Pierre Gasly

Bottas supreme in season opener

ausgp-bottas.png

Valtteri Bottas claimed a surprise victory in Australia, with Mercedes showing unexpected post-testing pace, while Max Verstappen edged out the Ferraris to round out the podium.

Despite claiming pole position, Lewis Hamilton made a poor start and fell to P2, before sustaining some damage to his floor that affected his overall pace. After an early pitstop from Ferrari, Hamilton was brought in to cover off a potential under-cut, but with a long second stint ahead of him the potential to challenge for the win quickly faded.

Ferrari seemed to be caught off-guard by Mercedes’ pace, mostly scrapping with each other more than those around them. At the first turn, Leclerc found himself on the outside of Vettel and ran wide, before recovering in the middle phase of the race to be on his teammate’s tail. After asking the team whether he should attack or hold position, he was instructed to fall back. This brings into question Ferrari’s claim that the two are “free to race”, considering team orders were imposed without the championship, or even a race victory, at stake.

Red Bull rounded out the podium with a strong showing from Max Verstappen, delivering Honda’s first F1 podium in 11 years. Pierre Gasly however disappointed during qualifying, being eliminated in Q1, and struggled to make his way through the midfield. Following a pitstop for Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat, it looked like Gasly might jump into the points after emerging ahead of the junior team driver. But a determined Kvyat reclaimed P10 and held off Gasly to claim the final points paying position, justify his reinstatement but causing headaches for Gasly.

Haas showed that their performance during testing was genuine, easily out-pacing their nearest rival Renault. Despite a retirement for Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen delivered a strong haul of points.

Daniel Ricciardo in particular suffered from the home-race curse on debut for Renault. After being forced onto the grass at the start and bouncing over uneven ground, he emerged without a front wing. Pitting for a new nose left him at the rear of the field with almost no hope of points.

Despite the indignation upon it’s introduction, the battle for the Fastest Lap bonus point proved noteworthy. Max Verstappen claimed the Fastest Lap in the late phase of the race as he closed the gap to Hamilton ahead of him, but Bottas snatched the accolade with a blistering lap that denied all challengers any chance.

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner admitted that they were considering pitting Gasly as a sacrifice in the attempt to deny the Mercedes drivers the bonus point. By claiming the Fastest Lap, Gasly would not have been eligible for the point as he didn’t finish within the top 10, but it would have robbed the front-runners. Ferrari also had a chance to pit Leclerc (and if they wanted to also Vettel) to try to claim the extra point, but decided against it, a decision they are reviewing post-race.

In what Bottas called his “best race ever”, he leaves with the odd stat of having the greatest points lead in F1 history over the next driver after round 1. Interestingly, 26 points isn’t the greatest number awarded in a race, that honour going to Lewis Hamilton who claimed all 50 points on offer when double points were available in Abu Dhabi for the final round of the 2014 season.

Bahrain GP: Winners and Losers

gasly.png

It might not have delivered the spectacle of 2014, but the Bahrain Grand Prix had something for everyone, with spectacular overtakes (Hamilton's triple overtake being one of the highlights), underdog performances, and a scrappy battle for the lead that went right to the wire. 

Winners

  • Pierre Gasly... I mean, is this even a question? The frenchman totally bossed it during qualifying to put in "the lap of his life", lined up alongside the front-runners, held his own during the race and finished with Toro Rosso's equal highest result ever, the best result for Red Bull from the race, and even found time to throw shade at Fernando Alonso! 
  • Sebastian Vettel is right up there if Gasly isn't your cup of tea. By his own admission his tyres were "dead" for the last 10 laps and he held off the attack from Bottas like the true champion talent he is. If Bahrain is anything to go by, though, Vettel might win the championship despite Ferrari's strategy calls, rather than because of it.
  • Marcus (Sony) Ericsson ended a run of pointless (hehe) drives that runs back to 2015. His effort leaves only Williams without any points in the constructors' championship after only two rounds. Never mind that for his entire career he still has more penalty points than championship points, it's party time for the Swede, Bahrain style (i.e. let the rose water flow!).

(Honorable mention for the Ferrari mechanic.)

Losers

  • Max Verstappen made a questionable defending move on Lewis Hamilton in the opening laps that back-fired massively. Left with a puncture and destroyed differential, he took himself out of contention, and added to his run of cold form in 2018.
  • The Hamilton/Verstappen spat gained attention when a question during the post-race interviews sent Vettel (yeah, Vettel) into a tizzy, defending the drivers' right to react like a human being and show emotion. Leaving the racing incident aside, it's only fair for a journalist to ask a driver about an incident that affected their race, having said that we need to ensure we don't sanitise the sport too much. 
  • F1's gender pay gap, figures showing that women working in F1 earn between 17 and 27 per cent less than men across Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes. Despite Claire Williams' protestation that "what counts is that women and men earn the same pay for the same job", it's also clear that there aren't enough women across the board, and especially in senior positions, throughout the paddock. 

Vote for your Driver of the Day

Have your say for DOTD from the Bahrain GP

Malaysia GP: Winners and Losers

crash-malaysia.jpg

Winners

  • Sebastian Vettel stormed from last to P4, but if that isn't enough to convince you, just imagine what he could have done for the championship if he'd won with Kimi and Verstappen behind! Only his sheepish challenge on Ricciardo near the end of the race dampened his achievement. 
  • Max Verstappen celebrated his 20th birthday in style with an unlikely win. You know taking the lead isn't expected when the commentators almost ignore that you're pressuring Hamilton and almost miss the overtake completely. Takes his 2nd victory, both of which came the week after Daniil Kvyat was demoted.
  • Red Bull are back in the damned hunt, who knew? With Mercedes suddenly off the pace in Malaysia, could they do enough to keep Hamilton off a podium or two and bring Vettel back in to championship contention? Wild. 

Losers

  • Lance Stroll avoided any penalty but won't be too popular around the Ferrari garage after lurching sideways to pick up rubber on the cool down lap and destroying Vettel's rear end. With Vettel likely to take a gear-box penalty in Japan this weekend, i'd say Lance owes him a beer or two.
  • Romain Grosjean cemented his reputation as a whinger once again this race, although it seems the teams are encouraging their drivers to complain vociferously these days, so who knows?
  • FOM race feed director's focusing on Verstappen's family. His sisters' face is burned into my retinas forever.

Have your say

Tell us your Malaysia GP Driver of the Day