A slightly late start to the F1 season for Compton Grand Prix, unless you’ve been following on Twitter, and a few loose ends to tie up from the season preview that I previously posted. US F1 did not make the grid, the team was closed down and neither of the main protagonists have been available for comment since. Stefan GP were not permitted to take USF1’s grid slot, so ended their partnership with the former Toyota F1 team (seems a shame having seen pictures of the car Toyota had prepared, it looks good) and finally Campos Meta were bought out by one of the shareholders when the team was on the brink of collapse, rebranded as HRT – Hispania Racing Team – and faced a race against time to get two cars to Bahrain.
On to the first Grand Prix of the year held in Bahrain on the 14th March, which unsurprisingly had a Red Bull on Pole Position. A lot has already been said of the dullness of this Race, but for me Bahrain has never been that exciting and should never start the season due to exactly the kind of over reaction we saw in the aftermath of this weekend.
The new teams, Lotus, Virgin and Hispania had quite an interesting weekend Karun Chandhok in the second Hispania car especially so. Having not been able to get his car running in the Practice sessions before the race, his first outing was in the first Qualifying session. Understandably he was well off the pace and qualified last, needing to start the race from the pit lane after further problems he crashed out of the race on Lap two – he amazingly remained upbeat and positive all weekend. Senna was the first to change tyres and had problems finding first gear when he set off from the box. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly he retired on lap 19 with his engine sounding like a box of spanners!
Virgin only managed 12 laps on their longest run before the race, and DiGrassi soon followed Chandhok out of the race unsurprisingly with Hydraulic problems and Timo Glock retired on lap 18 after apparently losing fourth gear.
Lotus actually managed to get both of their cars to the finish of the race, which for a new team only six months old was quite an achievement, maybe running two experienced drivers and having Mike Gascoyne on board was not a bad way to start the resurgence of this legendary F1 brand.
Vettel in the Red Bull and the two Ferraris of Alonso and Massa drove off into the distance early on, with the Mercedes, the McLarens and Webber’s Red Bull seemingly unable to keep up – although in Webber’s case it was more to do with Schumacher’s Mercedes holding him up than a lack of pace. The first of the leading pack to pit was Hamilton, followed by Schumacher and both stops were faultless. Hamilton gained fourth from Rosberg and Button jumped Webber after the rest of the leaders stopped.
After everyone had cycled through their stops the race settled into a less than exciting slog to the line, but one piece of information that didn’t sound too important at the time but with the benefit of hindsight may cause McLaren problems in the future, was that Hamilton’s brakes were overheating less than halfway through the race.
The Excitement started when both Ferraris were told to back off as their engines were overheating, but that was nothing compared to when Vettel suddenly dropped speed and went on the radio to complain of a loss of power, both Ferraris had passed him by the first corner of the next lap (35). Alonso now leading Massa with Hamilton catching Vettel by 5 seconds a lap, and passing on lap 38. That was how the race ended a Ferrari 1-2, followed by Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Schumacher, Button, Webber, Luizzi and Barrichello.
Was I surprised to see Rosberg outpace Schumacher? No. Rosberg has more recent F1 driving experience, and remember that until this year the only F1 team mates he’s had were Webber and Nakajima in a less than impressive Williams package. I think we’re all agreed that Nakajima was never going to set F1 alight and even the Williams Team admit they never got the best out of Webber. So Rosberg has never been challenged by his team mate until now. He’s lifted his game and Schumacher is rusty, plus there were times when Barrichello and Massa both outpaced Schumacher when they were at Ferrari with him. However, Rosberg should have been able to pass Vettel, so why didn’t he?
As for the rest of the race the only real surprise was Lotus getting both cars to the finish and Hispania getting both cars to the start! Not the best race to start the season but certainly not the bore-fest that the media would have the World believe for the two weeks afterwards. Personally I think the F1 season should always start at Albert Park in Australia and that’s where we’re heading off for the next race……..