Hamilton Conjures Up Bahrain GP Victory in The Face of Red Bull Onslaught
During the Mercedes period of domination in Formula One Red Bull have argued that if they had an engine comparable with the Mercedes power unit they would walk all over the championship. They all always have the best chassis courtsey of design-engineering genius Adrian Newey. Honda has spared nothing to develop the most powerful engine on the grid for the 2021 season. And Max Verstappen is the best driver on the grid, many say better than Lewis Hamilton. The FIA even chipped in to help by tweaking the 2021 regulations to effectively favour Red Bull. With all their resources and reliance on data-driven development Red Bull didn’t factor in the “Hamilton anomaly”. It takes more than mere boastful statements and statistical analysis to defeat Sir Lewis Hamilton as Red Bull found out in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Verstappen secured pole position with a dominant performance translating into a half-second advantage over Hamilton’s Mercedes. But the race played out differently. Verstappen and Hamilton pulled away from the field and for the first 14 laps Hamilton kept within 1-2 seconds of Verstappen. By pitting early Hamilton used the undercut to gain the lead. Red Bull stayed out a little longer than planned which allowed Hamilton to increase his advantage. It seemed as though Hamilton had the race in the bag.
When Verstappen pitted on lap 18 it seemed game over for Red Bull. However with a tyre advantage Verstappen closed the gap and Red Bull was back in the hunt. Hamilton pitted for new tyres on lap 29 and the race ultimately came down to the last 16 laps. By then Hamilton was on 10 lap older tyres as Verstappen switched to a fresh set of tyres on lap 40. Verstappen duly closed up as Hamilton’s tyres began to fade. A tense standoff followed as Verstappen closed in. Hamilton momentarily buckled under pressure but manged to quickly regain composure. But on ten lap older tyres Hamilton could not fend off Verstappen who took the lead on lap 53 with a daring overtake going into turn 4. But the Red Bull driver went wide, too wide for the race directors liking and was forced to hand back the lead to Hamilton.
Even at this point it seemed as though Verstappen would easily retake the lead such was his tyre advantage. But he got a little bit scrappy behind Hamilton which drained the remaining life from his tyres and thereafter could do nothing to overhaul Hamilton. But at the same time Hamilton cleverly managed to find time in the last two corners which negated Verstappen’s ability to tow and attack on the main straight. This combined with tenacity and a great deal of natural ability allowed Hamilton to take victory against the odds.
We now know, after one race, this championship will be a close battle between Verstappen and Hamilton. The Red Bull Honda is the better car. And Verstappen is the faster driver by virtue of having natural raw speed and that faster car. But Hamilton instinctively made the correct decisions at the correct moment. Verstappen chose to go wide at turn four, Hamilton didn’t squeeze him off the track. When the racing is this close, it comes down to the finer details in the heat of the battle. It’s about nothing more than old-fashioned temperament.
Hamilton’s victory in Bahrain will hurt Verstappen who will wake up the next morning and thereafter with the Bahrain GP slipping through his fingers continually in his thoughts. And it will dent his confidence in the short term. Going forward Verstappen’s mindset and thinking will be, even with the best car, what does it take to beat Sir Lewis Hamilton.
2021 Bahrain Grand Prix Race Results:
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||56||+0.745s||18|
|4||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Mercedes||56||+46.466s||12|
|5||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||56||+52.047s||10|
|7||3||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren Mercedes||56||+66.004s||6|
|9||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri Honda||56||+85.692s||2|
|10||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes||56||+86.713s||1|
|11||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||56||+88.864s||0|
|12||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|13||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||55||+1 lap||0|
|14||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||55||+1 lap||0|
|15||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Mercedes||55||+1 lap||0|
|16||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||55||+1 lap||0|
|17||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||52||DNF||0|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||51||DNF||0|
|NC||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||32||DNF||0|
|NC||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas Ferrari||0||DNF||0|
Note – Bottas scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Vettel received a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision.