From Bahrain to Europe


By Lee McKenzie

It wasn’t quite the spectacle that we had last year, but it seems that when the darkness falls in the Bahrain desert, the temperature rises in the cockpit and the fire for some is reignited.

We know about Lewis Hamilton; already after four races there’s not much more rhapsodising we can do about his performance. He’s pulling out incredible gaps to the rest of field in qualifying and in the race it’s not much different.

For anyone who had discounted Nico Rosberg, think again. Yes, he got overtaken at the start of the race, but he fought back on track as he regained that place and all the positions he was forced to take back from Sebastian Vettel after the pitstops. Had it not been for the brake-by-wire issue then Rosberg would have finished second and would now hold that position in the championship too.

What did surprise me were Rosberg’s comments after qualifying when he said that he didn’t “foresee that coming” when I asked about Vettel getting second place ahead of him. He didn’t foresee it? Vettel has never been far enough away to not treat him as a threat, particularly over the Bahrain weekend.

Instead it was a rejuvenated Kimi Räikkönen who capitalised on Rosberg’s misfortune, but he too had a great race and for once had luck on his side as well. His run on the harder tyre was impressive and he had an altogether more complete race than his team-mate, who at times looked ragged, running wide and nearly ploughing into the back of Valtteri Bottas. The Williams driver – keeping the Ferrari behind him despite being on older tyres – is certainly worth a mention.

On the Thursday of the Bahrain Grand Prix I did some filming with Hamilton and Vettel together and I was a little nervous about how it would go. If people aren’t ‘friends’ then sometimes it can get a little too competitive and uncomfortable, but I have to say that both were on great form, despite being two very different characters. Six World Championships and 76 race wins between them; it was a special interview and if you haven’t seen it already and are in the UK then you can watch it here.

The two-and-a-half week break is much needed for everyone in the paddock to recharge their batteries, get onto one time zone and then push on for the European leg of the championship. Bottas has indicated how much work Williams will be doing to try and retake that ‘best of the rest’ tag from Ferrari. That will be a tough call though and the steps that the Scuderia made over the winter and last season, since it stopped work on the 2014 car to concentrate on this one, have been incredible.

McLaren needs to sort things out more than any other team. Progress has been made, which seems an odd thing to say when Jenson Button spent more time spectating than most people at home this weekend. Fernando Alonso assures us that, come Spain, he will be scoring points – since he was 11th at the weekend, you have to think that he might be right. So long as the car starts and can keep going.

As for my break, I’m off to Monza for a lovely couple of days filming with Lewis Hamilton and Stirling Moss, which I’m really looking forward to. Then I’m doing a Motor Sport podcast with the gents next week. I might need a car-free day somewhere down the line too!

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