Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg is two for two this season and is sitting pretty with five consecutive wins all together from 2015. Let’s take a look at who was able to prevail in the desert and who was left in the dust.
Rosberg’s teammate Lewis Hamilton dropped to ninth on the opening lap after Turn 1 contact with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, but in a damaged car fought his way back to secure a lonely final podium place. The second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel failed to start after a suspected engine failure on the formation lap.
Rosberg didn’t put a wheel wrong in Bahrain’s twilight. As Hamilton and Raikkonen made poor starts, he sped into a lead that was never seriously contested, thus increasing his championship lead. Whenever Raikkonen pushed, he responded, keeping clear of the red threat to score his second consecutive win of 2016, and his fifth in a row since Mexico last year. Two races in, and he has a 17-point lead over his reigning champion teammate…
Raikkonen is ThisClose
Raikkonen kept the pressure up as they both ran the super-soft Pirelli tires on which they had qualified before switching to softs. Hamilton, with time to make up after being half spun in the first corner by an over-enthusiastic Bottas (who was given a drive-through penalty for his pains), switched to mediums on his first stop as he embarked on yet another 2016 damage-limitation race.
Raikkonen got close to Rosberg at times, but never close enough as Rosberg always had an answer. They each switched back to super-softs in their second stops, as did Hamilton, but it was clear the race lay between Rosberg and Raikkonen. They shadowed each other yet again in their final stops, back to softs, but in the end the Mercedes driver was 10.2s ahead.
Hurry Up, Hamilton!
Hamilton, who had been breathtaking on the mediums as he matched the leaders, took softs for his final stint and for a while closed in, but the first-lap damage to his car was too limiting and he finished a distant third.
Hamilton was lucky insofar as he was able to continue, but Toto Wolff estimated that floor and bargeboard damage cost the world champion up to a second a lap. He is now 17 points adrift of his teammate, and it’s beginning to look like the start of 2014 all over again. But we all know how that turned out in the end…
Haas: The American Dream
Haas did a fabulous job to finish sixth with Romain Grosjean on their debut in Australia, but fifth here was even better because it was won the hard way. Yet again strategist Ruth Buscombe took an aggressive stance, which was made possible when Hulkenberg bumped Grosjean from Q3 in the dying seconds of Q2 and freed up their tire choice.
Two sets of new super-softs, another used set, and a set of new softs enabled the Frenchman to withstand a delay in his final stop and still finish well, though arguably that might even have cost them fourth place. It’s a long time since a new team looked so accomplished, which might explain Grosjean’s slightly OTT (over-the-top) post-race radio message.
Chinese Grand Prix, Here We Go!
The 2016 qualifying format may still be a contentious issue, but the choice of three tire compounds really has spiced things up and created a great race with battles throughout the field for the 57 laps.
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