25/04/2012

Bahrain GP, Sakhir- All well that ends well, victory is sweet


There was tension all around at the start of the weekend in Bahrain with some on-going protests, even to the extent that two teams personnel were caught in “isolated” incidents. But in the end the race went off well and it was yet another spectacle on the track. Vettel took his first win of the 2012 season bring Red Bull back in contention while the Lotus duo secured a double podium finish with Kimi at P2 & Grosjean at P3.

The detailed report of the whole weekend along with my thoughts right here:

Practice Session, FP1:

The lead up to first session was quite tensed, not for the on-field action but off the field actions happening in Bahrain. There was little news of teams, drivers but more about the happenings. Unfortunately, few members of Sahara Force India were at the wrong place at the wrong time as they were held up between a fight of the protesters and police. The team were all shaken up by the incident and so two members were allowed to leave for home. Anyways, moving on to the track action, Force India enjoyed a good run in the first session as they tried both the soft & medium tyres, doing the FP2 share of run. Di Resta ended at P3 while Hulkenberg at P6. The initial pace was looking good for the team. Hamilton ended at P1 while Vettel at P2. Karthikeyan ended at P24, doing some good laps.

FP2:

Even the lead up to the second session was a tensed one as towards the end of FP1, there were signs that Force India won’t take part in the second session and there were meetings going on inside the garage with F1 supremo Bernie himself negotiating with the team. But they had made their mind and so they didn’t run in FP2 at all, a brave move but maybe was unnecessary. But we should respect a team’s decision. Over at the track, Rosberg brought Mercedes to the top, ending at P1 while Red Bull duo took P2 (Webber) & P3 (Vettel). RBR were looking quite strong after a slow start. Karthikeyan ended up at P22, getting more mileage under his belt in the HRT.

FP3:

The weather was hot & humid as was Friday, maybe a welcome change after three somewhat rainy races. But again some teams like the wet conditions and some the dry, weather too can’t please everyone. Rosberg maintained the top position, continuing from FP2 while Red Bull duo interchanged their positions as Vettel ended at P2 & Webber at P3. After missing out FP2, SFI were back and had some more work to do, it was tough there as they mostly ran the medium tyres, Paul ended at P15 & Hulkenberg at P19. Karthikeyan ended at P24 but improved from FP1 & FP2.

As expected a tight qualifying session awaited once again in the super season. Clearly, Red Bull were looking very strong along with Mercedes & McLaren. A 3 way pole battle was surely on, Q3 was going to be great. SFI had mixed sessions but were looking better than the last races and were in a good position to get into Q3. I was expecting a double Q3 as the pace was there, perhaps even for one lap. And surely, Karthikeyan would finish under the 107% time.

Qualifying, Q1:

We always thought that Q3 is the exciting part of qualifying and Q2 somewhat but this season even Q1 comes with it’s share of excitement and dramas. Schumi was the shocker in Q1 to get out along with Vergne (again) as Kovalainen in his Caterham,  for the first time in this season made it through to Q2. Schumi had a DRS issue and couldn’t come back for a second run. But Hamilton & Button too had a scare as they were close to be relegated. Both the SFI’s with their late run made it through to Q2 comfortably, they along with others used up a set of soft tyres. Karthikeyan qualified at P24, well inside the 107% time. Perez ended at P1 while Ricciardo at P2 & Webber at P3 in Q1.

Q2:

We were not yet done with some late dramas, as we saw Kimi bowing out in Q2 as he opted to do only a single run. It was close and a tight session in the end as seven-tenth of a second covered P1-P14. Hamilton ended at P1, Rosberg at P2 & Grosjean at P3. Maldonado didn’t run due to KERS problem thus gave Caterham a solid P16. Kimi was bumped down after late runs from Perez & his teammate Grosjean. Di Resta made it to Q3 with a superb lap (though they were invisible on TV, throughout the qualifying session), thus giving SFI their first Q3 of the season. Hulk said he encountered some problems on his last run otherwise he was looking all set to make it to Q3, thus ended at P13.

Q3:

A relatively slow start to the session as Hamilton set the benchmark with most of the field choosing to do just a single run towards the end. Everyone was gearing up for Rosberg’s run but he could only manage a P5. While late surge from both the Red Bull’s proved more than beneficial as Vettel got his & the team’s first pole of the season. Hamilton ended at P2 while Webber rounded off at P3. A surprise was Ricciardo at P6, a good run by in the STR. Di Resta did go out in the mediums but didn’t complete a lap, thereby ending at P10.

Another qualifying done and dusted, another good show put up. RBR finally got their act together and got a pole. Rosberg would surely rue the opportunity though post qualifying, they said they were better positioned for a race win. As for SFI, it was really good to see (on paper) Di Resta getting through to Q3, their pace was looking good compared to other races. Biggest disappointment was by FOM who chose not show SFI cars during qualifying due to perhaps them missing out in FP2, whatever it was that was childish by FOM.

Raceday:

Till now the weekend had been full of dramas on the track and off the track as well. Force India were involved in most of the news throughout. But thankfully, there were no major incidents as security was tight in Bahrain. Surely, many of the team members wanted the race to get over soon, so that they get back home soon. Coming back to the raceday, it was hot as usual but the start was a bit cool as it rained the humid weather. All eyes were on the track as Vettel led the field in the first corner safely with Hamilton giving him immense pressure. But behind them it was all Lotus really as both Grosjean & Kimi made a superb start gaining lots of places. Ricciardo being the biggest loser as he consistently lost places and went out of Top 10. Back of the field Schumi too made a good start. SFI had mixed start yet again as Di Resta moved ahead, Hulkenberg went back as he faced a clutch problem at the start line.

Vettel was not challenged much during the race, only once by Kimi which he rued post race of not being able to overtake. The McLarens suffered a setback due to poor pit stops and they lost out to fight for a win. Rosberg was involved in two similar incidents, one with Hamilton & other with Alonso but wasn’t given any penalty post race. His team mate was busy fighting with at the tail end of Top 10 for the final championship point. Lotus were on serious charge as one by one both the team mates were overtaking other to get into the Top 3, even to the extent that Kimi overtook his team mate for P2. They had some serious pace and it took everyone by surprise really. Alonso & Massa had similar kind of races but yet again Alonso was ahead of Massa fighting for some vital points keeping the McLarens behind. Lower down Sauber, Williams, STR were a bit struggling to be inside the Top 10 while Petrov led the lower teams battle.

Over at SFI, it was looking all good for Di Resta as he went for a 2 stop strategy while the rest of field were on 3 stop. After first round of pit stops, he was leading the race. It was first for him while second time for the team after Spa 2009. He provided us with the best overtaking move of the race, when he overtook both Maldonado & Perez together at T1, certainly opportunistic yet amazing. From then on it was all looking after the tyres, towards the end Rosberg overtook him as he was on fresher tyres and had bit more speed. Due to Button’s DNF, Di Resta got some respite. While over to Hulkenberg, once again a problem at start compromised his race and with the field so close, it is difficult to come through ahead. But he did pretty well to gain some position towards the end portions. His race was pretty lonely.

Vettel got a comfortable lead in the end and made it home safely at P1 staying some 3.3s ahead of Kimi. This was Vettel’s first win in this season, also first win for the team in 2012. We now have four different winners from 4 races and four different championship leaders. Both the returnees at Lotus got their first podium as Kimi ended at P2 & Grosjean at P3. They got their answer to Twitter hash tag #WhereIsMyPodium. Webber ended at P4, for the 4th time this season. Di Resta held on to P6 as Alonso put immense pressure on him but it was quite a run by Di Resta. Hulkenberg ended at P12, not far off from P10 but he was comfortably ahead of P13. Karthikeyan was enjoying his battle with his team mate De La Rosa as he ended at P21, only 0.5 seconds behind Rosa.

 It was another thriller of a race and we got a new winner. It is going to be some season. A good race in the end for SFI, also they continued with some good pit stops time. Di Resta drove under immense pressure and Hulkenberg gave his all. This closes their battle with Sauber & Williams. The in-season testing at Mugello is one to watch out for as teams bring updates. A round of applause for the Bahraini’s as all the teams, drivers, journos safely returned back. There were problems in the country but it wasn’t so much that we all were hearing about. As I gave the headline, “All well that ends well” and that pretty much sums it up. We now have a 3 week break where we will have the in-season testing. Next up will be Spanish GP, till then drive well and take care!! 

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