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Mercedes: Recovery drives tougher in F1's "new world"

Mercedes: Recovery drives tougher in F1's "new world"

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas' struggle to progress up the order in the Australian Grand Prix shows how competitive the Formula 1 field is in 2018 - and reflects a "new world".
Bottas started 15th after crashing in qualifying and taking a grid penalty and, helped by the retirement of the two Haas drivers and a well-timed pitstop, he moved up to eighth by the flag.

While Bottas did make several passing moves at a track acknowledged to be among the most difficult to overtake on, Wolff agreed that it was harder to make progress than it might have been in the past, given the advantage that Mercedes used to enjoy over most of the field.

"I think this is the reality now," said Wolff. "I think he overtook more people than anybody else.

"He overtook [Lance] Stroll, he overtook [Esteban] Ocon and he overtook [Stoffel] Vandoorne, so made it three times, and then was lucky with the safety car.

"His timing was spot on and he wouldn't have made it into the top 10 without that, but I think the whole field is much more bunched up and there is no such situation of one car cruising through the fields like we have seen before.

"Welcome to the new world."

He added: "In terms of the pattern I think it will depend on the circuits. On less power sensitive circuits the Red Bull might be a little bit closer, but again I expect these three teams to be able to win races and go for the championship and you can see behind the group, there is McLaren, Renault and Haas, they are right up there, and for Max and for Valtteri it was not possible to overtake these cars."

Bottas confirmed that it was harder to make progress than in the past.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "All the teams are closer so that makes it difficult. This year the cars have more downforce, so it's more difficult to follow than last year.

"The engine difference is not massive anymore. We still have a bit of an advantage over Renault, but it's not massive, and those cars they are not too bad in the corners. I couldn't get any closer really."

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WOLFF: WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD

Valtteri Bottas

Starting down the order after a grid penalty was normally not a tall order for Mercedes drivers, they had the package to get by the backmarkers and midfield pretty swiftly and more often than not ended up challenging for podiums despite the compromised grid position.

However this season, at least during the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, this was not the case for Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas who pranged heavily in qualifying and his grid penalties meant he started the race from 15th on the grid.

The expected comeback drive did not happen as the Finn toiled all afternoon to finish eighth, scoring points thanks largely to a number of DNFs ahead of him. 

Toto Wolff believes that comeback drives could well be a thing of the past, or at least a premium during the course of this season.

The Mercedes F1 chief reflected on Bottas’ performance after the race in Melbourne, “Welcome to the new world. I think this is the reality now. I think he overtook more people than anybody else.”

“He overtook [Lance] Stroll, he overtook [Esteban] Ocon and he overtook [Stoffel] Vandoorne, so made it three times, and then was lucky with the safety car.”

“His timing was spot on and he wouldn’t have made it into the top 10 without that, but I think the whole field is much more bunched up and there is no such situation of one car cruising through the fields like we have seen before. ‘

Asked if he felt this would be the pattern for the next 20 races, Wolff predicted,  “In terms of the pattern I think it will depend on the circuits. On less power sensitive circuits the Red Bull might be a little bit closer.”

“I expect these three teams (Ferrari included) to be able to win races and go for the championship and you can see behind the group, there is McLaren, Renault and Haas, they are right up there, and for Max and for Valtteri it was not possible to overtake these cars.”

Bottas himself lamented the lack of passing opportunities, “All the teams are closer so that makes it difficult. This year the cars have more downforce, so it’s more difficult to follow than last year.”

“The engine difference is not massive anymore. We still have a bit of an advantage over Renault, but it’s not massive, and those cars they are not too bad in the corners. I couldn’t get any closer really,” explained the Finn.

 

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STEINER: THEY SEE GHOSTS

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Haas F1 chief Guenther Steiner continued to bat off accusations that his team’s 2018 car – the VF18 – is a carbon copy of last year’s Ferrari SF70H, claiming that the complaints are a result of sour grapes from an underperforming team with a much bigger budget at their disposal.

With both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean running strongly throughout the season-opening  weekend, but particularly on race day when they were they strongly and looking good for fourth and fifth before five minutes of pitstop madness changed all that.

Nevertheless, Haas had revealed their hand with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso quick to dub their car a “” which has since ignited heated debate from within the paddock and among fans.

But when interviewed by BBC Sports Steiner remained adamant, “They see ghosts.”

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“[They say: The car looks very similar to a Ferrari from last year. So should we have copied their car, which is behind us, or should we go with a car that goes pretty quick? Give me an answer to that.”

“We have got the same wheelbase as Ferrari. We have to because we have the same suspension – why would we do it different? It’s logic. So it cannot be last year’s Ferrari because [our car] has the same wheelbase as this year’s Ferrari.”

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“My point is, if they have got a problem with that, I show them the way to the FIA. They can file a protest,” insisted Steiner

Steiner blames teams behind them for stirring the pot, with Alonso and McLaren the ‘stirrers in chief’ who were quick to question to what extent Ferrari was ‘helping’ the American team.

But the Austrian had a dig at their accusers when he said, “If you have to justify your incompetence, attack is the best defence. If somebody has double the amount of money and is behind us, whoever owns the team should be asking: what are we doing here?”

“It’s competition. Maybe next year we are last. When you speak, you need to have an argument you can back up, not just assumptions,” concluded Steiner.

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Ferrari SF70H 2005-12-22 1-04-015

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Ferrari SF70H 2005-12-22 1-04-010

MIKA: Gee... I never really thought about this, but looking at the pictures, pretty compelling!? 

Saying this... Who cares if it is a copy or if it is last seasons vehicle? 

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FERNLEY: WILLIAMS VETOED OUR REQUEST FOR MONEY ADVANCE

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM11 on the grid.Australian Grand Prix, Sunday 25th March 2018. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

Apparently, the competition between Formula 1 teams is as tough off-track as it is on track as Williams proved by vetoing an advance payment request made by Force India and thus forcing the team to source required funding for the season.

Deputy team principal Bob Fernley revealed to Auto Bild that when he requested a financial advance from Liberty Media – a common request from teams – on the back of their 2017 income, they were blocked,

He explained, “For that to happen we needed the unanimous approval of the other teams, but Williams decided to veto.”

“The next four weeks will decide if we will survive. I will have to raise a lot of money in a short amount of time. I have a plan that could work in the next two to three weeks,” added Fernley.

Last year Force India were the standout team in terms of bang-for-buck, finishing fourth in the constructors’ championship with the smallest budget on the grid.

They also have the constant uncertainty surrounding the future of their beleaguered owner Vijay Mallya whose legal wrangles keep him United Kingdom bound.

It was also a well below par start to the new season for the team in pink at the , they seldom anywhere to the ‘Best of the Rest’ pace they enjoyed late last year. 

Perhaps their only comfort is that at last year’s opener they also scored no points, but thereafter their season ignited. 

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BOULLIER: RED BULL DID A BETTER JOB THAN US

Eric Boullier

Much was expected of the new McLaren-Renault partnership, the Woking outfit often boasting last year that they had the best chassis on the grid – better than Red Bull even – but only hampered by the woeful Honda engine and thus team have been fired up by the prospect of running at the sharp end of the Formula 1 field once again.

At the season-opening , both McLaren drivers, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandodorne, qualified behind the Renault duo and both Red Bulls. 

The  deficit between Alonso in 11th and best placed Red Bull of Max Verstappen, in fourth, was 1.2 seconds, while Alonso’s gap to the best Renault in Q2 was just over half a second.

In the race, the Renault’s were not impressive and while the Red Bulls were better – some estimate a second up on McLaren – it took a gritty drive by Alonso to fifth place to split the energy drinks duo on the final results sheet.

Crossing the finish line seven seconds behind the Spaniard was teammate Vandoorne in ninth, a renaissance of sorts but by no means the full monty.

After three years of no benchmark, going solo with Honda, they now have Red Bull and Renault to measure up against and on the evidence of the Australian Grand Prix weekend the McLaren MCL33 was nowhere near Red Bull’s RB14 and the jury is out on whether the orange cars were any better than the Renaults.

Asked by BBC about the comparisons, speaking in the wake of the season-opener in Melbourne, Boullier explained, “Fighting with Red Bull – that was last year and based on data…”

“Then over the winter, you don’t know what the others are doing. Obviously, Red Bull have I would say one of the best chassis. They did a better job than us.”

Despite making the call to  last year, it was late in terms of the development of the MCL33 for the 2018 season.

Boullier admitted that they could have done with more time, “That is one of the reasons why we are not where we would have been in an ideal world.”

And revealed, “We pushed the limits a bit too far. We underestimated the integration of the Renault and the energy we had to spend on this so we were definitely not prepared enough when we turned up in Barcelona. We are just about to be prepared when we came here.”

“We pushed too late. We decided to keep the same strategy but we changed the engine. Everything we wanted to do [in terms of car design] if we had stayed with the same engine, we did it.”

McLaren have updates planned for Bahrain with a redesigned nose expected to break cover during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, but their rivals will not be sitting still.

Nevertheless, BBC persisted and asked: If McLaren could match Renault last year with a weaker engine, why are they not ahead this year with the same one?

“Because Enstone made a big step You need to explain to your readers how F1 is working, because Enstone has more people than us today,” replied Boullier.

Again why the shortfall in the light of the well-publicised winning ambitions the team harbour?

“Then we need to ask everybody to put some money in the team,” added the Frenchman with a laugh.

He went on to explain that Bahrain’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, head of the Mumtalakat sovereign investment fund that controls McLaren, has already shelled out on behalf of the team, “He already put in a lot.”

“It is just a question of ambition and resources. I am not hiding behind any excuse. They just did a better job,” Boullier repeated.

“I seriously believe that gives us a few races and we will show you we are the fourth team. It’s just we had to delay the introduction of many upgrades and that’s the issue we have today and that’s it.”

“If we’re 0.9 of a second off Red Bull, that wouldn’t look good, I agree. We don’t want to hide. It’s show time. I would say the same. We have the same engine, we should fight with them. If we don’t, it’s not good enough. Simple as that.”

The Red Bull target is extremely ambitious considering the often proven rate of development the energy drinks outfit are capable of during the course of a season. They reportedly also have about $50-million in their budget than McLaren has, as well as a more staff at Milton Keynes than they do at Enstone.

But Boullier is adamant, “You have to set targets in life. That’s it. I’m a competitor. If not, I should not be here. We are living in a realistic world and money in F1 is one of the conditions to be performing.”

“We are where we are and we have to do the best we can with this level – if not better. We know we can punch above our weight, and I think we will show you this. I can’t promise [it] putting both hands in the fire.”

“It is a question of putting everything together and not being any more delayed. So trying to bring everything back on schedule. But I think we will punch above our weight. Seriously,” concluded Boullier.

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VETTEL: I DON’T MIND IF RICCIARDO AND I ARE TEAMMATES AGAIN

vettel, ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo has a door open at Ferrari should he decide to depart Red Bull at the end of this season when his contract runs out, the supposed stumbling block – Sebastian Vettel – would not mind if the Australian replaces Kimi Raikkonen in the legendary team.

In Melbourne, Vettel trashed the myth that he would not welcome Ricciardo to the Italian team because the pair have history, the one and only year they were teammates at Red Bull in 2014 the Aussie got the better of the German.

Ricciardo has yet to ink an extension to his deal with Red Bul, while his teammate committed with the team until the end of 2020. A move by him to Ferrari has been a constant source of speculation over the past couple of years, while a Mercedes that has emerged more recently is an option for him that might not be as far-fetched as it seems.

When asked ahead of the race weekend in Melbourne if he would accept Ricciardo at Maranello, Vettel replied, “We had one year together which wasn’t great for me, it was great for him. But anyways, I think we get along so I wouldn’t mind if we get together again in the future but I don’t know what his plan…”

“I’m sure he’ll find a seat so yeah, I don’t know what he’s up to or what he wants. I don’t know how much he’s asking but as I said… I’m confident he’ll find a seat. I think he has a couple of options and I don’t think he needs to rush,” added Vettel.

Ricciardo acknowledged the input from Vettel during the drivers’ , and said, “As Seb said, take my time and then see what happens in… ask me in six months time.”

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Kimi Raikkonen says Halo had an unexpected benefit in Australia

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Kimi Raikkonen can be added to the list of drivers who are fans of the Halo after it had an unexpected benefit at the season-opening race at Albert Park.

Due to the late start time of 16:10 local time and a sunset of 19:26, the sun is low on the horizion during the latter stage of the race and the glare can be distracting to drivers.

However Raikkonen says the Halo acted like a sun visor and therefore had an added and unexpected benefit in Australia.

"It was no different than in testing or at any other point and I think it definitely doesn't disturb you at all," said the Finn, who finished third at the weekend.

"I think it was helpful here because of the sun; when it's coming in at the right height, it's blocking the sun in the eyes."

"So, I think it was beneficial here, and it's safer. Maybe people don't like how it looks but you know, it might make a difference for us one day and it's a good thing to have."

Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel agreed, though revealed one drawback of the reduced upwards visibility.

"During the race, it was no issue. As Kimi said, it even helped [but] in the parade lap, that's when it was bothering me because you couldn't see so well the people in the grandstands."

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Pirelli confirms tyre choices for Bahrain Grand Prix

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Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has confirmed the compound choices made by each driver for next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Pirelli has nominated the Supersoft, Soft and Medium tyres in order to meet the demands posed by the Sakhir Circuit.

As per usual, drivers have 13 sets of tyres available for the event, and they are permitted free choice of the three allocated compounds for 10 of those sets.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have adopted similar approaches, choosing seven sets of Supersofts, four Softs and two Mediums.

The only variation among the big teams is from Valtteri Bottas, who will have an extra set of Softs available to the detriment of his Medium allocation.

McLaren has taken the most aggressive stance, selecting nine sets of the red-banded rubber for both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.

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Hulkenberg, Sainz now in "big boy league" - Renault

Hulkenberg, Sainz now in "big boy league" - Renault

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul believes Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz are now fighting in the "big boy league" towards the front of the Formula 1 grid.
Hulkenberg finished seventh in the Australian Grand Prix, while Sainz claimed the final point in 10th, despite issues with his drinks bottle making his life difficult.

Abiteboul acknowledged that having two cars consistently in the fight this season will make a big difference.

He warned, however, that his drivers will have to stay on their game in a highly competitive field.

"It's good to see that we have drivers now under pressure from Bottas and Alonso, and they are handling it," he told Motorsport.com.

"They have the hardware to handle it, although obviously it was a track where it's difficult to overtake.

"Carlos was suffering a little bit due to a problem with the drinking system, but I don't think it would have changed anything anyway.

"It's good to have those two cars. But they need to stay at the top of their games, because now they are part of the big boy league."

Although the works team lost out to customers Red Bull and McLaren, Abiteboul believes that there is more to come from the Enstone outfit.

"It's a decent start, and a start that gives us confidence and focus.

"Not having had any reliability issues it will also allow us to focus on what we have to do on the performance side, to hopefully clear Haas, and also to continue fighting with McLaren, because that's going to be an interesting fight during the season.

"It's in line with the target for the season start, it's in line with our expectations, it's in line with our feeling after the tests, but nothing more."

Abiteboul stressed that the team now has to continue to get everything right in order to achieve its potential and take the fight to its midfield rivals.

"It's a sort of demonstration that as we are progressing in the field everything becomes more important, pitstop execution, strategy execution, reliability is a must – and performance.

"They're won't be any back-off possible, that's very clear, we will have to push on in all aspects. So that's what we have to do, and we know we have in the pipeline what's needed both on the chassis send and the engine side.

"So we are coming out of that first race pretty confident about the season to come. It's going to be an extremely long and exciting season."

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Rivals call for Haas/Ferrari relationship investigation

Rivals call for Haas/Ferrari relationship investigation

Force India and McLaren want the Haas Formula 1 team’s technical relationship with Ferrari investigated after questioning the American team’s “magic” performance.
Haas locked out the third row of the grid in qualifying for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and ran fourth and fifth ahead of Red Bull before pitstop mistakes condemned Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to retirement.

It triggered fresh questions over Haas's working relationship with Ferrari, which supplies the team with parts it does not need to build itself but also allows Dallara, Haas's chassis partner, to use its windtunnel.

F1's sporting regulations strictly forbid the passing on or receiving of information on parts teams are supposed to produce themselves, a move also designed to stop personnel being rotated between projects.

Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer wants the application of those restrictions discussed in the next meeting of F1's Strategy Group.

"I don't know how they do it, it's magic," he said. "It's never been done before in Formula 1.

"I just don't know how it can be right that someone who's been in the sport for a couple of years with no resource could produce a car [like this]… does it happen by magic? 

"If it does, I want the wand."

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso labelled the 2018 Haas a "Ferrari replica" in Melbourne, and his team's executive director Zak Brown told Motorsport.com it was "something that needs to be looked at closely". 

Haas driver Romain Grosjean said the use of Ferrari's front suspension, which the regulations allow, would naturally dictate the major aerodynamic design points because of the way the air flows over the rest of the car.  

Brown admitted "I don't have any evidence" to suggest Haas was not operating within the rules, but said: "We all know they have a very close alliance with Ferrari and I think we just need to make sure it's not too close.

"There could be some influence, there's certainly some parts of the car that look very similar to last year's car. 

"But that's for the engineers and the FIA to look at more closely."

Brown and Szafnauer both said multiple teams would support a clarification over the Ferrari/Haas arrangement. 

Szafnauer said he wanted the FIA to explain the process for ensuring the guidelines were being respected. 

"All the aerodynamic surfaces have to be your own," he said. "If they're not, I don't know how you can tell unless you start investigating. 

"Scrutineering only tells you that it fits within the boxes of the regulations. 

"Is it yours or somebody else's [idea]? That's the real question. And I don't know the answer to that. 

"Maybe it is their own, it's just suspect - how can you gain that knowledge without history and the right tools and people?"

Asked by Motorsport.com on the Ferrari comments earlier in the weekend, Steiner said: "We have a team that can be proud of what it is achieving at the moment. 

"We are not doing anything we shouldn't be doing or not allowed to do."

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Mercedes discovers true cause of Hamilton's lost Australian GP win

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Mercedes has discovered a "bug" in the tool it uses for its Formula 1 virtual safety car calculations, after concluding its investigation into what went wrong at the Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton saw a potential victory in the season opener snatched from his grasp after rival Sebastian Vettel gained time pitting during a virtual safety car period.

Mercedes was caught out by Vettel's actions because its race strategy software reported that Hamilton was close enough to retake the lead when the Ferrari stopped.

Initial suspicion pointed to a glitch in its race strategy software, but the team has subsequently found that the problem was caused by an offline tool used to calculate delta times between cars staying out on track and those coming into the pits during various safety car phases.

In the latest episode of its Pure Pitwall race debrief, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said action was being taken to ensure the situation never happened again.

"The issue isn't really with the race strategy software that we use," he explained.

"It was an offline tool that we create these delta lap times with, and we found a bug in that tool that meant that it gave us the wrong number.

"The number that we were calculating was around 15 seconds, and in reality the number was slightly short of 13 seconds, so that was what created our delta.

"That is why we thought we were safe. We thought we had a bit of margin and then you saw the result.

"We dropped out, we were in second place and it is very difficult to overtake and we couldn't get through."

Shovlin said the team was treating the situation with the same seriousness as a reliability failure and would ensure that in the future it gave itself more margin with gaps to rivals.

"It is really about understanding everything that went wrong, gathering all the data, and invariably it is never just one thing," he said.

"So there are elements that we can do better with calculating that, but we have also looked at it for future.

"We are going to make sure we have more margin because we want to be able to cover for Vettel doing an amazingly good inlap to the pits, or having an incredibly fast stop.

"So with any of these things, we look at what went wrong, work out how to solve it and then put the processes in place to make sure we don't have a repeat."

Added VSC complication is caused by drivers being allowed to accelerate from the safety car line before the pits until they hit the pitlane speed limit.

Shovlin added: "It is never quite an exact science because you don't know how fast a car is going to be able to come through that pit entry."

 

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Good race weekend.  Indycar race last night was entertaining (Rossi had a bloody rocketship, were it not for a bad pitstop and penalty he would've lapped the entire field at least once).  But there were plenty of bad pit stops.  Which continued the theme of today too.  Wth was with Kimi's stop.  Seems like the pit crews aren't on the same page.

Good race for Bottas and Hamilton.  I like Bottas but he doesn't seem to have that killer instinct that Hamilton and Vettel have.  I fear he's not going to be driving for Merc next year.  Haas have a proper car underneath them this year.  They might be the best of the rest right now.

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BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX: VETTEL OUT-FOXES MERCEDES

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On the occasion of his 200th Formula 1 start Sebastian Vettel scored his second win in two races, powering to victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix suckering Mercedes into believing he was on a two-stop strategy but in fact going all the way to the end of the race on the yellow band Pirelli tyres that were reduced to canvas.

It was an intriguing duel under floodlights, as close as Formula 1 will ever be to chess, as Vettel controlled the race from pole position and managed to fight off a hard-charging Valtteri Bottas in the final stages of the race.

The desert venue, often a stage for some boring races, delivered an action-packed race with great story-lines across the results sheets.

Bottas looked good for the win, but an untidy attack on the final, at the first corner was ambitious and unsuccessful. He never really got another chance. After a gutsy chase, what was needed was a mighty attack instead, it was a feeble attempt and second was his reward.

Lewis Hamilton was a damage limitation mission after receiving a penalty and a below par qualifying by his standards. Nevertheless, he managed to turn ninth on the grid to third place after surviving a first lap Turn 1 skirmish with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

In the end, it was Vettel’s night as he really did not put a foot wrong, and his pitwall were brave with the strategy which was a marginal call, ultimately outsmarting the Silver Arrows and handing the German his 49th grand prix victory.

Vettel summed up his fourth victory at the venue, “I think I came on the radio with 10 laps to go and said I had everything under control. That was a lie! I had nothing under control.”

“When they told me the pace of Valtteri at that time I thought no way I could do that. I was doing the maths in the car and thought he was going to catch me.”

“I tried to keep it as clean as possible. Both Mercedes were strong at the end of the first stint and going onto the prime they saw what we did and I thought that was chess made as we have to come in again.”

“Then we diverted and I tried to nurse the tyres as much as I could. It worked, but just. Fortunately, Valtteri ran out of laps,” concluded the Ferrari driver.

Bottas gave his side of the story, “I knew there would be a chance that he would struggle in the end. I was trying to get every lap and corner perfect to catch him but it was just not quite enough.”

“Being second with such a close margin and having such good pace at the end is extremely disappointing. We will try to get them next time,” promised Bottas.

Hamilton was happy with his evening of damage limitation, “I’m happy. Congratulations to Sebastian and Valtteri did an exceptional job this weekend. I’m really happy, I started ninth so third is not bad at all. It’s damage limitation.”

“There were frustrating points in the race so they couldn’t hear me so I had to pick particular moments to speak to them. Communication is really difficult when you are trying to catch Sebastian who is 25 seconds ahead to know exactly what you need to do to not kill your tyres but make it so you catch him at the end. When you’re not getting that feedback it’s frustrating,” admitted Hamilton.

It turned out to be a bittersweet night for the Reds, as Kimi Raikkonen’s race ended in tears when his crew botched the pitstop, releasing him before removing his left rear tyre and as he powered out of his grid slot he knocked over one of his mechanics. He stopped the car and that was his race run.

The mechanic was treated on the pitlane before being taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.

Vettel paid tribute to his injured teammate, “I’m a bit sad as I think in the pitstop with Kimi one of our mechanics got injured, so send him my best regards.”

At the start of the race, Red Bull would have fancied having one if not two of their drivers on the podium, but it was a shocker for them as astonishingly both Verstappen and Ricciardo were out with punctures and technical issues before half a lap was run.

Verstappen came out second best when he tucked ahead of Hamilton, but the Red Bull’s rear left tyre tagged the Mercedes’ front wing and punctured. The Dutchman drove gamely to the pits but retired the car in front of the team’s garage after reporting a loss of power. In the pit garage next door, Ricciardo suffered an electrical failure.  

The series of misfortunes for the Red Bull team were in stark contrast to the superb performance by rookie Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso. The Frenchman shone in qualifying and in the race delivered a superb drive to claim fourth place. A big morale boost for the team and Honda.

The Toro Rosso was chased hard all day by Kevin Magnussen in the Haas, fifth place his reward for an afternoon of hard graft for the Dane who as usual took no prisoners.

Best of the Renault powered brigade was Nico Hulkenberg in sixth, the last of the cars not to be lapped by the winner.

McLaren recovered from an embarrassing qualifying session on Saturday, by bouncing back with another double point finish. Fernando Alonso was seventh and Stoffel Vandoorne eighth.

Marcus Ericsson ended a long-standing points drought to claim ninth place in the Sauber, ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon who had to work hard for the final point.

It was another grand prix to forget for Williams with Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin way off the pace and last of the cars still running at the end of the 57 laps, in 16th and 17th respectively.

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Blow-By-Blow Report

At the start, Vettel held his advantage from pole, but behind him Bottas made a better start than Räikkönen and stole second through Turn 1. Ricciardo was briefly passed by Gasly but the Australian quickly retook the position.

It all then began to unravel for Red Bull. Ricciardo slowed as he approached the end of the first lap with an electrical failure and pulled over at the side of the track to retire.

Further back, in midfield, Verstappen was charging forward from his 15th place starting position but as he began the second he tangled with Hamilton, with the Dutchman sustaining a punctured rear left tyre as he collided with Hamilton’s front wing in Turn 2.

Verstappen eventually made it back to the pit lane and after taking on a new set of supersofts rejoined in 19th place. It was a brief bit of action, though, and on lap three he pulled over and stopped his RB14, the damage from the collision with Hamilton preventing him from continuing.

By lap 10 Vettel had carved out a three-second lead over Bottas, with Räikkönen a further three seconds back. Behind them, Hamilton had staged a remarkable fight back from ninth place at the start, and from his bruising battle with Verstappen, and was now up to fourth ahead of Gasly and Magnussen.

Vettel pitted from the lead on lap 18, taking on a set of soft tyres, with Hamilton 10.2 seconds behind the Ferrari driver and in fourth place. Räikkönen followed his team-mate a lap later, rejoining 2.5s behind Vettel.

Bottas now led from Hamilton, but on lap 20 Mercedes covered the Ferrari stops and brought the Finn into pit lane. He also emerged on medium tyres, splitting the Ferraris as he had through the first stint.

Hamilton, who had started on used soft tyres and had not made a pit stop, was now in the lead, five seconds clear of Vettel, with Bottas third ahead of Räikkönen, Gasly and Magnussen.

Hamilton was soon caught by Vettel on fresh tyres, and Mercedes quickly pitted the Briton. He took on medium tyres, targeting a one-stop race, with Vettel set to make a second stop. Hamilton rejoined in fourth, some 25 seconds adrift of Vettel, with Bottas second and Räikkönen third.

Ferrari then pitted Räikkönen for a second stop on lap 35 but there was trouble for the Finn as the rear left wheel failed to come loose. There was confusion and when the Finn was released he collided with one of his crew, who had to be taken to the medical centre for checks. Räikkönen was told to stop in pit lane and the Finn quickly climbed out of the car and exited the race.

That boosted Hamilton to third and by lap 45 he was 16.7s behind Vetted. Ahead, Vettel’s problem was Bottas, who was secure in second, some seven seconds behind Vettel and setting good times on his medium tyres. The proximity was forcing Vettel to push to the end on his soft tyres and Bottas was given the message to close the German down.

With nine laps remaining Bottas was 5.4 behind the German and lapping half a second quicker than the Ferrari man. Behind the Hamilton was told to “keep his head down” and wait for Vettel’s tyres to fall away.

On lap 52 of the 57 Bottas had carved a further two seconds out of the gap to the leader and was told to “just push to the end” as Vettel began to struggle on his degrading soft tyres.

The German wouldn’t be denied, however. Bottas attacked with a lap remaining but Vettel held firm and though he was shadowed to the flag by the Mercedes driver in a tense finish, he crossed the line to score his 49th career win just over half a second clear of Bottas and 6.5s clear of third-placed Hamilton.

Drive of the day though, should have perhaps gone to Gasly. In just his seventh grand prix the Frenchman handed the new Toro Rosso-Honda partnership 12 valuable points with a superb, pacey and precise driver to fourth place.

Behind him Magnussen opened Haas’ 2018 account with fifth place ahead of Hulkenberg and Alonso and Vandoorne. Ericsson delivered a positive result for Sauber with ninth place and two points and the final point on offer was taken by Ocon.

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VETTEL: MERCEDES ON MEDIUMS I THOUGHT WAS CHECKMATE

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Sebastian Vettel thought it was game over when Mercedes drivers opted for a one-stop strategy race while he was on course for two stops, but the Ferrari driver made his set of softs last to the end, managing to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the final stages to win the Bahrain Grand Prix by just over half a second.

It was touch and go but Ferrari had to stay out because pitting for supersofts would have cost them victory, this brought out the best in Vettel as he nursed the tyres until the very end to claim the narrowest of triumphs at the venue where he has now won four times.

Vettel said afterwards, “When they went onto the medium tyre I thought that was checkmate because we needed to come in again. That was the original plan but then we diverted obviously and tried to make the tyres last.”

“I nursed them as much as I can and it worked – but just. It wasn’t much. At the end of the straight [on the final lap] Valtteri had a bit of a sniff, but fortunately he ran out of laps.”

“I came on the radio with 10 laps to go and said: I have everything under control… That was a lie, I admit. I was nothing under control when they told me the pace of Valtteri at that time. There was no way I could do that. I was doing the maths in the car – 10 laps to go, that pace, he’s going to catch me…”

Thus on the occasion of his 200th grand prix start Vettel notched up his 49th Formula 1 victory while extending his points in this year’s championship to 17 points after two rounds.

He may take inspiration from the fact that since 1982 drivers who won the first two rounds of the championship went on to win the title later the same year.

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HAMILTON: VERSTAPPEN MOVE UNNECESSARY AND DISRESPECTFUL

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, versus

Lewis Hamilton was not happy with Max Verstappen after the pair banged wheels as the field powered into Turn 1 at Sakhir circuit on the opening lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

It was riveting stuff as the pair went side-by-side (as if glued) through the Turn 1 complex with Verstappen emerging out of the corner, from 15th place on the grid, ahead of Hamilton who had started from ninth.

As Verstappen ran wide exiting the corner, the Red Bull’s rear left tyre caught the front wing of the Mercedes which had run out of room. The result was an instant puncture as well as race over for the Dutchman and a close escape for Hamilton who was fortunate not to incur damage to his Mercedes. He went on to finish third.

After the race the four times F1 World Champion was not happy with what took place, “It was an unnecessary collision. There needs to be a certain respect between drivers. It didn’t feel that respectful. It was a silly manoeuvre from him because he didn’t finish the race.”

“He ran me out of road, which I felt at the time was just unnecessary. He was past. I couldn’t get by. There was no need to push by. It was frustrating because it could have been me out of the race and it ended his race and there was not much I could do to avoid him,” lamented the Mercedes driver.

Verstappen, whose race lasted half a lap, refused to take the blame, “I had a good run on to the straight and going for the inside under braking I was next to him, going in to the corner I was ahead.”

“Of course you always try to squeeze each other a bit. I think there was still enough space on the left but he drove into my left rear and gave me a puncture and also destroyed the diff,” added Verstappen.

The race stewards had a look at the circumstances and declared it to be a racing incident.

MIKA: It was a ballsy move, no disrespect, it's called racing.

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FIRST LAP NIGHTMARE FOR RED BULL IN BAHRAIN

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Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen did not make it beyond the first lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix as the pair of Red Bulls were parked at the side of the circuit punctured and broken, both drivers heading back to the pits for a very early shower.

Verstappen tagged the front wing of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in a first corner melee and suffered a puncture. As he made his way around the circuit on three wheels he reported that the car had lost power. He made it to his pit garage, but his race was run.

Ricciardo, coincidentally also had a puncture, as his car lost all power and he was forced to park up at the side of the circuit.

He said, “Coming in to turn eight I lost all power, everything switched off without warning and I couldn’t do anything. I guess it’s an electrical engine issue, maybe battery related but I don’t know exactly yet.”

Verstappen continued, “Due to the hit with Lewis we sustained some more severe damage than just the puncture, we haven’t had a chance to look at the car yet but we suspect the differential. From the start I was enjoying the feel of the car and finding the gaps and it was shaping up to be an exciting race.”

“I had a good tow on the straight, the last corner was really good so it allowed me to stay close to Lewis. We got a bit squeezed but from the middle to the end of the corner I was ahead, I then felt a nudge from behind and could feel the puncture and therefore knew the race was likely over.” added Verstappen.

Team chief Christian Horner summed up their short night: “A brutally harsh race for us today.”

The team reported on Twitter shortly after:

Max Verstappen in the garage after retiring from the Bahrain Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo in the garage after retiring from the Bahrain Grand Prix

Quote

 

After investigation, a suspected electrical engine issue put pay to Daniel's #BahrainGP, while Max was forced to retire after sustaining too much damage from his early puncture ?

Safe to say China can't come soon enough...

 

 

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FERRARI MECHANIC SUFFERS LEG INJURIES AFTER PITSTOP GAFFE

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Kimi Raikkonen’s second pitstop during the Bahrain Grand Prix ended in near disaster as one of his mechanics suffered leg injuries after being struck by the #7 Ferrari as it departed its marks.

Raikkonen, who was running a strong third at the time, was released far too soon, the left rear was still on the rim when the Ferrari attempted to leave the pits.

As Raikkonen pulled away the mechanic was grounded by the rear wheel. He came to a halt a few metres after realising what had happened.

The veteran Finn flung his wheel into his car as he stormed back to his pit garage. The mechanic was treated by his colleagues in front of the pit garage before being taken to the circuit hospital.

Raikkonen’s race was over and said afterwards,”I go when the light is green. I don’t see what happens behind and unfortunately, he got hurt. My job is to go when the light is green, I don’t know more than that and hopefully, he is OK.”

Sebastian Vettel was aware of the incident and said immediately after his victory, “I’m a bit sad as I think in the pitstop with Kimi one of our mechanics got injured, so send him my best regards.”

Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne wished the mechanic a speedy recovery in his post-race statement.

“I am sorry for Kimi who could certainly have finished on the podium,” he added. 

“Apparently a shinbone and fibula fracture, our thoughts are with Francesco, stay strong.”

 

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GASLY: IT’S UNBELIEVABLE I AM SUPER HAPPY

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Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly saw his shares shoot up the charts after finishing fourth in a tense and action-packed Bahrain Grand Prix, providing a massive boost for Honda and Red Bull’s aspirations to seek an alternative power unit supplier to Renault.

Gasly impressed a day earlier in qualifying but went even better in the race, he said afterwards, “It’s unbelievable, sixth in qualifying and fourth in the race. We never expected something like this. I’m super happy, struggling to realise.”

“Big thanks to the team because the car was fantastic all weekend and today there was an opportunity and we had the car to take this. I don’t really know what to say. I’m just super happy.”

“Definitely we made a step this weekend. I don’t know if we will be as fast in other races. For now we just need to enjoy as it’s a great day for the team and for Honda and myself,” added Gasly.

The Frenchman finally able to show his true colours, while comprehensively outshining his highly rated teammate Brendon Hartley all weekend.

Team chief Franz Tost was impressed, “Pierre did a fantastic job. It all started on Friday, with really good lap times and very good technical feedback.”

“Then on Saturday, he qualified sixth and started fifth and in the race, he had a fantastic start, defending his position in the first corner and brought home the fourth place without any mistakes.”

“He controlled the race as if he had driven 100 races in Formula 1. It was extraordinary. It was a fantastic job today. I hope that this will only be the start,” added Tost.

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MAGNUSSEN: PROUD OF OUR TEAM AND THE PIT STOP GUYS

Kevin Magnussen

The Haas team put distance between them and their Australian Grand Prix disappointment by executing faultless pitstops and as a result, Kevin Magnussen rewarded them with fifth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Haas crew would have been forgiven a case of nerves in the shadow of the Melbourne fiasco, but they did not falter under pressure.

Magnussen acknowledged, “I’m proud of the guys and the team, but especially the guys in the pit stop. They reset their minds and got back to basics – and they delivered beautiful pit stops today.”

“It wasn’t quite a P4, but nearly. P5 is still a good result – it’s 10 points and after a bad time since Australia it was nice to get some points, a good result and to get the championship going.”

“It’s our job to keep up this performance and this level. It’s not easy – we have a very tight midfield and it’s extremely competitive so we have to keep pushing and we cannot stand still,” added Magnussen.

But it was not an evening without niggle as Magnussen battled to get by teammate Romain Grosjean at a point in the race when they were on different strategies and the Dane quicker.

Magnussen was not happy with the situation and was reluctant to comment about the incident, but acknowledged, “We need to talk about that…”

Grosjean was unable to match his Haas teammate all weekend, his cause was not helped when his car sustained damage to its bargeboard. He finished 15th, way behind Magnussen ending an unhappy race for the Frenchman.

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Sergio Perez and Brendon Hartley sanctioned for formation lap transgression

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Sergio Perez and Brendon Hartley have both been handed 30-second time penalties for transgressing on the formation lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The pair shared the sixth row of the grid, with Hartley in front of Perez, but the Force India driver was judged to have passed his opponent on the formation lap.

Hartley was subsequently judged to have failed to re-establish the original start order by the first Safety Car line.

The pair, who came together at Turn 4 on the opening lap of the race, were both issued with 10-second stop/go penalties, which was converted post-race into a 30-second demotion.

“The Stewards reviewed video evidence and heard from Sergio Perez, the driver of car 11 and the team representative,” read a report.

“Car 11 overtook car 28 before turn 1 and then during the remainder of the formation lap made no noticeable effort to allow car 28 to regain his position.

“The driver of car 11 also admitted the driver of car 28 was not unduly delayed when leaving the grid to start the formation lap.

“The Stewards reviewed video evidence and heard from Brendon Hartley, the driver of car 28 and the team representative.

“Car 28 was overtaken by car 11 during the formation lap, failed to re-establish his position before the first Safety Car line and then did not enter the pits as required under Article 38.3."

Perez was not issued with penalty points, but Hartley received two for his offence.

Perez and Hartley, who came across the line in 12th and 13th – split by just 0.027s – drop to 16th and 17th as a consequence of their penalties.

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Sebastian Vettel defends Lewis Hamilton over 'dickhead' comment

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Sebastian Vettel jumped to rival Lewis Hamilton's defense following the Bahrain Grand Prix after the Briton called Max Verstappen a "dickhead" upon watching a replay of their contact.

Verstappen overtook Hamilton in the opening laps but closed the door too early and his left-rear tyre clipped Hamilton's front-wing, causing a puncture which ultimately forced Verstappen to retire from the race.

In the pre-podium room, Hamilton saw the incident on a television screen and uttered the word "dickhead", which was later picked up in the post-race press conference, in which Vettel defended his rival.

"I don’t know what Lewis did," Vettel said after asking if he could answer the journalist's question. "We’ve all been in that situation, we fight someone, we go sometimes wheel-to-wheel, it’s close and you have a lot of adrenalin going.

"Comparing to football, if you have a microphone on a football player’s mouth, that everything he says is something nice and is a nice message when the guy tackles him and maybe sometimes he fouls him or not.

"So I don’t think it’s justified to give us these kind of shit questions and making up a story out of nothing, if we are just racing and we are full of adrenalin and sometime we say these things.

"I mean if I hit you in your face, you’re not going to say 'oh, Sebastian, that wasn’t nice'. It’s a human reaction. Sometimes I feel it’s all a bit blown up and artificial if we have these questions, trying to make a story out of nothing. So, it’s not personal, don’t take it personal. So I think we should cut it right there, so now if Lewis can answer."

Hamilton pinned the blame on Verstappen, calling the contact "unnecessary" and "silly" as it forced the Dutchman out of the race.

"Ultimately, I had a coming together with Max and it was an unnecessary collision," he said. "There needs to be a certain respect between drivers and ultimately... maybe I need to go and watch the manoeuvre again, but it didn’t feel like a respectful manoeuvre.

"It was a silly manoeuvre for himself, because he didn’t finish the race. And obviously he’s tending to make quite a few mistakes recently, so it was just unnecessary for him to do that. I can't really remember at what stage of the race it was or why we were even in that position, but yeah, I don’t really care to be honest."

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Gasly's drive "made a man out of him" - Marko

Gasly's drive "made a man out of him" - Marko

Pierre Gasly's drive to fourth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix "made a man out of him", according to Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko.
The French, in only his seventh Formula 1 race, gave the Toro Rosso-Honda package its first points of the season with a sensational drive to fourth.

It was the best result for the Honda engine since it returned to the sport in 2015.

Gasly had started from fifth on the grid following Toro Rosso's "huge step forward" from Melbourne, but Marko admitted today's result came as a surprise.

"That made a man out of him," said Marko. "His reward is the fourth place. All our drivers have a very good bonus system. This will more than please him.

"I didn't expect a fourth place that early – but it's a positive development. It was the target to challenge the midfield with this engine. Not here, but in the first half of the season."

Team boss Franz Tost hailed Gasly's drive as flawless.

"Pierre has done an incredibly good job, I must say," said Tost. "Also yesterday in qualifying he got everything together.

"And today a good start. Fantastic how he fought at the beginning against Magnussen, defending very, very hard and he brought it home without any mistakes, nothing. Very good job."

Asked if he expected such a performance from a rookie, Tost said: "Otherwise he would not be a Red Bull Junior driver and he would not be at Toro Rosso. I expected it."

Gasly, who made his grand prix debut last year in Malaysia, admitted it had been an "emotional" race.

"It was just an amazing feeling just trying to realise, because you put so much focus, so much energy," he said. "It's mentally tiring, you have to take care of all the things: the tyres, the fuel, the battery, the gap behind.

"Just trying to take care of anything and put some really good laps. And you just completely release everything and the emotions come.

"I'm quite emotional in these sort of situations, so I was just super happy."

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Alonso: McLaren flattered by "coincidence" Bahrain result

Alonso: McLaren flattered by "coincidence" Bahrain result

Fernando Alonso says his seventh place in the Bahrain Grand Prix was a "bit of a coincidence" and admits his McLaren F1 team must improve in the upcoming races.
The Woking-based team was left "astonished" on Saturday after struggling in qualifying, where Alonso finished 13th and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was one place behind.

But both drivers recovered to finish in the points on Sunday, with Alonso in seventh and Vandoorne in eighth.

It is the first time McLaren has scored points in consecutive races with both cars since the 2014 season.

But despite the progress in the race, Alonso admitted the weekend had been particularly tough for McLaren and conceded the result flattered the car's performance.

"We fixed it [qualifying] on the opening lap, didn't we?" joked Alonso.

"When I looked in the mirrors and I saw [Lewis] Hamilton behind I thought 'I don't know what position I'm in but it can't be too bad if Hamilton is behind'.

"We were still lacking a bit of pace in the race to be with [Nico] Hulkenberg and to attack the Haas.

"A pretty difficult weekend saved by the bell at the last moment with two cars in the points and with good points for the team, but we know we have to improve because today was a bit of a coincidence."

Today's result, aided by the retirement of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and the two Red Bulls, helped Alonso move into fourth place in the standings.

The two-time champion said he was "very happy" with the points haul so far despite McLaren's lack of pace.

"The race is not just about car performance. It's about saving fuel, the tyres, the start, the first corner, the first lap... there's a lot more factors and we are usually better on Sundays than on Saturday.

"We know it's been a particularly strange weekend for us. Very hard, too slow, especially in qualifying and we need to improve in the upcoming races because starting from so far back it's complicated.

"But anyway, fifth in Australia, seventh here, 10 points there, six here. We would have taken 16 points before starting the championship in Barcelona, so I'm very happy about that."

MIKA: Flattering yes, but Alonso drove extremely well also for this result and when one looks at the driver standings, Alonso surprisingly, is 4th in the Championship, only a handful of points behind Bottas who has a far more superior car.

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HAMILTON: I WAS DRIVING IN NO-MAN’S LAND

Lewis Hamilton

Reigning Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton wants a rapid improvement in communication from his Mercedes team during races after he was left high and dry at one point during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Two races into the Formula 1 season he’s disgruntled, and with good reason considering rival Sebastian Vettel has won them both. The Ferrari driver clinched victory in Bahrain on Sunday, with Hamilton third, the German following up his success at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

“It is very marginal now,” Hamilton said. “It really highlights the importance of communication and these smaller things that can make a difference. Those extra points.”

Hamilton’s frustration has continued from Melbourne, where a team computer error gifted Vettel the victory. Hamilton was in control but finished second because Mercedes’ data incorrectly calculated the time gap when Vettel, last year’s F1 runner-up, went into the pit lane.

Hamilton’s performance in Bahrain was an excellent damage limitation exercise, considering he started ninth on the grid because of an unauthorized gearbox change. But the British driver felt he could have done better with a clearer attacking strategy, having sensed an opportunity to strike.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was out after accidentally breaking a team mechanic’s leg , and a worried Vettel was struggling to hold his lead on fading tires. Yet Hamilton was unclear how hard he could push his tires in the remaining 15 laps, spending too much time on a malfunctioning team radio figuring out what to do.

“I was driving in no-man’s land for a while, that’s something we need to work on,” Hamilton said. “The radio wasn’t working properly. They couldn’t hear me, I could hear them. When you try to give feedback on a corner, you’re taking your mind off driving a perfect line.”

Mercedes has won the constructors’ and drivers’ double for the past four years, but cracks in the armor are appearing.

While Hamilton’s criticism is not “aimed at one person” in particular, he wants a response at the Chinese GP next week.

“We will definitely sit down and communicate a bit better, sit down and discuss the last two races,” Hamilton said. “I can’t afford to lose any more points to Sebastian.”

Hamilton’s strive for perfection also works against him at times, for he lets frustrations linger.

“If you look at the last race (in Australia), we should have won that and through struggling to understand how we operate, communicate, we did lose the race,” Hamilton said. “There were things we could have done to make sure we came out ahead.”

Following that setback, there was a clear breakdown in understanding between him and his race engineers in Bahrain.

“I don’t understand what I’ve got to do,” Hamilton said on lap 43 when told to target a lap time of “low 34s,” or 1 minute, 34 seconds.

“I am doing 34.3, is that enough?” a bewildered Hamilton replied, later adding, “Feels like you guys are not giving me much of a picture.”

With 62 wins and a record 73 pole positions, Hamilton is in a position to be so demanding.

“To make the strategy work we need to make sure we’re all on the same understanding. (Saying) ‘Just do this time’ doesn’t really tell me anything. You won’t hit your target lap, you lose time. It’s like climbing up a mountain with slippery mud, that’s how it feels.”

Ferrari’s strategy of only a one-stop race caught out Mercedes, which anticipated Vettel coming in for a second tire change. He didn’t and held on to beat Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate – by 0.7 seconds in a thrilling contest.

“I would say 90 percent probability was on us winning, and we lost,” Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said.

Hamilton has not won any of the past five races. It is his longest drought since 2016, when he lost his F1 title to teamate Nico Rosberg.

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