5 of the Most Interesting Radio Messages from 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2016

5 of the Most Interesting Radio Messages from 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix

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    Were it not for his lacklustre start from fourth on the grid, Kimi Raikkonen may have won the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    After the trials and tribulations of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, the 2007 world champion's poor getaway gave Nico Rosberg the breathing space he needed to establish an early lead en route to his second win of the 2016 Formula One season.

    But the extent of Raikkonen's recovery, in what was arguably his most impressive performance since returning to Ferrari in 2014, allowed him to threaten Rosberg in the latter stages, with his team cheering on the Finn as he pursued the Mercedes.

    With a look at Kevin Magnussen's difficulties in overtaking a Manor, Nico Hulkenberg's mistake in qualifying, Romain Grosjean's reaction to Haas' latest surprise result and Felipe Nasr's struggles at Sauber, here are the most interesting team radio messages from Sakhir.

Ferrari Encourage Kimi Raikkonen to Keep Pursuing Nico Rosberg

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    Following their final pit stops for soft-compound tyres on Laps 37 and 39, respectively, Kimi Raikkonen was around five seconds behind Nico Rosberg as the final stint of the Bahrain GP began.

    But despite the Mercedes driver's utter dominance of the race until that point, Ferrari still fancied their chances of claiming their first win since last September, and urged Raikkonen to maintain his pursuit of Rosberg on Lap 41.

    "Rosberg is also on option tyres," reported Raikkonen's race engineer, Dave Greenwood, proving that even in a season when cars can use up to three different tyre compounds over the course of a grand prix, the teams still deal in primes and options. "It's not all over yet, Kimi."

    It did appear to be all over, however, when Rosberg set what would remain the fastest lap of the race on Lap 41, yet Mercedes were still reluctant to celebrate too soon. 

    "So Nico, 15 laps to go," said Tony Ross, Rosberg's race engineer, on Lap 43 as the gap between the leaders remained relatively static. "You're going to the end on this set. Gap to Raikkonen is..."

    "Don't tell me every lap," an agitated Rosberg responded, so close yet so far from extending his career-best run of consecutive victories to five. "Just tell me every four laps or something."

    By Lap 48, as Rosberg benefited from his radio silence, the gap had extended to almost seven seconds, but Ferrari remained hopeful that the race would come their way. 

    "OK Kimi, just keep pushing, keep pushing. Gap to Rosberg is coming down slightly," Greenwood said, presumably distorting the true picture of the race to keep Raikkonen motivated. "It's not over. Remember last year..."

    With that message, it was obvious that Ferrari's plan was to maintain the pressure on Rosberg in the hope he would encounter more brake problems following his issue in the 2015 race, when the German was unable to slow his car for Turn 1 and Raikkonen stole second place on the penultimate lap.

    As Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports' Matthew Morlidge, Rosberg almost retired from the season-opening race in Australia due to overheating brakes, and the team even simulated a brake-duct blockage in free practice in Bahrain, such was their concern over a repeat problem.

    But despite Raikkonen's best efforts and Ferrari's cunning plot, they were forced to settle for second again as Rosberg ultimately won by a comfortable margin of 10 seconds.

Kevin Magnussen Struggles to Pass Pascal Wehrlein's Mercedes-Powered Manor

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    How things change.

    Since arriving on the Formula One grid in Bahrain six years ago, the team currently known as Manor have often fielded mobile chicanes—cars with no hope of scoring points that always fill the back rows of the grid and always finish multiple laps behind the race leaders.

    Only once in their first six seasons did the team register a top-10 finish, and on that occasion—the Monaco Grand Prix of 2014—their ninth-place finish was not so much a function of the car's speed and efficiency as it was a reflection of the sheer determination of Jules Bianchi.

    But now things are different.

    Now they have the Mercedes engine, and Williams-built components, at their disposal. Now they are led by people once employed by McLaren and Ferrari. And now, for the first time since Bianchi left the road on that terrible day at Suzuka, they have a driver capable of doing the impossible.

    While the winter of restructuring has not yet allowed the team to score points on merit, Manor are now at least capable of racing, competing and—as Renault's Kevin Magnussen discovered in Bahrain—frustrating their more glamorous rivals.

    Following his first pit stop for super-soft tyres on Lap 12, Magnussen soon caught up to Pascal Wehrlein, who had retained his soft-compound rubber. But despite his strategic advantage, the Dane—with an inferior powertrain to the Manor—had trouble following Wehrlein closely enough to attempt a pass. 

    "There's no way I'm gonna get past the Manor," Magnussen reported on Lap 24. "It's like a rocket on the straight."

    "OK, understood," came the reply from his race engineer, Chris Richards. "The Manor's like a rocket on the straight, understood."

    Unable to pass Wehrlein on track, Renault relied on strategy and pitted their driver at the end of that lap, allowing him to jump his rival and ultimately finish 11th. 

    But Magnussen's message, on a weekend Wehrlein qualified as high as 16th, proved Manor are no longer as meek and submissive as they once were.

Nico Hulkenberg Makes the Mistake of Putting Force India in Q3

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    From the lack of on-track action at the crescendo of each segment to the excessive emphasis on the countdown clock, there are many negative aspects when it comes to the new elimination-style qualifying format.

    But one of the most disturbing elements is how the system seems to reward—and even encourage—failure.

    Under the previous format, the pain of just missing out on Q3 would be soothed by the consolation prize of allowing those eliminated from Q1 and Q2 to start the race on a tyre compound of their choice.

    But in a season when drivers can use three different compounds in a race, under a qualifying format whereby drivers are eliminated up to ninth place in Q2—as opposed to 11th under the previous format—those who start ninth and 10th can find themselves in a more promising position than those in sixth, seventh and eighth.

    That, in essence, is why Force India were overjoyed after missing out on Q3 in Australia, with Sergio Perez telling the team's official website how ninth place gave him "many more options in terms of the strategy."

    With the qualifying format retained for the Bahrain GP, ninth and 10th were again regarded as the golden positions. But with Perez eliminated from Q1 and Nico Hulkenberg only 11th after the first runs of Q2, Saturday in Sakhir wasn't quite going to plan.

    With his competitors in the pits, Hulkenberg returned to the empty track to improve his time, but proved to be a little too fast for his own good. 

    "Where are we?" the German asked as he returned to the garage.

    "P8, P8," his race engineer, Bradley Joyce, replied.

    "But it's not over yet, is it?" Hulkenberg queried, presumably hoping another driver would relegate him to ninth before the session came to an end.

    "No, that's us through I think," Joyce answered, noticeably deciding against congratulating his driver for improving his time and reaching Q3.

    Rather predictably, Hulkenberg could only manage eighth in Q3 and went on to endure a miserable race—damaging his front wing and limping to 15th—as the driver he relegated to ninth, Romain Grosjean, continued his strong start to 2016.

Romain Grosjean Pays Tribute to Haas After Another Points Finish

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    As noted following the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean's emotional response to his sixth-place finish at Albert Park highlighted how the Frenchman's expectations have altered following his departure from Lotus.

    Rather than viewing Haas as below him in some way, the 10-time podium finisher has totally embraced the challenge of establishing and leading a brand-new team at the very beginning of their journey.

    More than the increasingly impressive performance of the Ferrari-powered VF-16 car, that warm, charming atmosphere has been the defining quality of Haas' start to the season, but it seemed the team were being brought back down to earth at various points during the Bahrain GP weekend.

    Having retired after just nine laps, Esteban Gutierrez endured another difficult weekend and Grosjean himself ran into problems, suffering another front-wing failure in practice and a slow final pit stop in the race.

    But through more determined driving and an adventurous strategy—the No. 8 car spent three of the four stints on the super-soft tyres—Grosjean was celebrating yet again on Sunday evening after crossing the finish line in fifth. 

    "P5, Romain, P5! Amazing job!" exclaimed his race engineer on the slow-down lap.

    "Unbelievable, guys!" yelped Grosjean, his voice again wavering with excitement. "This is the American dream! This is unbelievable! What a great job from all of you! Some places we can improve, but what a job! Guys, I love you! Beautiful!"

    "Amazing drive, Romain, amazing! American dream, you said it. I think you got enough passes in there, brilliant job all race. Amazing."

    "Yeah, I love that car, I love that car," Grosjean added, before a more familiar voice joined the celebrations.

    "Romain, your overtaking was fantastic, thank you very much," said Ayao Komatsu, who was Grosjean's race engineer in the Lotus days and followed him to take up the role of chief race engineer at Haas. "You enjoy that?"

    "Yeah, well I've got brakes this year, that helps!"

    "Nice one."

    On a day his former team, now under the guise of Renault, failed to start the race with one car and struggled to pass a Manor with the other, this was further proof, if needed, that Grosjean has absolutely no regrets about joining Haas.

Felipe Nasr Airs His Frustration with Sauber's Situation

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    Little more than a year after finishing fifth on his F1 debut, Felipe Nasr is rapidly running out of patience with Sauber.

    "I think we have a lot of work ahead of us" was his frank assessment after finishing a distant 15th in Australia, per the team's official website, before expressing his disappointment with the untimely departure of technical director Mark Smith.

    The Brazilian's start to the season did not get any better in Bahrain, where he qualified 22nd—five places and 1.548 seconds behind team-mate Marcus Ericsson—after locking up at Turn 1 on his flying lap.

    As reported by Sky Sports' Ted Kravitz, so upset was Nasr with the handling of his C35 that he pleaded with the team to remove his car from parc ferme after qualifying and make major changes before allowing him to make a fresh start from the pit lane on race day.

    But for whatever reason, the team refused and Nasr was forced to take his place at the very rear of the grid with the same machinery with which he struggled so badly the previous evening, and it took just 31 laps for him to crack.

    "The car is terrible to drive. Very difficult," he sighed desolately.

    While Ericsson has managed Sauber's problems more effectively so far this season, the Swede also appeared to be feeling the strain when he suffered a problem with his dashboard on Lap 46.

    "Are you able to tell me if there's a failure on my dash or not?" he shouted, unsure whether his team were permitted to advise him at a stage when fuel management was critical.

    "Er, there is no failure," reassured the pit wall. "There is no failure, your dash is correct."

    Ericsson's uncertainty only further illustrated how ridiculous the increased team radio restrictions really are. But after a race in which the team's other driver publicly criticised their car, Sauber couldn't be blamed for wanting a complete radio ban to be enforced.

    All team radio quotes, as well as timing and tyre data, sourced from the official F1 websitePirelli Motorsport's infographic on Twitter, the FOM television feed and Sky Sports' television coverage of the Bahrain GP.

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