Last time out we thought the New Qualifying format was done and dusted. We were wrong. That particular squabble seems only to have begun. Politics has a terrible habit of getting in the way of a good thing.
It’s hard to say “ignore it” but look past the qualifying impasse and there is some great positives already to this season. With the absence of Fernando Alonso, on the track at least, Stoffel Vandoorne made his F1 debut this weekend and the young McLaren protégé did not disappoint, scoring points on his debut.
— Stoffel Vandoorne (@svandoorne) April 3, 2016
In the battle for supremacy at the front of the grid it was advantage Rosberg. Undeterred by losing out to Hamilton in qualifying the German made a clear getaway in Turn 1 as Bottas dived up the inside of Lewis, who either didn’t see him or didn’t think he’d be there, at which point Hamilton would struggle with a damaged car for the rest of the race.
At least he made the start. Vettel could only watch from the sidelines as his Scuderia Ferrari trailed plumes of smoke on the warm up lap. Game over then for Ferrari? No, because this time Kimi would be the sole Maranello Man to fight the Mercedes, taking an impressive P2 in the process, aided by the blunted Silver Arrows of Hamilton.
Outside of the Podium positions, Daniel Ricciardo seems to be cementing his place as “Best of the rest” with another P4 for Red Bull, followed by a startlingly fast Romain Grosjean in the HAAS Ferrari. I say startling because most commentators had put the Frenchman’s P6 in Australia down to good tactical manoeuvring rather than outright pace. “It wouldn’t happen again” They were right. He went one better.
So impressive has been the pace of HAAS that Mark Gallagher (@_markgallaher) labelled it “The age of the B Teams”
“General feeling among many in the paddock is that the HAAS performances will cause Force India, Sauber & Manor to rethink business model. Building your own car no longer makes sense. The age of B Teams is upon us.”
Two wins from two races in 2016 for Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, using a three-stop strategy in Bahrain that alternated stints on the P Zero Red supersoft with P Zero Yellow soft: exactly the same strategy used by Kimi Raikkonen, who was second for Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton finished third after using the medium tyre for his second stint, following contact with Bottas at the start. In total, there were nine different strategies used throughout the top 10, including a two-stopper for Williams driver Felipe Massa.
Paul Hembery: Pirelli motorsport director: “We’re only in the second race of the 2016 tyre regulations but already we’re seeing a massive variety of strategies throughout the field, as we particularly expected to be the case this weekend. Tyre strategy started already in qualifying, as we saw from Romain Grosjean who made the most of his starting position to score more points. Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen finished just 10 seconds apart at the finish, using exactly the same strategy as each other. As well as the performance of the softer compounds, the adaptability of the product was demonstrated by Felipe Massa, who completed the race with just two pit stops despite the high wear and degradation traditionally associated with the Sakhir track.”
Truthometer: We predicted a three-stop strategy as being fastest, starting on supersoft and then switching to soft on laps 14, 29 and 43. Rosberg made his stops on laps 13, 30 and 39, but rather than using the supersoft to start and then three stints on the soft, he used the supersoft and the soft on alternate stints.