Well, that was a dramatic race. Unlike last week, when a bet failed due to clear misfortune, this was an evident misjudgement on my part. The Ferraris had been very close to reaching Q3 yet their qualifying performance vanished. Obviously a red bet, bit baffled by the total lack of pace.
Off the line Bottas left the handbrake on and slumped to 6th, Perez climbing to 3rd. Vettel slid down the order, Leclerc improved. All that was overshadowed by Grosjean hitting the barriers and his car bursting into a ball of flames. The impact was such it literally tore the car into two halves. Despite it all, the Frenchman, aided by very prompt arrival of medical staff, was able to leap from the inferno and appears, at this stage, to have suffered only minor burns and possibly a broken rib.
For the third time this year we had a race halted due to a red flag. Seems rather more than usual. The hour or so off allowed drivers to mend broken bits, handy for front wings for a couple of chaps, and slip on some fresh rubber.
It was a grid restart, Vettel again having a poor time of it and going backwards. Bottas ended up with a puncture and had to pit. The front three checked out and drove off.
Further down the order the McLarens set about carving through the field over the laps, whilst Renault drivers squabbled a little and couldn’t match the orange cars for pace. Bottas did get into the points. Just about.
Stroll also DNFed after an unlucky result of contact courtesy of Kvyat tipped his car upside down. This brough out a safety car (for the first time).
The top three were circulating on their own, Perez not able to challenge Hamilton or Verstappen but comfortably ahead of Albon. Until his engine blew up with three laps to go. Terrible luck for the talented Mexican, who so clearly deserves a place in the sport yet may have only two races left in his F1 career. Albon inherited 3rd, but was not especially impressive today.
Hamilton notched up another win. Impressive. But not thrilling. Verstappen got a deserved 2nd, with his team mate 3rd. Norris and Sainz, promoted by Perez’s misfortune, ended up 4th and 5th which is great for McLaren in a tight team race (and correspondingly awful for Racing Point, who had a double DNF that wasn’t the fault of team or drivers). Gasly lucked out with the Perezian safety car as his tyres were shot and he was able to trundle in 6th. He’d driven well, though.
Ricciardo was 7th and Ocon 9th (Bottas between them). Small points, but better than nothing, as Racing Point and Ferrari can attest. Leclerc did nab the final point, which wasn’t exactly deserved but he was next in line when Satan defecated in Perez’s kettle.
Racing Point 154
This contest isn’t over, but it’s looking good for McLaren, and I’m glad I backed them at 3.75 or suchlike. The fact the next race is at the same circuit (albeit a different track layout) may be good news for Racing Point who clearly have good pace, if not good luck, around Bahrain. Barring a major slice of fortune, Renault look like they’re out of it.
Despite Perez DNFing rather than scoring 15 points, he remains very much in the running for the best of the rest driver, and may even still be the likeliest chap to get it. If his engine doesn’t let him down.
Next race is also in Bahrain, less than a week away.