April 11, 2018

F1 Update!: Bahrain 2018, The Thoughts And Statements Version

Hello everybody!  As we here at F1U! are clearly not able to work on deadlines, we decided to actually talk about the race instead of do a formal writeup..  Cool?  Cool.  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2018 Grand Prix of Bahrain!


*QUICK OVERVIEW: If you were raised on oval racing like you see in NASCAR or at the Indianapolis 500, you'd've watched this race and gone "what the hell was that?"  There wasn't all that much passing and a lot of "gap racing", where drivers were just sort of out in the woods alone.  It may have even happened that you'd've turned the race off after one of the teams so badly screwed up a pit stop that they only changed three wheels.  Not to mention another team having both of their cars die in the space of a couple of laps.  You would have been very, very wrong to do so... this was one of the most exciting races we've seen in a long time if you knew what you were watching.

*1-2-3-4, I DECLARE A TIRE WAR: This race was all about tires.  Ferrari's Seb Vettel, the polesitter, began the race on the super-soft compound, as did Mercedes' Valterri Bottas, starting from third.  Qualifying in fourth but dropped to ninth due to a penalty, the Merc of Lewis Hamilton was clearly going for the obvious one-stopper as he had on the soft tires.  Pirelli had said that the expected life of the super-softs was 25 laps, the softs could go 30, and the medium tires 40 of the 57 lap race.  We here at F1U! expected both Vettel and Bottas to go supersoft-soft-supersoft, or maybe flip the last two.  Meanwhile, Hamilton would probably go soft-medium, as there was evidence that the hardest compound available for the race was fairly good around the track.

Vettel made his first stop on Lap 18, going to the soft tire as predicted.  Mercedes, however, had watched the McLaren of LeMans Alonso very closely when he put on the mediums during his Lap 14 stop.  When that worthy had managed to make good time, and having failed to bring Bottas in before Vettel for the undercut and attempt to pass him in the pits, the team changed plans on the fly and put the Finn on medium tires during his Lap 20 stop.  Hamilton put on the mediums on Lap 27.  This left Vettel and Ferrari in an unenviable position.  While he held the lead, he wasn't able to open up a big enough gap to Bottas to be able to make a second stop and not lose the place... and probably drop to third behind Hamilton as well.  While he'd be on the softest tire, and thus faster, he'd still have to fight for the win from behind.  Getting past Hamilton would be doable, though with effort... but could Vettel then chase down Bottas and get past him to take the lead?  Dubious.  So Ferrari did the only thing they really could do:

They left their man out there, hoping that the soft tires would last nine laps longer than Pirelli said they would.

*EPIC RUN: Vettel had the grip advantage, but couldn't use it without killing his tires.  Mercedes could use their tires to the fullest, but would the slower rubber be fast enough?  For Hamilton, who earlier had passed three cars at one time, the answer was no.  He wound up in third, about seven seconds back.  For Bottas though, the question was still in doubt.  With seven laps to go the Finn was five seconds back. Then it was four.  Three.  Two. As Vettel and Bottas began the final lap, they were within one second of each other, and Bottas could use DRS... and still couldn't get past.  The Merc driver had one last chance going into the final turn.  A daring driver like Smiley Ricciardo, who has made a living out of being the last of the great late brakers, would have had a go.  Bottas made a token effort and backed off, ceding the win to Ferrari.  Vettel later said that the last 10 laps had seen his tires turn into bagels, barely able to grip the tarmac, but he'd made them work for a nicely won race.

*FERRARI FAILURE FRACTURES FRANCESCO'S FIBULA:  The keen-eyed reader might have noticed a disturbing lack of Kimi Raikkonen, who started the race in second for Ferrari, during the above race report.  That's because Ferrari had an awful pitstop for the ages on Lap 35.  Raikkonen did his job, stopping the car in exactly the right spot, the mechanics fell to work, getting three tires changed... but the left-rear tire never came off the car.  Despite this minor detail, the car was released to return to the race... despite mechanics still working on the left-rear tire.  Francesco Cigarini, who is the mechanic that fits the new tire to the car, was in his position waiting for the old tire to come off when the Ferrari pulled away.  The tire snapped his lower left leg in what can only be described as "an ugly way."  Raikkonen made it a few car lengths away before the team told him to stop... nobody knew what sort of state the left-rear tire was in, was it locked down or loose, that sort of thing.  Cigarini underwent emergency surgery shortly after the incident, and his instagram account showed him up and walking with crutches and a medical person for support within 24 hours of the incident.  

While nobody is entirely sure what happened, the prevailing theory is that Ferrari's automated pit release system is based on two factors: is the car off the jacks, and are the four tire nuts on the tire.  Usually this means "have all four tires been removed, new ones put in place and secured?"  This time, though, the conditions were met without the left-rear tire being removed... hey, the nut was on after all!  The FIA fined Ferrari €50000 and an investigation is ongoing.

*RED BULL... REALLY, WHAT THE HELL?:  The team sponsored by the Austrian drink maker went into the race on Sunday feeling pretty good about their chances. Smiley Ricciardo was to begin in fifth, while it was assumed that Embryo Verstappen, starting in 15th due to an accident in quals, would be able to get up among the leaders quickly enough.  Instead, Ricciardo's car just... turned itself off after one lap, forcing him to pull over and retire the car.  At very nearly the same time, Verstappen bumped into Lewis Hamilton, resulting in a puncture.  As he limped his way through almost a full lap, the vibrations from the imbalanced tire assembly were transmitted into the gearbox, which soon went all wonky-doodle.  Both Red Bulls were out within three laps of the race start.  Team boss Christian Horner later described this as "extremely disappointing."

*GHASTLY NEWS:  Toro Rosso was over the moon by the end of the race, as their man Pierre Ghastly brought the Honda-powered car home in fourth place.  The surprising thing is that nobody on the team knew where the speed came from.  We here at F1U! know that we've never heard a team say "we'll have to examine the data to see why we were so fast" before.

Next race is in China this coming Sunday!  See you then.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 01:35 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 1235 words, total size 8 kb.

1 It was pretty exciting! I was on the edge of my seat those last few laps. I did tell Will that if Bot and Ham's positions had been reversed, I think Ham would have had Vet. 
Kevin Magnussen also had a good race. He must have accounted for half the non-Ham overtakes by himself. Finished fifth. I was pleased with that. 

Posted by: Mrs. Will at April 11, 2018 04:33 AM (h8yX6)

2 So, decent driving paired with heavy strategery? Nice.

To the layman, the notion that a team has no idea how they drove so fast is absolutely hilarious.

Posted by: GreyDuck at April 11, 2018 07:27 AM (h8yX6)

3 Heck, I find it absolutely hilarious and I kinda know a little bit about this whole F1 thing.  
When I read that quote, I chuckled out loud... which, since I was sitting in my apartment alone in the dark, is the equivalent of minutes of riotous laughter.
Approximately.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 11, 2018 07:54 AM (h8yX6)

4 I bet there was an all-night nomikai at Honda Racing after Bahrain, too.

Posted by: Ben at April 11, 2018 08:13 AM (h8yX6)

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