Conclusions from the Bahrain GP
Lewis learns to win the boring way, Ferrari failed to give Raikkonen a winning strategy, and Eric Boullier speaks out impressively...
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 21/04/15 10:31am
Hamilton has matured into an all-round winner
A controlled victory for control of the world championship. Job done by Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain.
The timesheet, declaring Hamilton the winner by the small margin of three seconds, was a wilful act of deception; the world champion won at a canter, controlling the race from start to finish. He could have gone quicker, he didn’t – and his victory was all the more impressive for the reticence and restraint.
Gone is the recklessness of youth that made every Hamilton victory an edge-of-the-seat roller-coaster ride, a 90-minute expectation of impending doom with the young charger always on the limit and, for those of a nervous disposition, seemingly always on the cusp of disaster in pursuit of the fastest trip to the chequered flag. The Hamilton of 2015 may not be as exciting, he may not even be as fast, but even hyper-sensitive neurotics would have a hard time finding anything to fret about these days when Hamilton is in the lead.
Armed with the fastest car on the grid, neutering the need to push to the brink, Hamilton has instead journeyed into maturity, learning and apparently mastering the art of doing just enough to win in the slowest possible time. While the thought prospered during Sunday's race that Rosberg's display was Hamiltonesque, the irony was that the serenity of the race leader's progress was anything but. Lewis has become Hamilton in the way that, all the while he was cruising to straightforward victories, Vettel was never adopted as Sebastian by the viewing public.
Now that the dust has settled, it’s obvious in hindsight that we all missed the inadvertent main point of Nico Rosberg’s scattergun rant in Shanghai. Rosberg frustration didn’t boil over because he was being beaten by superior speed but because the thinking man’s driver realised he had been out-thought by a racer-turned-driver.
Learning to win the slow way, the box office magnet of F1 has become a little bit boring – and all the better for it.
Ferrari’s miscalculation may have cost Kimi victory
In contrast to Hamilton’s restraint making certain of his victory, there’s compelling devilish detail in the lap charts to suggest that Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen lost out on a potential race victory after erroneously delaying their final attack.
While Raikkonen’s extended middle stint, running for 23 laps on the medium tyres, laid the platform for his charge to third, and carried the additional benefit of putting the Finn on a different section of track to team-mate Sebastian Vettel, it would appear that Ferrari misjudged how far Raikkonen could have pushed the softer tyres at the race’s conclusion.
Forgive the onslaught of figures, but they do make for interesting reading.
At the end of his middle stint on the mediums, Raikkonen recorded lap times of 1:39.884, 1:39.591, 1:39.665 and 1:40.684. Straight out of the box on the softs, Kimi produced a 1:36.311, his fastest lap of the race and only suffered two seconds’ worth of degradation over his next 15 laps. On his two final tours, when he overtook Rosberg and began to close in on Hamilton’s ailing Mercedes, Raikkonen still had enough life in his rubber to set lap times of 1:38.766 and 1:38.015.
Compare those times to the laps of 1:39.665 and 1:40.684 that Raikkonen recorded when his medium began to fade. It’s a difference of around 3.5 seconds, a tally which dwarves Raikkonen’s 3.3-second deficit to Hamilton at the chequered flag.
If only Ferrari had been slightly more aggressive, the race was there to be won.
2015 suffering a lack of rhythm
The 2015 F1 calendar is a funny business. After four races in as many months, with the last two events crammed back-to-back for maximum befuddlement, the sport will now take a three-week break. When the season resumes, five races will take place at two-week intervals between May 10 and the British GP in early July. Then just when it seems that the sport is settling into an accessible rhythm, the F1 circus will down tools for the summer and stage just a single event between July 5 and late August.
It doesn’t get a great deal more sensible, or rhythmical, after the summer break either: after Belgium and Italy, the sport will suddenly go into hyper drive, delivering five races in seven weeks. Famine turned feast turned famine turned feast again. Keep your diaries close.
There are all manner of reasons for the anomalies. The summer break, allowing the F1 fraternity precious family time, is one of the best ideas the sport has ever produced. And but for the cancellation of the German GP, the lack of F1 between Britain and Belgium wouldn’t be so acute. Yet the increasingly stop-start nature of the F1 calendar is surely worthy of investigation whenever the sport pauses for thought to consider how to attract new audiences and retain its old following. Bereft of rhythm, and without a regular start time – even this week, F1 has started one race at 8am UK Time and then another at 4pm – F1 has become a nearly impossible appointment to view.
Revealed: The Shakespeare of the F1 paddock
While there aren’t many reasons to pay close attention to the utterings from McLaren this year, Eric Boullier's offerings for the the team's post-even press releases certainly are.
This week’s contribution included the rather lyrical pronouncement that McLaren are working with “honesty, humility and hard graft” and with an expectation that their “upward trend in performance to remain linear and palpable".
Decent, but by no means on a par with Saturday’s salute to “diligent toil”, Malaysia’s doff-capping use of “that hackneyed footballing proverb” as Eric mused on a “a game of two halves for McLaren-Honda”, or, in our personal favourite, the Frenchman’s post-Malaysia tribute to “our mechanics, a mettlesome troupe who have been working with indefatigable tenacity".
Merci beaucoup indeed!
And just imagine what he must say in his motor tongue…
Catch the F1 Midweek Report on Wednesday April 22 at 8:30pm on Sky Sports F1. Marc Priestley and Mark Gillan join Natalie Pinkham to analyse the Bahrain Grand Prix.