Despite the Ferrari win at Shanghai a few weeks ago, things were back to normal at the Malaysian Grand Prix last Sunday with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg taking yet another Mercedes one-two ahead of the Ferrari drivers.
Will things be the same at Bahrain? Raja Sen looks to the front — by looking at what we’ve learnt.
1. Ferrari aren’t just a flash in the pan
Despite what the Mercedes team and supporters desperately want to believe, Ferrari is looking very strong on race pace — with both their drivers consistently setting purple sector times through various stages of the race — and they’re going to make sure Mercedes stay on their toes all year. Mercedes has a healthy lead right now, sure, but by the time the European leg of the season kicks off in June, Ferrari might have more than caught up.
2. Kimi and Nico need to up their qualifying pace
Kimi Raikkonen has spoken about how he still has “unfinished business in Formula One” and Nico Rosberg has been more than antsy about his craving to outdo his teammate Lewis Hamilton, but as of now both drivers need to do the job on Saturday and start on the grid ahead of their teammates. There’s no dirty air once you’re out in front, boys, because right now both of you are coming perilously close to becoming your team’s Coulthards: or, as Mark Webber would say, “the Number Twos.”
3. The hot races will be the fun ones this year, so Bahrain should be… interesting
It’s hot races like Malaysia that will kill the Pirelli tyres and close up the field this year, leading to more unpredictable and strategically challenging races. We could see new winners, whimsical pitlane calls, heroically long stints on worn out tyres, and those sharp rookies showing up the veterans around them. Bahrain will be hot but the sun will relent during racetime and throw up less of a direct glare on the track, leading to a relatively cooler track. Which means race conditions that are, thanks to the uncertainty right now, anything but lukewarm.
4. Sauber might beat Red Bull this season
Armed with the same engine as the Ferrari team, the Swiss F1 team has started the season wonderfully. Drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr have kept their noses mostly clean and, at this stage, look more comfortable during a race then Christian Horner’s grid-dominating Red Bull team who used to be all powerful not very long ago. Manisha Kaltenborn is doing a terrific job running Peter Sauber’s team, and it would be great to see these formerly scrappy tailenders earn a podium or two this season.
5. This is the best we’ve seen Lewis Hamilton drive
Nico Rosberg can complain all he likes about strategy; the point is that Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes is beginning to look like the widest car on track. In Shanghai Lewis drove a flawless race, tight on the curves, consistent on the racing line, slow when he strategically needed to be and fast enough to make sure he was never, ever close to being threatened. Last year Mercedes looked to have two drivers tussling for the lead; now Lewis looks to be in a different league, flying well out of Nico’s DRS range. Ferrari might up their game and Lewis may well have more of an uphill climb in the second half of this season, but as a driver he’s never looked better or more assured. Shine on.