Bahrain 2012: Race Roundup

Bahrain 2012: Race Roundup


  • First time since 1983 4 different cars have won the first 4 races
  • Grosjean is the first French driver since Jean Alesi in 1998 to be on the podium.
  • Vettel, Raikkonen, Grosjean and Webber made it a Renault engine 1-2-3-4 following from Mercedes’ 1-2-3 in China. Last time this happened was in the Luxembourg GP 1997
  • This is now the 8th time out of 9 Lewis Hamilton has started P2 alongside Vettel and not won the race. The only time he did was in Abu Dhabi 2011, when Vettel had a tyre failure just after the first corner. Lewis then led, took command of and won the race.

Interesting Race Notes

  • Red Bull had the two fastest pit stops in the race today, when they double stopped Webber and Vettel during the same lap for their second stops.
  • Eric Boullier was bullish when asked if Raikkonen would have passed Vettel had Grosjean let him past a lap earlier and said they were no team orders at all. Grosjean decided whether and if to let Kimi past.
  • Renault reckons the reason Raikkonen had pace over Vettel in the first two stints was because he was running fresh, new tyres compared to Vettel’s used tyres. On the last stint, when both Vettel and Kimi went to a fresh set of medium tyres, the Red Bull’s apparent pace advantage allowed Vettel to safely pull away.
  • Button had a problem with the exhaust, then a tyre puncture and finally had a differential failure to end his race a couple of laps to the end.

  • Felipe Massa came P8 & scored 2 points today and became the last driver from outside the “3 new teams” to score points. He finished just 7 seconds off Alonso, good set up in performance from him.
  • Paul Di Resta was the only driver to make a 2 stop strategy work. It turned out to be very close though, he said to the team that in Turn 8 on the last corner he “lost grip incredibly” hitting the “cliff” of tyre performance. He managed to just hold off Alonso by less than a car lenghts worth to finish a fantastic P6 on a difficult weekend for Force India.
  • Maldonado had a puncture when he spun going onto the kerb at Turn 2. He later retired due to damaged sustained from the punctured tyre.
  • First time this year neither Sauber drivers scored a point.
  • Kimi Raikkonen was back to his 2003-2005 best and was disappointed to have not overtaken Vettel at “the one chance he had”.
  • Niether of Rosberg’s incidents have been penalised. I cover this more further down in the article.
  • In a season where McLaren is believed to have the fastest car, Vettel and Red Bull lead the championships going into the European leg of the season. It’s not all doom and gloom with that news however, McLaren are just behind and Lewis Hamilton’s consistency could prove crucial for the championship result.

Pit Lane Team Radio Highlights

2012 F1 Bahrain Grand Prix Pit Channel Team… by Mattzel89

These are highlights of the messages on the pit lane feed, lots of which haven’t been broadcast on the world

What happened to McLaren (Negative)?

McLaren had two significant, worrying issues during the race -

(1) Pitstop nightmare: All 3 of Hamilton’s stops. The reason behind all of them was a cross threaded wheel nut on the left rear tyre. Note it was a left rear tyre issue in China for Button too that took away his chance to challenge Nico for victory. Hamilton’s first stop saw Button, Alonso and Webber overtake him. His second stop was even longer whilst his third stop was comparatively better at 5.4 seconds.

McLaren have said they’ll thoroughly investigate the issues they’re having. Lewis Hamilton was calm in the post race interview but did say “with pit stop problems we threw away crucial championship points”. For the second stop, McLaren did actually try a different mechanic on the left rear with the same result. Martin Whitmarsh said that they had a “captive wheelnut” system in development. In that system the wheelnut is embedded into the tyre itself. It was pioneered by Mercedes in 2010, who use the system in their DTM series. Ferrari have adapted this system this year to have the fastest stop his year so far. Whitmarsh was cautious about it however, saying it had it’s fair share of issues too.

(2) Tyre Issues and lack of pace: Their bigger issue in the race however was a distinct lack of pace compared to the Red Bulls are Lotus cars (Lotii?). The track temperature today was significantly cooler than yesterday in qualifying where McLaren was strong and they believe it played a crucial part. The Pirelli tyres this year especially narrow “range of operation”. McLaren couldn’t hit that today, similar to Mercedes and McLaren in Malaysia.

Neither driver was happy with the balance of the car. During the stints both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were complaining of their rear tyres fading away and thus having a lack of grip. Button revealed after the race they kept removing front wing to improve the balance. It got better, hence the better pace after the 2nd stop but by then it was far too late.

What happened to Red Bull (positive)?

Why were Vettel and Red Bull so fast this weekend? The reason Red Bull had such an improvement this weekend is thought to be down to a new exhaust and redesigned sidepods. They’ve gone for a downwash system covered here in detail that resembles the Sauber and McLaren system.

Christian Horner said the exhaust was a further evolution of the system in place for Webber in China. He said that it was Adrian Newey’s idea in China to run the vastly different systems in China to get vital information regarding the car’s rear area and behaviour. They then analysed the data over the week to come up with this system in Bahrain which is a significant step forward.

I tweeted on Friday (please ignore my poor grammar using ‘more happy’ instead of ‘happier’) that the Red Bull was looking a lot better, more akin to it’s behaviour in the last two years where it appeared to be glued to the circuit. The middle sector is the only high downforce segment of the circuit and the Red Bull drivers were indeed 1-2 fastest in qualifying in that sector.

There’s a bit more I believe to it than simple technical upgrades. Having a fast car alone is not enough, as Lotus have shown before this weekend, unable to extract the potential of the car. When the car has the downforce, the drivers can push it to the limits with more confidence. Vettel especially is more comfortable carrying speed into the corners. We’ve seen with Nico Rosbergin China how in a super tight field just how much of a difference driver performance can make and I believe that was a super lap from the double world champion to stick it on pole.

Rosberg Incidents & Force India Blackout

To finish notes, here is a brilliant tweet from Alonso regarding the decisions made on the two moves Rosberg made. I’ve linked you to the official steward’s report explaining their reasoning for not penalising Rosberg for either but as Alonso cheekily points out, a penalty was necessary to send the right message across that this sort of behaviour on track is not encouraged.

Rosberg-Hamilton incident.

Rosbeg-Alonso incident

There was also a paddock understanding this week that Force India was not shown on the FOM world feed in qualifying as a “payback” for them missing FP2.

EliGP from Autosport tweeted this picture which made me laugh.

Jake Humphrey’s “You’re Sexy and You It”

Jake Humphrey and Gary Anderson for BBC F1 left their microphones during the Q2 and Q3 session. The session was not broadcast live but incredibly, footage of it has ended up on the internet. Watch and smile/laugh, it’s priceless!

  • Kiril Varbanov

    Nice summation of the show, mate, as well as the facts – most of the time I find the numbers fascinating.