Reign In Bahrain
Nico's fifth straight
Words | Richard Kelley
Translate | Thomas Lam
Photo | Thomas Lam
Design | Franco Au-Yeung


Nico Rosberg found a way for his Mercedes W07 to way to bog down less at the start and went on to win the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, and in the process joined a very small club of F1 driver’s who have captured five consecutive Grands Prix (the final three last season, and now the first two races of the 2016 season). Behind the German, teammate Lewis Hamilton was trying to take a different line into and out of the first corner to see if he could get a run on Rosberg going into turn 3 and clearly did not expect Valtteri Bottas to stick his nose in the apex.

The result: Both Bottas and Hamilton lost out in a full contact collision that left both cars damaged but running. Bottas received a drive through penalty and Hamilton dropping down to ninth and having to fight his way back through the field on his way to third place. Their coming together eliminated the chance to have a more exciting fight for the top 3 positions. The drive through for Bottas was a marginal call at best; more of a typical racing incident. As it was, Rosberg led every lap to win by 10.2 seconds over Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, with Hamilton recovering from the collision with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and finishing third.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was fourth and Romain Grosjean fifth. Max Verstappen was sixth for Toro Rosso followed by Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and the Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Bottas. Stoffel Vandoorne finished in 10th to take a point for McLaren in his F1 debut.

Nico Rosberg now has a 17-point advantage in the Drivers’ Championship.

The Streak

Rosberg’s winning streak matches teammate Hamilton’s best ever victory streak in F1. Only Sebastian Vettel (nine) Michael Schumacher (seven), and Alberto Ascari (seven) have won more times consecutively.


The Lagging

As strong as Rosberg has been this season, Hamilton has been disappointing. Twice this season, Hamilton has started from pole position lagged off the line. As a result, twice this season the world champion has found himself struggling to stay with the pack after the first corner. Fourth at Turn One in Australia, Hamilton was extremely lucky to avoid terminal secondary damage to his W07 in Turn One by the remaining 19 cars after being speared by the charging Valtteri Bottas.

The Opportunities

With starts now completely in the hands of the drivers and their ability to set their clutch bite points on race day, the results add a welcome anticipation for mixing things up and providing more action to watch on lap1.

The Mystery

Ferrari seems to be much nearer to Mercedes pace, but two mysterious engine failures (Raikkonen’s flambeau in Melbourne and Vettel’s smoky failure during the warm-up lap in Bahrain) make the true picture murky. Will Shanghai be the first full Mercedes versus Ferrari shootout of the season? And what is the real race pace of either team? Rosberg running in maintenance mode at the end of Bahrain allowed Kimi Raikkonen to close within 10 seconds. They were just a half-second apart in qualifying. of the victorious Rosberg on race day, but the German was in cruise control all afternoon and half a second separated the two front-running teams in qualifying.


The Rookie Debut

Stoffel Vandoorne was more than ready to replace the injured Fernando Alonso and proved it by clearly getting a point for McLaren. The reigning GP2 champion out-qualified teammate Jenson Button on Saturday and cooly went on to run a picture perfect. debut. A big talent here, and certainly a threat to take over a McLaren seat in 2017.

The Story in the Making

While the racing gods usually conjure a way to spoil even the best stories, once again, newcomer Haas F1 car in the hands of Romain Grosjean, was a highlight of the race. Finishing an impressive 5th using two new sets of supersoft tyres was a masterstroke of aggressive strategy.

Over the winter, Grosjean’s decision flee to Lotus – even with Renault set to take over the team and turn into their own full works outfit – brought the French driver nothing but muffled laughs from the pundits. Now, two Grands Prix into 2016, Grosjean has 18 points, versus none for Renault.

With Haas serving as Ferrari’s B team, and Grosjean’s driving at his peak, his future might look exceedingly red; by midseason, Ferrari might begin to make overtures to replace Kimi Raikkonen for 2017 and Grosjean will be perfectly placed.


The Return I

Daniel Riccardo had a brilliant 2014 season but slipped down the order last season as the Red Bull soap opera took the wind out of the teams sales. His is back to his old self in 2016. A fighting fourth in Melbourne and another fourth in Bahrain has completely eclipsed his teammate Daniil Kvyat in qualifying.

The Return II

After turning the airwaves blue with his frustrated rants during the Australian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen returned to turning his rivals red in Bahrain. The mature-ace-in-the-body-of-a-teenager returned to his bold style to capture sixth place as Verstappen aggressive overtaking made up four positions from 10th on the grid. His points for Toro Rosso were the team’s first-ever points in Bahrain in 10 years of trying.