I thought long and hard as to whether I should write anything about this highly controversial Grand Prix weekend. I don’t believe that you can separate sports from politics, though I would like to try to do that as far as I can, especially when considering Bleacher Report’s in-house rules.
All I will say is this, I believe the FIA were wrong to race in Bahrain. However, the Bahrain GP was Round 4 in the 2012 Formula One World Championship, so here’s what happened on the track, and only on the track.
The 2012 qualifying was certainly the best I’ve ever seen at the Bahrain circuit and arguably one of the best Saturday events this season.
This was because most of the final positions were decided after the chequered flag dropped on each session. There were big names falling by the wayside early and strong performances promoting drivers to unfamiliar places.
Perhaps the best part of Saturday was that we were dealt such a great Qualifying 1. Of course, the likes of Marussia and HRT were out before they ever took to the track. But for the first time this season, Caterham were able to battle their No. 1 driver into a fantastic Qualifying 2.
Better still for excitement, Caterham’s success came at the expense of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
Granted, Schumacher did have technical difficulties. But when Heikki Kovalainen crossed the line with a P15 time seconds after the session had finished, it only further proved my argument that Kovalainen is far too good for Caterham.
Q2 was better still with strong performances from Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Daniel Ricciardo. It was also fascinating to see Ferrari struggle to cling on to their super soft tyres (neither Ferrari man felt confident enough to survive Q1 only using the harder tyre).
So, another tough outing for the boys in Red, but we were able to hear yet again how great an F1 driver Fernando Alonso is. The 2005/06 world champion, conscious of his use of the softer tyres in Q1, radioed his team to discuss strategy. He was considering whether it would make more sense to drop out of Q2 in order to give himself a free choice of tyres on Sunday.
The strategy seemed sound, but with the chequered flag dropped, Alonso was down in the P14/15 spots and it was beginning to look as if his race would be screwed anyway. But, from almost nowhere, he put his foot down and finished Q2 in P4.
This meant he could do a quick run on the harder tyre in Qualifying 3, and although he eventually decided on the soft compound the next day, it was interesting to see him openly discussing strategy over the radio.
Q3 saw some great drives from the Red Bulls, Lotus and. in particular, Daniel Ricciardo, who managed to finish an outstanding P6.
The final showdown was between Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton. It looked as if Mark Webber would secure the pole, but he lost a tiny bit of time on his final hot lap. Sebastian Vettel was able to find clear track and blitzed his way to his first pole of the season.
McLaren were, of course, strong, but neither driver seemed to find their mojo when it really counted in the final session.
Unfortunately, the race itself was less of a spectacle. (Though the Bahrain track isn’t exactly famous for great races).
The start was clean, and though there were a few little tussles, there was no major drama as the cars went into Turn 1.
Both Lotus and Ferrari got off to great starts, whilst Jenson Button found himself crowded out in traffic going into Turn 1. I’m afraid there were tears for Ricciardo and Heikki Kovalainin as the two collided taking the first few corners. It was such a shame to see two of Saturday’s stars drop so quickly to the back of the grid.
After the initial battles, the race calmed. I think the most focus was provided by Ferrari and Lotus as both teams seemed to find their four drivers in the centre of the action.
Whilst Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were driving well and holding their own in tussles, Lotus were really setting the track on fire—first by overtaking their way up the standings, and then by holding on and setting an outstanding pace.
Some of their best moves happened around Lap 9 when both Lotus drivers overtook McLarens. It was around this stage that the drivers began darting into the pits for their first stops.
These stops provided some great pit exit action as the likes of Alonso, Button, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg all did battle, having been thrown together by stops. The most crucial development was the first of two pit disasters for Hamilton. In both circumstances, Hamilton’s McLaren team struggled to fit his left rear tyre. This cost the McLaren man positions and points.
The race was kept alive by the odd overtake here and there, such as Hamilton’s off-road DRS pass on Rosberg coming out of Turn 2, but I’m afraid there wasn’t much else to report.
Just before the second round of stops, Raikkonen was able to pass his teammate and gain P2. Romaine Grosjean was driving phenomenally, but I think Raikkonen just had the edge, so it was probably better for the race that the 2007 world champ was able to get through.
Raikkonen pushed Vettel over the next few laps and at one stage even made a move to take the Red Bull man into Turn 1. Although the intensity never '‘dropped off the cliff,'’ this turned out to be as close as Raikkonen could get.
I think there were really only three other reportable actions from this point. The first was a rather bizarre tactic employed by Alonso on Lap 32. The Ferrari man was in a tight group of cars behind Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi. As the group exited the final corner, Kobayashi turned off to take to the pits. Alonso looked to be following the Sauber in, but at the last minute darted back onto the track and onward to Turn 1.
I guess he was harnessing some slip stream, which was either a great strategic act or a bizarre trick. Alonso also provided some great action by pushing Paul di Resta to an almost photo finish.
I think the only other significant event was the terrible late bad luck suffered by Button. The McLaren man had been having a quiet but decent race in P7. However, on lap 54, Button was forced to dart into the pits when he lost a ton of pressure in his rear tyres. Things got worse a couple of laps later when it became clear that he had suffered a cracked exhaust.
Button retired with one lap to go, but on the bright side he managed to beat both HRTs without even finishing.
Politics aside, the Bahrain Grand Prix really wasn’t a great one, but as I said it frankly never is.
However, there is something outstanding we can draw from this race. We have now seen four different races, won by four different drivers, for four different teams.
I can’t remember ever seeing a start like this to a Formula One season. Although Vettel is now back in his familiar P1 championship position, the drivers behind him have all been consistent enough to create a tantalizingly tight table.
Roll on Spain!
Drivers’ Championship Top Three
Sebastian Vettel, 53
Lewis Hamilton, 49
Mark Webber, 48
Constructors’ Championship Top Three
Red Bull Racing-Renault, 101
1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing-Renault
2. Kimi Räikkönen, Lotus-Renault
3. Romain Grosjean, Lotus-Renault
4. Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing-Renault
5. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
6. Paul di Resta, Force India-Mercedes
7. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
8. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes
9. Felipe Massa, Ferrari
10. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
11. Sergio Perez, Sauber-Ferrari
12. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India-Mercedes
13. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber-Ferrari
14. Jean-Eric Vergne, STR-Ferrari
15. Daniel Ricciardo, STR-Ferrari
16. Vitaly Petrov, Caterham-Renault
17. Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham-Renault
18. Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes
19. Timo Glock, Marussia-Cosworth
20. Pedro de la Rosa, HRT-Cosworth
21. Narain Karthikeyan, HRT-Cosworth
22. Bruno Senna, Williams-Renault
Ret. Pastor Maldonado, Williams-Renault
Ret. Charles Pic, Marussia-Cosworth