Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Two Races, Two Wins For Rosberg In 2016 With Bahrain Grand Prix Victory

The 1st of a 21-race long 2016 Formula 1 season calender, last month's Australian Grand Prix provided the initial event for revised vehicles, new driver pairing and updated rules. Following the opening round, the pace of the Mercedes AMG seemed to remain a constant for the third year of the row. While the team appears to maintain its dominance, we're noticing a changing of the guard has been underway deciding the lead archer in the Silver Arrows organization.

Since clinching the world championship last season at the United States Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has been consistently upstaged by teammate Nico Rosberg. Sweeping the final three races of the 2015 season, Rosberg started 2016 off by racing the win down-under. Arriving at the 13-turn, 5.412-kilometer Bahrain International Circuit, a track where Hamilton had won the previous two races, the three-time world champion was looking to cool the fires behind his German teammate. Taking the pole in qualifying, the second race of the season provided Lewis Hamilton the chance to equal himself with Rosberg at the start of this young season.

Before he lights went out to initiate the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, two former Formula 1 World Championships running as regulars on this year's tour were not part of the starting grid. McLaren's Fernando Alonso was forced to the sidelines of this weekend's race due to medical concerns existing from his frightening crash in the Grand Prix of Australia. Substituting for the Spaniard driver in the Honda powered McLaren race car was Stoffel Vandoorne. Additionally, just minutes before the race's start, Sebastian Vettel's chance at a podium went up with smoke. On the warm-up lap, the Ferrari of Vettel suffered a terminal engine issue leaving the third-place starting car unable to contend. Sebastian Vettel was joined by Renault's Jolyon Palmer who was also unable complete a lap on Sunday. Vettel and Alonso combined to post five wins of the previous nine grand prix races in Bahrain.

With two Mercedes AMG race cars sitting on the front row, the five lights at ahead of the start/finish line turned off unleashed the field for 57 laps around the Bahrain International Circuit in a dusk race that transitions rapidly into night time. For a second straight race, Lewis Hamilton failed to launch at the beginning of the race. The so-so start for the pole-sitting Mercedes AMG car was compounded when Valtteri Bottas' Williams-Mercedes (having launched from 6th place into the top-three ahead of the first corner) made contact with Hamilton. While the impact between the two cars left no race-ending damage for either machine, Lewis Hamilton did ultimately fall to seventh place by the first lap. Falling the incident, the Formula 1 stewards issued a penalty to Valtteri Bottas for avoidable contact on lap 9.

Contrary to his teammate's lousy start, Nico Rosberg pulled out to a comfortable lead early in the Bahrain Grand Prix. By the race's 5th lap, Rosberg held a six-second lead over the second place car of Felipe Massa. The second place position in the event was deputed after some early pit stops. The sole remaining Scuderia Ferrari entrant driven by Kimi Raikkonen would pass Massa's Williams-Mercedes car and the Red Bull-TAG Heuer vehicle of Daniel Ricciardo. Felipe Massa would drop out of podium contention early foiling the second best chance for the Williams Martini Racing to grab an early top-3 in the opening of the 2016 season.

Surprising the Formula 1 world two weeks earlier by claiming points in the debut race for the Haas F1 Team, Romain Grosjean continued to show strength at Bahrain. For a brief period of time, Grosjean took the Ferrari-powered race car to the fourth place position. In just the second race of the 2016 Formula 1 season, the parity of vehicles in the middle of the field have revealed a wide-open competition among the established and new team structures.

Having fallen into the middle of the field after starting the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix at the front, Lewis Hamilton spent the first-half of the event reclaiming ground. The #44 Mercedes AMG of Hamilton climbed to third place but was unable to catch the second place Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. In post-race, Hamilton described the fight back up the field as 'damage limitation'.

Taking full advantage of what the beginning of the 57-lap main event gave him, Nico Rosberg maintained a near flawless form to claim the 2016 Grand Prix of Bahrain. Crossing the line 10.282 seconds ahead the runner-up, Rosberg's took his 16th career Formula 1 victory and extends his streak of wins to five.

Largely mirroring the performance of the lead Mercedes AMG car of Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen finished a strong second place. Raikkonen's runner-up equals his 2015 result at the same race. For Ferrari, the Bahrain Grand Prix was practically a visa versa affair compared to the first race in Australia. At Albert Park, Raikkonen was sidelined by an engine problem while Vettel scored a podium result. The Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen ended up in a Mercedes AMG sandwich as Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to secure the third and final podium position.

Outside of the top-three, Daniel Ricciardo continues to show flashes of Red Bull Racing's championship-winning determination. Daniil Kvyat in the second Red Bull Racing also provided the team something worth begging about climbing from a 15th starting spot to finish 7th after 57 laps. The Toro Rosso car of Max Verstappen finished one spot ahead of the team's 2014 graduate driver.

In two Formula 1 races, Haas F1 Team has accomplished what was thought to be the impossible. At the hands of French driver Romain Grosjean, the Ferrari-powered VF-16 chassis fielded by the American team has two point-scoring finishes. In Bahrain, Grosjean actually improved on his result in Australia by finishing fifth.

Eighth and ninth place at the end of the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix belonged to the Williams Martini Racing team. Felipe Massa led the squad as Bottas grabbed the second-to-last point-scoring position after accruing a penalty early in the race. A three-stop strategy was practised by nine of the top-ten finisher in the Bahrain Grand Prix. The exception to the tire plan was Felipe Massa's Williams machine who clocked 27 laps on his final set of tires.

The tenth and final point of the Bahrain Grand Prix was collected after a solid Formula 1 debut effort by Stoffel Vandoorne driving a Honda-powered McLaren. Filling in for the recovering Fernando Alonso, Belgium's Vandoorne joins elite company with the likes of Jacques Villeneuve, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton who have scored points in their first Formula 1 race. The point is also valuable for the McLaren Honda eager to once again stand as a frequent event contender.

The third race in Formula 1 will take the tour to China. The Chinese Grand Prix is set for Sunday April 17th.

2016 Formula 1
Bahrain Grand Prix
Race Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
4 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
5 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
6 33 Max Verstappen Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
7 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull TAG Heuer
8 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes-Benz
9 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
10 47 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda
11 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
12 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
13 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz
14 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
15 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
16 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
17 98 Rio Haryanto Manor Mercedes-Benz
18 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
19 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
20 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
21 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
22 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault

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