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Teammate battles in Bahrain a refreshing tonic for F1

Apr 7, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

Williams-Bahrain Getty Images

I touched on this briefly in another MST piece this am, but the 10 points-paying finishers in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix came from the minimum possible number of teams, five.

What was intriguing about all that was that in each team instance, there weren’t any major dramas or public team orders determining how the pair of drivers would finish.

Mercedes’ pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had the epic scrap for the win between them. Hamilton and Rosberg would exchange moves that borderlined on crazy if one was established number one, but it was just a pure fight between them. Even in the final stint, as Rosberg was on the softer option tires, he should have by rights had the position over Hamilton. But he had to earn it, and despite several attempts, he was unable to pass Hamilton on the primes.

Red Bull provided the rare “Sebastian, Daniel is quicker than you” line on a radio transmission at one point as Daniel Ricciardo was, at that early point in the race, quicker than teammate Sebastian Vettel. Ricciardo had to fight to get ahead of him and ultimately ended fourth, while the four-time champion ended sixth. Ricciardo has done pretty much all that could be expected of him, and more, through three races thus far and his improved race pace has been a welcome sight for those more accustomed to his qualifying prowess at Toro Rosso.

Force India? What is it with Sergio Perez and Bahrain that ignites a fire under the young Mexican, where he’s fearless on passing maneuvers in places of the Sakhir circuit that you otherwise wouldn’t dare pass? He and Nico Hulkenberg had multiple great dices during the day, with Perez ultimately securing the team’s first podium in four and a half years, much to the delight of team principal Vijay Mallya.

Same story at Williams – the consternation of Malaysia had been replaced by another great, clean, fair fight between Felipe Massa and emerging superstar Valtteri Bottas a week later in Bahrain. Massa’s start was sublime; both were unlucky in the safety car period to fall from podium contention down to seventh and eighth.

Even Ferrari had Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen close, although Alonso appears ahead in that internal team battle thus far. There’s bigger issues at Maranello than the driver lineup; the car and power unit package weren’t in the same zip code this weekend.

But in all five of those instances, it’s hard to pinpoint a specific number one versus number two driver situation other than at Red Bull. And even there, Ricciardo’s established himself quickly as worthy of the seat to make it a near 1-and-1A situation.

With no established hierarchies within the teams – as yet, anyway – we were treated to five teams’ epic scraps as on-track battles won out over team preferences from the pit wall.

Team orders will always exist to a degree, but for less than two glorious hours Sunday night in Bahrain, they were not the story.

  1. testover6370 - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    Hamilton’s defense against Rosberg had my jaw on the floor. He shouldn’t have been able to hold off a proven race winner in an identical car on much better tires, but he did, and he made it look good. When Rosberg made an aggressive move to the inside, he held everything together, let Rosberg make the move, then recovered the position with a perfect corner exit. It was professional, calm and smart the whole way. It was also fair and clean. I never worried they were going to crash each other out, nor do anything unsportsmanlike. Mercedes should be proud of their drivers, they proved themselves to be the pinnacle of motorsports this weekend.

    • lewymp4 - Apr 8, 2014 at 7:30 PM

      Well said.

  2. f1fan1 - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    Agreed, a fantastic finish. I wonder how everyone in Maranello is doing today, lol.

    • testover6370 - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      I imagine there could be a shortage of moving boxes. I’m not particularly a Ferrari fan but I hate seeing them this out of place, especially because I am a Kimi fan.

      • worknman24hours - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:23 PM

        Well, Ferrari makes more money then any other team on the merchandising rights they hold so they can afford to pay Fernando and Kimi to drive the red lawn tractors they are fielding this year.

        Just don’t expect either driver to get to excited about it because you can’t make a jackaxx into a stallion no matter how hard you kick it.

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