With the next Formula 1 Grand Prix just around the corner at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, otherwise known as Imola, TJ13 reflects on the previous race in Bahrain and reveals the reader scores for both the driver of the weekend poll, and how the race was received with scores out of 10.
Race 1, Sakhir International F1 Race Circuit, Bahrain, 2021
Mean Reader Score: 8.11 Rated 1 /1 Races so far this season
Once again, Bahrain held our attention, being the best (and only) race of the season so far. Not quite as high as the 8.17 from 2018, but considerably higher than last year’s 6.16, and slightly higher than the 8.08, 7.08, 7.06 and 6.95 of the previous four years.
Carrying on the momentum from the end of 2020, it was Verstappen, not Hamilton who took pole. This year’s kerfuffle at the beginning of the race, thankfully, was nowhere near as dramatic as the first lap of last year’s race when Romain Grosjean had that horrible crash and emerged like a phoenix from the flames of his burning Hass.
Not that it tells us much, but Verstappen was the fastest in all three practice sessions. He did appear to damage the floor of his Red Bull in Q1 and Hamilton was faster than him for the first time over the weekend in Q2. (Although the fastest times of Q2 were set by the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc)
Verstappen took provisional pole on his first run of Q3, and put in three purple sectors on his second run, securing real pole for the first race of the season.
This promised to be an almighty battle between Verstappen and Hamilton and it didn’t disappoint. Slugging it out after the first (and second) re-start, Verstappen kept the lead
Having tried and failed to overtake Leclerc on lap 8, Norris managed the feat much more easily the following lap to take P4.
Hamilton pitted on lap 13 to try to undercut Verstappen. Red Bull, however, ignored this and kept Verstappen out until Lap 17, by which time the second Mercedes of Bottas had also pitted. This strategy did not work in Verstappen’s favour as he emerged in P2, behind Hamilton.
Hamilton pitted again onto another set of hard tyres (didn’t have any mediums left) giving the lead to Verstappen once more. With 16 laps to go, Verstappen pitted onto Hard tyres and was in P2, not very far at all behind Hamilton, on the same compound tyre (but much newer) and it was all to play for.
Four laps later Ocon spun off track as he was hit from behind by Vettel, who was the only driver on a one stop strategy, with hard tyres which had done 25(ish) laps, seven fewer than Ocon.
On lap 51 Hamilton made a costly mistake, ran wide, and gave Verstappen the chance he was looking for, allowing him into DRS range, (eventually).
Two laps later, Verstappen tried to overtake Hamilton into turn 1, but Hamilton managed to hold place, until forcing Verstappen wide at turn 4, Verstappen swooped past to take the lead. The only problem with this was that Verstappen left the track to do so and had to give the place back, which he did, almost immediately.
This was game over for Verstappen, as he tried (and failed) one last time to take the lead into turn four of the last lap. It was not to be, and Hamilton added yet another win to his already record breaking , haul BUT will he manage his eighth WDC?
Driver of The Weekend: Sergio Perez 40.6% of Reader Vote
Qualifying just outside the top ten, Perez, having stalled on the formation lap, forced the race to be reduced by one lap, as a second formation lap ensued. Perez started the race from the pit lane.
As if that wasn’t enough delay, Mazepan spun off at turn 3 and caused the first safety car of the race which had Perez back into the pits for a swift tyre change (medium to medium).
One lap into the restart, Mick Schumacher brought out the second safety car by also spinning off track. By Lap 40, Perez had cut a swathe through the field and was into P8, eventually finishing in P5, giving Red Bull a total of 28 points for the race.
Looks as if Mercedes may not have such an easy time of it this year?
But, for the vote Sergio Perez drive with his new team clinched the reader vote away from Lewis Hamilton. Perhaps we’ll see more from this not so young Mexican this season?