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GP Week : Issue 199
THE Bahrain Grand Prix looked destined for a reasonably predictable finish as it completed 39 of its 57 laps. The Mercs had been dominant; Lewis had opted for Softs for his second stint, leaving the Mediums for a short run at the end and was 11 seconds up the road from Nico, who’d done the reverse – gone Medium for the middle stint, with grip to come. Lewis looked secure. Back down the road, the scrap looked to be on for third; the Williams pair, Bottas and Massa; the Force India pair, Perez having got the better of Nico Hulkenberg; Alsonso, Vettel, Ricciardo ... they all seemed to be in the mix. Enter Pastor Maldonado. His t-boning of Gutierrez and the subsequent Safety Car brought the race to life. TV simply couldn’t keep an eye on everything that was going on. It seemed logical that Hamilton, committed to Mediums couldn’t really hope to keep Soft-shod Nico at bay. But he did. And it was a massive duel. Lewis displayed a ruthlessness that Nico may not have quite expected. The German was, literally, all but past on two occasions, but Hamilton braved it out and won the game of ‘chicken’ both times. Nico would later say that he couldn’t see Lewis in the ‘blind-spot’ in his mirrors and didn’t know quite where he was. Yes, it was that close. While this 10-lap shootout was going on, further back ... well actually rapidly increasingly further back (yes, that was the Mercedes true pace), the last podium spot was being decided by a literal queue of cars. Perez had got the better of Hulkenberg – an achievement on its own – and eased away, but the late-race threat was to come from a storming Daniel Riccciardo. That was after a strong Jenson Button, fifth, albeit on Mediums, fell back to retire with just two laps to go. Ricciardo took on his team-mate, closing rapidly in, asking for, and being given right of way after a fraught lap or two looking for a way past. The team would later suggest a top-speed ‘issue’ had affected Vettel’s ability to pass and/or defend ... Once clear, though, Ricciardo was able to close in on Hulkenberg’s Medium- shod Force India, which was easily dispatched, and close in on third- placed Perez. A 58th lap might have seen it done, but the Force India recruit had just enough left to hang on. Hulkenberg managed to just keep Vettel at bay, and then the rest followed in , 2x2 – the two Williamses, disappointed to have fallen away in that last stint, and the Ferraris completing the points-scorers, never quite in it all day. Thanks to the extended Safety Car, fuel wasn’t an issue over those final, frantic 10 laps and we got to see the true pace of most of the cars. The diffence between Medium and Soft tyres was less than expected, although noticeable. The one indisputable fact is that Mercedes has all the ingredients. But, as they say, it only takes two to make arace...andwhataraceitwas. 25 GPWEEK.com // 25 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> BAHRAIN PARTNERS: