|F1 Bahrain GP| 2021 race analysis:
Red Bull ‘binned’ Max Verstappen’s win
The Verstappen-Hamilton duel and the limits of the track rule in Bahrain.
“Mercedes did it every lap”
There was no shortage of controversy after the F1 Bahrain GP about the limits of the track. Verstappen mystery, Hamilton wins by losing. If Verstappen was forced to relinquish his position after crossing the white line in overtaking Hamilton, hamilton often took advantage of the area beyond the curb on the lap. Red Bull has called for more clarity from the FIA.
First GP of the season and first controversy. F1 2021 in Bahrain started with a bang both on and off the track. Verstappen’s overtaking of Hamilton, with the Dutch driver being then invited from his pit to give up his position to the Briton, to avoid a penalty, is a source of debate. The commissioners could have punished the red bull’s 23-year-old’s manoeuvre that ended up off the track on the way out of Turn 4. But why Hamilton was actually allowed to take advantage of that escape route several times at that point (29 times)?
Michael Masi, F1’s race director, answered questions about an alleged unequal treatment, dispelling any doubts.
“It was clearly mentioned in the pilot’s briefing and it was also stated in the ‘event notes’ that we do not monitor violations if it is just lap time. But it has always been clear and the regulations state that no lasting benefit should be obtained.”
“It wasn’t about exceeding the ‘track limits’ per se, it was about getting a position. If the team had not returned, I would have had to refer the matter to the commissioners and they would have decided what sanction would have been appropriate. A time penalty is usually applied.”
Analysis of the race: Bahrain GP 2021.
The Milton Keynes team comes out of this race not fully satisfied that despite having the fastest car failed to take Verstappen to the top step of the podium. If Hamilton comes out of this first stage of the world championship with morale skyrocketing, the same cannot be said for Bottas who has never been able to keep up with the world champion either in qualifying or even in the race. The Finn contributed to Lewis’ success especially in the first part of the race but on this aspect we will go into more detail during the analysis of the highlights.
That it was a “pro Red Bull” track is also understood from the race of Perez who started from the bottom of the grid managed to recover finishing in fifth place.
Excellent start also for the Mercedes-powered McLaren who after some rather disappointing qualifying managed to finish in fourth place with Lando Norris showing that he has the potential to play the role of third force with Ferrari.
Ferrari finished sixth with Leclerc and eighth with debutant Carlos Sainz. For monegasque it was impossible to collect a better result despite a very good start and good tire management.
Noteworthy is Tsunoda‘s excellent Formula 1 debut, which managed to give Alpha Tauri two precious points. The top ten is completed by Stroll’s Aston Martin.
Fernando Alonso‘s return to F1 was positive and he managed to stay in the centre-back fight until the rear brakes held up. The Spanish driver was forced to retire due to a sandwich wrapping paper that got stuck inside the rear brake duct.
Which was the key moment of the race?
Hard to find a crucial moment in such a compelling race. The highlights that were decisive for the final result were essentially three. Two of these were in Hamilton’s favour while, in the third, he certainly benefited Verstappen’s Red Bull. Let us analyse them in detail. Hamilton built his victory in the first stint of the race when he managed to keep verstappen’s pace despite a less competitive car. At this stage the Dutch driver has not been able to build an advantage that will protect him from a possible undercut by the English driver. In fact, thanks to the early pit stop, Hamilton managed to take the lead of the race. Bottas was also very helpful at this stage and “pitting” a few rounds later forced Verstappen to shorten the stint.
An imperfect strategy for Red Bull.
Verstappen with new medium tires recovered rather quickly the gap that Hamilton had built by exploiting his new hard ones. The British driver’s tyres had a rather rapid degradation and this was probably due to the very first laps where the British driver really asked so much of his tyres. For this reason, the Mercedes team was forced to anticipate the second stop in order to be able to protect themselves from a possible Red Bull undercut. At this stage having two machines in the head fight was a great advantage for the Anglo-German team although, the mistake during Bottas’ pit stop, could have cost Hamilton the victory. The Finnish driver was called back to the pits to force Verstappen to an early pit stop. This would allow Hamilton to duel in the final stages of the race with a Red Bull with tires with a similar degradation. But Bottas‘ very long pit stop disrupted the plans and Red Bull was able to postpone the stop by giving Verstappen new tyres in the final race.
“Why couldn’t you just let me go?” I could’ve easily pulled the five seconds. I prefer we lose a win like that than be second like this.”
Verstappen’s move and the race direction.
In this third stint Hamilton took a different approach than the previous one because he had to keep them so that he could get to the checkered flag. After the pit, Verstappen, in just twelve laps, managed to recover the disadvantage on the world champion and also had the chance to overtake him but had to, later, return the position for completing the overtaking with the four wheels off the white line. After this attack, Verstappen had no chance to attack the British driver. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner explained the team had been given no option by race control.
“We had the instruction from race control unfortunately, Max,” said Horner over Verstappen’s radio channel. “But that was a hell of a drive you put on there.”
How was the Ferrari race?
The SF21 is undoubtedly one step ahead of the 2020 single-seater. This year’s car can fight in the center of the group and if well developed it can fight for third place in the constructors’ standings. There is no chance of getting into the head fight because Mercedes and Red Bull still have too big an advantage especially in race conditions. After Leclerc’s fourth place in qualifying, it was necessary to settle for sixth place in the race with Sainz finishing in eighth position. This is not a bad result given how much the SF1000 suffered a few months ago on this track.
The words of the driver: interviews after F1 Bahrain GP 2021.
Valtteri Bottas :
“We wasted a lot of time in the slow pit stop otherwise it would have been a race fought, for my part, with Red Bull. The cars were close enough but if you lose 10 seconds like that you will never get them back, racing against Max and Lewis. On a personal level it is not a rewarding performance but at least we have brought points to the team. The choice to stop at the last was useful and well-stocked, in order to get the bonus point of the fastest lap.”
“I am reasonably satisfied with our race: it is a good start, with positive sensations. Clearly you can’t be happy for a sixth position but if we look at where we were last season on this track I would say the progress is evident.”
“We certainly made some great strides today, but obviously it’s a shame we didn’t win. We had to deal with more than a few problems during the race, we have to understand why, but there are positives, however, to be taken from today and from all weekend. The Mercedes opted for the undercut, but we stuck to our strategy, which was working, but the problem with these cars is that overtaking is really difficult, especially from that position. As soon as I was able to get closer to Lewis I knew I had only one try and I went off the track in turn four, so I put the position back on, but then the tires were no longer in good shape so I could still put pressure on Lewis. Mercedes did it every lap.”
“A solid race. For me today it was important to complete all 56 laps and become familiar with the machine. That’s also why This time I preferred not to take too many risks on the first lap, and unfortunately it cost me a couple of positions. I wanted to understand how the car would behave in the wake, and I knew that once I found my rhythm I would have some opportunity to go back further.”
“Surely stopping early we knew we were going to face difficulties but we had to defend ourselves against Max and keep the first position. They were very good all weekend and you really had to do something extraordinary to be able to beat Red Bull today and win. We looked for the right balance between pushing hard and saving tires by the end of the race.”
“The car behaves on the track as we expected and I must say that this, compared to last year, was thefirst step forward. This is the basis on which to build next year’s developments and car. In terms of working methodology and tools in Maranello we have certainly made improvements and, therefore, the qualification was not a surprise, but a good starting point. Red Bull and Mercedes are stronger single-seater today than we are and fighting for the podium becomes difficult unless something happens between them. We can definitely fight to be the third force in the Constructors’ Championship”.
“We didn’t think we could get to the end, our plan was to get 5 or 6 laps from the conclusion and then try to get the car to port. This time God has been on our side.”
“Congratulations to Mercedes, they had a great race. They have a great car, they pushed us to the limit and at one point we thought they made 3 stops. It was a great race despite the problem blamed from the beginning of the race. Unfortunately he managed to get past Hamilton, but going wide in turn 4 and there was an instruction to return the position, which he did immediately. We hope to be able to give Mercedes and Hamilton a hard time.”
Race results. Our marks to the drivers.
C. Leclerc: Very good qualifying results by setting P4 on Saturday. The problems of Ferrari on race pace aren’t solved, but an improvement from the awful 2020 has been made . Final Mark: 6.5/10.
C. Sainz: Acceptable qualifying results as first weekend with Maranello. During the race he confirms to be a consistent driver, very important for constructor’s championship. Final Mark: 6.5/10.
L. Hamilton: The 7-time World Champion becomes a little boring when listing the potential problems his Mercedes has. However it’s the usual psychological trick he does. His win comes more from Red Bull and Verstappen incapability. Final Mark: 7.5/10.
V. Bottas: The season is new, but Valtteri is the same of the past years, a perfect ‘Barrichello’. Final Mark: 6/10.
F. Alonso : The old lion ‘roars’ again. His performance is far superior than the one of Ocon. However, the bad luck continues to follow him and he retires because of technical problem. Final Mark: 7/10.
S. Vettel: His race debut with Aston Martin has to be forgotten. Smashed by the performance of the teammate and finishes his race with a strange crash. Final Mark: 4.5/10.
M. Verstappen: Weekend practically perfect for him till Saturday. On the race, the strategy harms his race lead. Anyway he manages to overcome Hamilton. He should have given the position back in a more cunning way in order to lose less time. Final Mark: 7.5/10.