutil is twelfth with 6 points, Riccardo is thirteenth with 6 points, Hulkenberg is fourteenth with 5 points and Vergne is fifteenth with a point.
Red Bull lead the Constructor’s championship with 109 points, Lotus is second with 93 points, Ferrari is third with 77 points, Mercedes is fourth with 64 points, Force India is fifth with 26 points, McLaren in sixth with 23 points, Toro Rosso in seventh with 7 points and Sauber are eighth with 5 points.
What a race! It didn’t disappoint. The Grand Prix tested the drivers throughout the race with the high level of tyre degradation.
I was happy that Jenson did have some pace to challenge today and gained a point for his efforts. I am also glad for the team that Perez managed to gain some much needed points for the team. However, the ongoing battle between the two of them was very good for the fans to watch but I believe that Perez has shown that he can fight for position. But I do agree that Perez does need to think about battling for position more with his head. He was very lucky this time not to have caused them both to retire from the race with damage to their cars, but next time he may not be so lucky…
But it shows that McLaren are taking slow and steady progress to try and get to the front of the field once again. But I am happy that Jenson managed to points for the team that should encourage the team further to look into why Jenson and also Sergio are struggling with pace and grip with this year’s car. The team this weekend I believe have made small steps into looking at solutions to help and cure this problem before the championships, race wins, podiums and even point finishes are no longer within their reach. As I said last weekend, I know McLaren will bounce back to the performance they and their fans crave and when that happens, it will make it all the more special. Bring on Spain where the team are looking at a new package for the car!
Lotus this weekend may not have gained another victory this weekend but they have scored some brilliant points from their two drivers this weekend that will help their fight in the Constructors Championship. I was a bit surprised that Lotus, especially Raikkonen was not able to challenge for the win this weekend, but consistency and points scoring keeps you in the hunt for the title, as Alonso proved last season. And I am glad that Grosjean got a good result in order to get his season off to a good start as we have not heard much from him so far but he has been consistent and scored some good points for the team which is an improvement from last year.
Alonso again has had a solid weekend. First showing top 10 form in the Practice sessions and then battling throughout the field to gain some solid points. I think Alonso is driving solidly this year and is carrying on his form from last year. Who knows where Alonso would have been if he could have not had his DRS braking down twice in the race.
The biggest surprise this weekend for me was the 4th place of Force India’s Paul Di Resta. Paul has had a brilliant weekend and start to the season and impressed me a lot this weekend. He drove a fantastic lap in qualifying and drove a cracking race to bring home some much needed points for the team. I believe that Paul this year has learnt his lessons from his first two years and is working harder than ever to impress with his performances in the sport this year. And surely, people will have noticed him this weekend. He deserved the podium today, he really did. He is a great driver with a lot of potential and Force India have shown this weekend that their performance since Australia is no fluke and they have a car that is able to be competitive and fight for good points in the race. And I think they could be the dark horse of the midfield teams this team and could surprise us all throughout the season
All that is left to say about this race is that Vettel was a best driver on the field today. Red Bull unfortunately seem to have a car that is undoubtedly better than their car last year. They seem to be able to make sure that their race performance is also consistent and reliable. And if Vettel keeps this up, he may find himself able to claim the championship like last year and take his fourth consecutive title. Can Vettel do it? (Hope not!!) We shall see…
My next post will be my Track Preview to Spain which will be on the blog before Practice 3 of the weekend!