2015 Bahrain Grand Prix Review
Formula One rolled into Bahrain with a Ferrari splitting the Mercedes pair in the Drivers' Championship. Raikkonen received a reprimand in FP2 for illegally exiting the pit lane, Hamilton escaping the same as he was only following the Ferrari's lead. The weekend also marked Button's 100th race for McLaren, starting badly with a car failure in FP1 and another in FP2.
Raikkonen was the first car on track, immediately locking up into the first corner. He set a 1:36.7, then pitted for new tyres. Bottas set a 1:36.2 before Rosberg got a 1:35.6 on the board. Nobody was really pushing at this stage though. Massa and Hamilton both went behind their teammates – Hamilton having never had pole at Sakhir in 8 attempts.
Button left the pits and again parked on track, leaving him 20th and last on the grid. Alonso's first lap was good enough for a provisional 9th place, just to compound the 2009 champion's woes.
Rosberg went back out despite being on provisional pole, running the softer tyres. He was warned not to ruin them as they would be needed later in the weekend.
Maldonado fell 16th ahead of Maldonado, while Stevens beat Merhi to 18th. Button was indeed 20th, while Alonso managed to get his McLaren out of Q1 for the first time this year.
Perez fell 11th in Q2, Nasr 12th, Ericsson 13th, Alonso 14th and Verstappen 15th.
The first times in Q3 saw Hamilton and Rosberg split by Ricciardo, Bottas and Massa sandwiching both Ferraris behind. Grosjean sat 8th, Sainz coming out a bit late for his first run – which he aborted after running wide – while Hulkenberg only ran once. Ricciardo then opened the second set of runs. He stayed 2nd, Hulkenberg initially going 5th. Vettel stole provisional pole, demoting them both. Bottas then took 2nd, down to 3rd as Raikkonen beat him. Rosberg fell short of Vettel, while Hamilton demolished the field for pole again and his first ever 4th pole in a row. Williams ended up on a row 3 lockout, Ricciardo ahead of Hulkenberg and Sainz leading Grosjean on row 5.
An agreement for 2017 onwards was hammered out over the weekend, giving way to 1000BHP V6 engines in place of the current machines. Apparently this would include twin turbos and a few spec aero parts, along with a wider raft of changes to aero rules to make the cars innovative, better looking and harder to drive.
Jenson Button received the news with about 20 minutes to go that an electrical glitch in the ERS was unsafe and would therefore stop him making the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix, leaving only 19 cars on the grid for the second time this season.
Massa failed to get the car off the line on the formation lap, starting from the pits. Meanwhile Sainz was given a 5-second penalty for exceeding the maximum time for the reconnaissance laps.
Hamilton led from both Ferraris and Rosberg off the line, Bottas 5th and Ricciardo 6th. Maldonado gained a place on the first lap but ran wide repeatedly with what looked like a braking issue, though he recovered quickly. Massa meanwhile jumped Manor and Kvyat, lining up the driver he replaced at Williams. Maldonado was then put under investigation for being out of position on the grid – stopping a row before he should have done after the formation lap and compromising Stevens who was also a row behind where he should have been. A 5-second penalty was given to the Lotus.
Rosberg threw a banzai move up the inside of Raikkonen on lap 4, re-taking 3rd place.
Verstappen pitted for a new nose but oddly was stationary for 17.4 seconds.
Another banzai move on a Ferrari saw Rosberg take 2nd from Vettel, leaving a Silver Arrows 1-2. Nico was then told he would be driving beyond the target in-lap.
Vettel pitted on lap 13, taking a second set of softs despite Maldonado setting the fastest lap on mediums. Rosberg made the first move to pit for Mercedes, only a lap after the Ferrari which cleared him on his return to the track – partly thanks to there being almost a second between them in their stationary times. Hamilton was in on the following lap, also taking the softs. Raikkonen stayed out, assuming the lead by default. Rosberg nearly ran into the back of Hamilton while clearing Vettel once again. Hamilton was another half-second slower in the pits than his teammate, leaving Rosberg in DRS now.
Raikkonen finally pitted on lap 18, taking mediums rather than softs unlike his teammate and the Mercedes pair. The Finn retained 4th ahead of compatriot Bottas.
Ericsson's second stop was a disaster thanks to a sticky wheelnut on the left front corner. Other stops seemed fairly routine, although Massa, Nasr and a Lotus all went very close to each other on release from their respective boxes.
Sainz' Toro Rosso left the pits and parked, becoming the first actual retirement of the race. The left front wheel seemed not to be attached, although it seemed not to be an issue until turn 8 of his out-lap. Verstappen was pulled into the garage shortly afterwards for yet another DNF beyond his control.
Vettel pitted for an extra stop, calling for a new front wing and also taking on another set of mediums. He fell behind Bottas, while Raikkonen was yet to make his second stop. Alonso unlapped himself against the Finn who then pitted from a slender lead on lap 40.
Maldonado pitted, Lotus not rushing to get him back on track as he reported, as he had all weekend, some sort of problem with the engine. He did eventually go back on track, but it seemed his competitive laps were over.
Vettel was struggling to get past Bottas, the Williams barely hanging onto the best non-podium position. Williams seemed to think the danger from the 4-time champion was “minimal”. Ricciardo was later told he wasn't yet out of luck against the warring pair as he closed in 6th. Vettel definitely seemed to have some sort of mechanical problem with the car, as he nearly wiped his front wing out against Bottas' left rear wheel.
Hamilton was told Rosberg was being attacked by Raikkonen, presumably Rosberg not getting any messages at all since he shouted at the team for giving him the gap to the lead Ferrari.
Massa dropped behind Kvyat in the fight for 9th, the Williams seeming a little low on power – unless Massa's enthusiasm was low after his near-DNS.
Rosberg maintained his lead over Raikkonen through the backmarkers, only to run wide at turn 1 on lap 56 of 57 and lose out to the Finn. Once again a Ferrari just breezed past the number 6 car – this time a brake-by-wire issue hampering both Mercedes cars on the last couple of laps. One more lap would have seen a Raikkonen victory.
Hamilton won from Raikkonen, Rosberg, Bottas, Vettel, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Perez, Kvyat and Massa completed the top 10. Alonso, Nasr, Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Maldonado, Stevens and Merhi completed the field. Verstappen and Sainz both retired, while Button of course didn't make the grid.