In another race dominated by the Mercedes team, Formula 1 has surpassed itself yet again, following a race more full of excitement and saturated with unpredictability than anything we have seen this side of the V10 era.
The duel in the desert netted Hamilton another victory; this time in a far closer battle with his teammate than we saw a week before. Hamilton was able to open up an early lead and looked set for a victory, until the safety car was brought out, closing up the pack and giving Rosberg the advantage following his tyre change, giving him the superior rubber. What followed will undoubtedly rank as one of the defining moments of the 2014 season, and quite possibly as a notable highlight of the modern era; half an hour of ruthless aggression – a dozen laps of pure racing.
The two Mercedes team mates proved why they should be considered as two of the highest level drivers of the entire grid as they battled wheel to wheel for lap after lap, despite a questionable radio message from Paddy Lowe – one of the team’s senior trio. The message was perceived by some to be a team order, instructing Hamilton & Rosberg to maintain their positions rather than fight as risk a collision. The championship contenders did no such thing; the two traded positions several times, with Rosberg proving quicker, but Hamilton however, was able to convey his phenomenal racecraft by demonstrating aggressive-defensive manoeuvres that would make even his emphatic heroes Senna and Schumacher proud. Rosberg meanwhile, seemed slightly more cautious despite appearing to be the aggressor of the two, perhaps costing him the win. One must ask themselves, if the roles had been reversed, would Hamilton have successfully passed Rosberg and taken the win? In my opinion he would have done – just.
Amid this star studded race, others also shone equally as bright; the Force India drivers being the most notable of whom. Hulkenberg, following an unlucky qualifying, found himself
uncharacteristically behind his team mate and absent from the top 10. Resultantly, he was given little chance of a respectable finish from spectators and critics, yet he was able to race the wheels off of his Force India, often mixing it up against world champions (most notably Fernando Alonso, whom Hulkenberg appears to be making a habit of bothering this season) and running the majority of the race in 3rd – the only podium position achievable if the pilot’s car is not a particular shade of silver. Perez, his team mate, began the weekend with the intention of staggering Hulkenberg’s inter-team dominance and managed to qualify 5th and carry this momentum into the race. Perez was overall slightly quieter on-track than his team mate, until the safety car parked up. Perez bulldozed past his team mate to take 3rd and more impressively, managed to hold off the faster Red Bull of Ricciardo for the luxury of standing on the desert’s podium.
The Force India drivers did well to finish 3rd and 5th – but not spectacularly; their car appears to be unusually competitive as of late, and was referred to as Mercedes’ ‘closest’ threat throughout the weekend. The babyfaced drivers therefore simply put the cars more or less where they belonged. What makes their performances impressive was the fact they were able to deliver their results against world champion rivals in machinery of near-identical pace, doing so by giving world champion-quality performances of their own, despite still being the youngsters on the grid. If Perez and Hulkenberg can deliver such results with consistency, however, I will be more impressed.
In conclusion, Bahrain was dominated by two, but won by several. The Force India drivers established themselves as genuine threats to the likes of red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren – despite their careers still being in their early stages. Hulkenberg raced more aggressively and was gutsy – proving furthermore just how much of a quality racing driver he is, and how bright his future is, and in my eyes, performed marginally more impressively than his team mate Perez has however succeeded in proving the Force India team battle will be far from a German whitewash. The silver arrows were once again in a class of their own – both drivers managed to extend their dominance at a scarcely believable 3 seconds a lap from those contending 3rd. In short, Rosberg was the quicker racer, Hamilton was the better racer.
Drivers of the weekend:
1st – Hamilton
2nd – Rosberg
3rd – Hulkenberg