Best race of the season, and Hamilton wasn’t there

Rate The Race and Driver of The Weekend. Race 16, Sakhir Outer Circuit, Bahrain, 2020

Mean Reader Score:  8.47  Rated  1 /16 Races so far this season

The second race in Bahrain was thrilling but again, not necessarily for the right reasons, certainly not the ones we were expecting. Scoring 8.47 this is the highest score this circuit has achieved since we started rating races in F1.

It is higher than the 2019 score of 8.08, and also the scores of 8.17, 7.08, 7.06, 6.95 and 6.16  at this venue for the F1 circuit. (This is the first F1 race at this circuit using the outer circuit layout.) 

 

With Hamilton having to sit this one out due to Covid-19, and Bottas taking pole ahead of Hamilton’s replacement, Russel, (Mr Saturday, on loan from Williams), it looked as if it could be ‘anyone’s race (i.e. Verstappen’s). Verstappen (who beat Bottas here last weekend) qualified ahead of Leclerc (who took pole here last year) and Perez who has been driving well, even if Lady Luck has not been on his side: Things were looking pretty good for Verstappen. It was not to be, though because, within seconds of the start, three of the main contenders (Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez) had collided (with Leclerc picking up a three-place grid penalty for causing it).

 

Verstappen and Leclerc retired, while Perez limped back to the pits for new tyres. Meanwhile, Russel had stormed into the lead and was heading off into the distance. (as Hamilton’s salary for 2021 took a nosedive?). Anyway, it was a thrilling and entertaining race, with a couple of safety cars, a couple of unnecessary pit stops due to a tyre mix up and drivers either receiving a wrong set of tyres, or their original tyres back again, brakes were on fire,  drivers were ‘showing their emotions’ and Perez made his way from the back of the field to the front to take his maiden win after a mere 190 F1 starts (lifting that particular world record from Mark Webber).

 

Driver of the Weekend: George Russell, 58.40% of Reader Vote

Being a Mercedes reserve driver means nothing these days, as Stoffel Vandoorne was overlooked for the drive of his life (Hamilton’s Mercedes World Championship-winning car). George Russel, however, was not. Having never scored a point in his F1 career, Russell was handed the dream ticket to drive Hamilton’s car this weekend, and boy did he make the most of this opportunity.

 

Being several inches taller than Hamilton, he did not fit into the fastest car on the track very well: he wore boots that were one size too small, had a steering wheel which was not his size and generally made the best of a bad fit. BUT he had a whole weekend to familiarise himself with this world record beating car.

On the formation lap he was still asking ‘what does this button do’ before setting off and whooshing into the lead before the first corner. He managed the first re-start very well, and kept the lead, only losing it on the pit stop and then regaining it when Bottas pitted.

 

All seemed to be going well for young Russel until disaster struck the very car he had vacated in order to drive the Mercedes. Atkins clipped a marshal’s station and took off the front wing of the Williams, prompting the second safety car of the session.

Not surprisingly, many cars took advantage of this, and the Mercedes had to double-stack in the pits. Well, I don’t think I have ever witnessed a shambles of the proportions that followed in the Mercedes pitlane: They appeared to fit Russel’s new tyres ok and he was in-and-out in no time while a patient Bottas waited his turn. O.M.G. The kerfuffle that ensued was unbelievable.

They took off Bottas’ old tyres, couldn’t find his new ones, meanwhile his front left brake burst into flames before they decided to put his old tyres back on again and sent him on his way. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they then recalled Russel, telling him they had fitted Bottas’ tyres to his car (which is why they had been unable to find them when Bottas needed them).

 

Russell then had to return to the pits, have a second change of tyres (his own this time), before emerging behind his teammate. Not deterred, Russell then cut a swathe through the fied, getting himself back into P2, when he was told he would have to pit AGAIN as he had developed a slow puncture. Well, to cut a long story short, he finished in P9  behind Bottas, but he did secure the Fastest Lap award, taking his F1 points tally to a whopping three! Well done George!!

@F1TheaJ

 

 

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