Sunday, 21 April 2013

2013 Bahrain Grand Prix

A clear and fairly resounding victory for Sebastian Vettel, of the type which we seldom witness in this current era of Grand Prix racing.  The margin will have given food for thought for Red Bull's rivals, even if the Sakhir circuit could be tentatively described as a track which suits the Red Bull's characteristics. A marker has definitely been laid down as we enter the European leg of the championship chase.

Although the race for first position lacked genuine tension for the bulk of the contest, much of interest occurred in the chasing pack. Mercedes once again failed to convert promise into genuine success, although in fairness this possibility had been flagged by the pole-sitter Nico Rosberg.  His team-mate Lewis Hamilton had a largely anonymous race, even taking into account his grid penalty.  The team might not yet be the finished article, but the progress and momentum are in a positive direction.

In terms of competitiveness, Bahrain must have represented a boost of sorts for the McLaren team, but this heartening showing may be overshadowed, in media circles at least, by the friction which developed during the race when Jenson Button and Sergio Perez got a little too close for comfort. It is also tempting to argue however, that in some respects, the fact that the two drivers were in such close proximity to each other is a good sign. Would the team rather have this sort of disagreement to iron out, than see the two vehicles touring around blandly and inoffensively in midfield?

It will be interesting to see whether's Perez's improved form unlocks his undoubted potential, and instill added belief. Team politics may become a headache, but the team must also realise that an on-form and motivated Perez is a major asset.  I was also impressed by the young Mexican's mature and constructive remarks after the race, when quizzed about the brush with his team-mate.

If Button imagined that he was the undisputed de facto number one driver in the team, he may be forced to revise his opinion.  I cannot honestly see the usually unflappable Jenson becoming unduly rattled by all this, but the psychology will add an important dimension to proceedings.

The Ferrari team was remaining sanguine in the wake of the race, and with good reason.  Although fortune was not on their side today, the portents still look very favourable. Before problems intervened, the cars were handily positioned.  Once his technical dramas were remedied, Fernando Alonso predictably put up a classy and stout performance, and the Italian marque can look forward to the rest of the reason with optimism and confidence.

Another team still on an upward curve is Lotus, as shown by their occupation of two of the steps on the podium. Perhaps the most significant thing to emerge was the "rebirth" of Romain Grosjean. the man often derided as  the enfant terrible of Formula 1.  This performance was a reminder of his crisp and incisive drives of 2012, which were of course interspersed with various indiscretions.  If Grosjean can "kick on", so to speak, it will have ramifications for his team and his team-mate, and could even conceivably influence the outcome of the championship, with another "wild card" in a competitive machine taking points off the other contenders.  Others have successfully recovered from early-career setbacks and stigmas.  Let us hope that Grosjean has the strength of character to achieve similar.  This podium finish may constitute a launchpad in this regard.

So we now enter the European phase of the campaign.  Red Bull, or at least the one conducted by Vettel, may be in the ascendancy, but last season taught us not to take anything for granted!

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