The detailed review of the weekend right here:
Last of the season start fly away race was underway, still under political crisis but in a better condition than last year. Before the race, Pirelli made the change in tyres allocation adding hard instead of soft. Expectedly in the middle of desert the hot temperature rose to the occasion as Massa lead the session with Alonso making it Ferrari 1-2 and Rosberg rounded off at P3. SFI were already looking a class apart at least in terms of the midfield battle as Di Resta clocked for P5 time and Sutil ending at P8. What more, Di Resta was P2 in S1 time list while both Sutil & Di Resta were in the top 10 of S1, S2 & S3 time along with the Speed Trap.
The weather was different in the desert, cloudy and cooler than in the morning. Yes, rain was on cards for the day but thankfully not during the session. This session saw a little change in the top runners as Kimi came back to take P1 with Webber in his 200th GP in P2 & Vettel in P3. SFI continued their consistency as Di Resta once again ended at P5, Sutil rounded off at P9. The long run pace which they practiced during the session almost matched with those of Lotus & Ferrari, certainly looked pretty good at that time. They were in the top of S2, S3 time and in Speed Trap as well.
The tight battle continued in Bahrain as the top 12 were all under a second gap of themselves. Everyone was trying hard to gain those few tenths to get ahead of their rivals. Alonso took the battle in his hands as he topped the session with Vettel in P2 & Webber P3. SFI continued their good run with full optimism of a really good show in qualifying and race as Sutil ended at P7 & Di Resta P8. Sutil also topped the S1 time during the session as once again both the drivers finished in top 10 of S1, S2, S3 time & in the Speed Trap.
The pole battle was looking pretty tricky with as many as 4 teams vying for the position. The upper hand was with Red Bull, Ferrari clearly but there was no way that one could count out Lotus & Mercedes. Unlike a no-show or low show in China, here the top 10 battle was one to watch out for. As for SFI, I was certain that both drivers will make it to Q3 without much problems, such was the confidence and pace. Anything below Q3 would have been a disappointment clearly.
The first session for a change gave us some action with teams undecided that which could be the best tyres to go out. The field was divided with some opting for hard and rest all going for medium. Alonso set the initial pace with Vettel at P2 & Rosberg P3. Both the SFI made it comfortably in Q2 without needing much run on those mediums. The closeness in times came to a new high as both Bottas & Maldonado clocking the same time but unfortunate for Maldonado as he bowed out due to setting it after Bottas. Along with him, Estaben went out with the two Caterham’s & Marussia’s. Pic edged out the Marussia for the first time in the improved Caterham.
The action intensified in the second session as 6 teams majorly eyed 10 places for the top 10 shootout. Vettel ended P1 with Rosberg yet again surprising at P2 and Webber at P3. The session also saw a celebration from Button just to get into the top 10, pretty unusual that while both the SFI made the cut safely as was expected from them. With them in, it meant there was no place for Grosjean & Perez, the two weak links in a way in the two big teams. Any ways, it should be noted that for the time this season both SFI made it to top 10 for qualifying.
Unlike China, teams did come out early to set times giving the indication of them going for two runs. They were on the used set of tyres, used in Q2 but they got things started. Rosberg set the pace initially and Vettel replied to his time but it wasn’t enough falling short by few tenths. Rosberg had other ideas though as he bettered his best to go even ahead and take the pole. Vettel rounded off at P2 with Alonso ditching his last run and settled for P3. SFI completed their best qualifying session of the season, Di Resta qualified at P7 & Sutil at P8 (both expected to move up due to penalties).
After what was looking like Vettel taking yet another pole, Rosberg surprised many there with the pole. The most interesting strategy, which seemed a gamble really was from Ferrari & Massa to go on hard tyres. With the penalties to Hamilton & Webber, both Di Resta & Sutil moved up two places to be at P5 & P6 locking the third row of the grid. I was hopeful of a strong point finish for both. As for podium, was always keeping my fingers crossed.
One couldn’t have expected the race to turn out to be this could at the start, many believed it to be a bore fest on the track but then it seems like the drivers had some other ideas heading out to race. It was always going to be tough for Rosberg to keep the place with Vettel & Alonso behind but the way Rosberg lost places at the start, it was not a great sight for the Mercedes fans. In reality I was a bit taken a back with that as well. Vettel by the third lap took the lead and was then comfortably ahead of Di Resta who too moved up quickly after Alonso suffered a DRS failure and twice had to pit in a span of two laps diminishing his chances of getting anywhere near to win or perhaps podium. Sutil meanwhile got a terrible start as he got hit by Massa, suffering a puncture and falling behind the pack.
Vettel started to take a big lead ahead in the field as the speed of Red Bull seemed untouchable. Behind him it was all to play for, we were seeing something unusual from the drivers as they were fighting like anything to stay ahead of their rivals. The McLaren drivers were in the league of their own as Button & Perez fought like Tom & Jerry and was good to see the team letting them to. I feel Perez was quicker there though a bit rough as well, perhaps he was trying too much. Kimi & Grosjean in all the fight were slowly getting ahead of the field as they positioned them for a possible podium finish. Behind Pic was driving well to stay ahead of the Marussia’s, showing improvement in that Caterham.
Di Resta after having a great start was driving superbly behind Vettel at the start and even driving at the lead as Vettel pitted. Once again a SFI car was leading a race, second time for Di Resta. It was clear that he was on a two stopper, he had the pace and tyre performance to do that surely. Also what played in his hands was others in front of him pitting as he lined up after his pit stop, it saved time & tyre performance. Sutil on the other hand was all salvaging down in the latter half of the top 20. He fell so far behind that it was a bit difficult for him to quickly pass the slow runners. By mid race he managed to pass all the slow runners.
By the end of the race, Vettel was walking to victory one could say. He had no real pressure, only a pit stop mistake and a car failure at that time would have stopped him from winning. And he won comfortably, behind him Kimi lined up well as the last podium place went to Grosjean after a late surge from him on the medium tyres. The P5 to P10 battle was quite a scrappy one as everyone were quite closely stacked, Hamilton salvaged a lot for Mercedes as he & Perez overtook Webber on the last lap to finish P5 & P6. Alonso was very brave finishing P8 after having a DRS failure in the start, he surely drove all he had. Think Pic was the best of the runners among the new team, Caterham got their act running finally this season.
Di Resta in the end had to content with P4, equalling his best finish. I think he was on the right strategy, it was just the pace wasn’t there in the end to beat the 3 stopper Grosjean who lined up well in the medium tyres to get the last podium place. Sutil ended P13 but set the second fastest lap of the race, while recovering, it was good to see that he finished ahead of Ricciardo, Massa & Bottas and was pretty close to get ahead of Hulkenberg. Throughout the race, he was matching with speed of the front runners. 12 points in the kitty leading to the European part, the team must be happy with the efforts. With 26 points in four races and P5 in CC ahead of McLaren, it has been a good start for the team at least better than what they previously had. Di Resta is sitting at P8 ahead of the likes of Rosberg & Button while Sutil having had some tough races sits at P12. VJM06 is fast and reliable and so the it looks quite good for them for the coming races.
The first races have been quite good for the 2013 season, sets up nicely for the European races. Both the
championship is all to play for, Vettel & RBR enjoy a good lead but anything can happen in the race. With Kimi & Lotus showing some consistent runs, they may turn out to be the challengers to RBR. We now head for another long break before the next race in Barcelona. Stay safe, see you at the other side of Spanish GP.
Thanks for reading,