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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Lights turn on for Räikkönen - Mercedes have the edge but Ferrari missed opportunities in Bahrain


A faultless performance from Räikkönen
A faultless performance from RäikkönenCredit: Ferrari Media

The Bahrain GP delivered once again as Mercedes couldn't quite shake the Ferrari fight. Nico Rosberg had to pass a Ferrari five times and still finished behind Kimi Räikkönen after the Finn chased him through the final stint before Rosberg's brakes faltered at "the worst possible time" with two laps left.

Räikkönen comes up just short

Kimi Räikkönen, Scuderia Ferrari: Started 4th, Finished 2nd

Räikkönen may have got past as Rosberg went straight on at turn one but his drive warranted second place despite that. After showing strong speed in practice, the Finn couldn't quite put it together on his final lap, leaving him fourth, a tenth behind Nico Rosberg's Mercedes. The fact that Sebastian Vettel split the Mercedes pair stopped the Silver Arrows formation flying into turn one, and in fact it was Ferrari who played the perfect hand, boxing in Rosberg to secure second and third and take the fight to Hamilton.

It took a strong move by Rosberg to get by Räikkönen, bordering on the immoral and illegal down into turn one as the Finn had to back down to avoid an accident. That left Räikkönen as the fourth and last of the frontrunners and needing to do something different to get the result; he ran long on his first set of soft tyres, giving him more freedom on strategy, and putting him out of sync with the Mercedes, especially when he fitted the unfavoured prime tyres to get them out of the way.

The prime tyres switched on and the Finn was immediately faster than Rosberg and Vettel
Credit: Ferrari Media

As it turned out, Kimi's luck was in. The prime tyres switched on immediately and the Finn was immediately faster than Rosberg and Vettel, reeling in the top three, knowing that they would come back to him as their option tyres wore out.

The key phase of the race came as the top three had made their final stop to go on to the prime tyres and Ferrari extended Kimi’s second stint. The Mercedes were able to regain the time lost to Räikkönen before their stops as the Finns tyres fell away and Hamilton regained the lead.

What’s more there was indecision on the Ferrari pitwall. The team wanted to go back onto the mediums for a final 17 lap charge to catch the Mercedes, while Räikkönen had other ideas, preferring to stay on the mediums which had been working so well. In the end the team won out and it proved a good move as he took huge chunks of time out of the Mercedes. He was right on the tail of Nico Rosberg when the German had a brake issue, just running out of time to mount an attack on Hamilton.

Did staying out cost Kimi victory? It’s unlikely. Prior to Rosberg’s problem, the Finn’s pace was tailing off slightly and had they run a longer final stint, he may have got on the back of the front two earlier but with no grip left to attack the superior Mercedes. Ultimately it was a faultless performance from Räikkönen, outshining Vettel on a day when the German was fast but lacked the composure at key moments, making three glaring errors that left him fifth.

Sterling work from Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Williams Martini Racing: Started 5th, Finished 4th

Williams are in a real quandary right now. They have lost a lot of time to Mercedes and particularly Ferrari but they have very little threat from beyond that. On top of that, Valtteri Bottas has not been the same so far this year, possibly due to his back injury from Australia.

Valtteri Bottas has not been the same so far this year, possibly due to his back injury from Australia

That changed in Bahrain as he got the absolute maximum he could from the weekend. Despite all of the optimistic talk, it was clear they couldn’t match Ferrari over one lap or a race distance. The Finn qualified fifth, locking out the third row with Williams teammate Felipe Massa but a failure at the start for Massa, set the Finn up for a lonely race, almost locking him in to fifth.

However, once Sebastian Vettel had to make an unscheduled third stop for a new nose, Bottas came alive. Invigorated by the competition, the Williams put on a fantastic defensive display throughout the final stint, keeping the faster Ferrari at bay and largely at arm’s length. It’s a real worry that the team from Grove find themselves 40 seconds off the ultimate pace but a well-earned fourth place will go a long way to lifting morale as the team look to develop their 2015 challenger.

Danny’s explosive drive

Daniel Ricciardo, Infiniti Red Bull Racing: Started 7th, Finished 6th

The Red Bull just about made it to the line
Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Even on a day when Daniel Ricciardo did everything right there was a cloud hanging over it (a rather big cloud of smoke actually). Ricciardo got the absolute maximum out of his Red Bull in qualifying and the race despite his Renault engine. Having seen his teammate eliminated in Q1, Ricciardo fought on gallantly, ending up seventh on the grid behind the Mercedes, Ferraris & Williams.

Off the line, Ricciardo hurried Bottas ahead throughout the first stint, keeping the gap to the Williams ahead within a couple of seconds. They stopped on the same lap, and afterwards Bottas made his second set of soft tyres work and opened up a gap to the Australian behind.

By the time Ricciardo moved on to the medium tyres for his final stint, the gap was 13 seconds and all that was left to do was manage the car and the gap to Romain Grosjean behind. The Red Bull just about made it to the line, going up in smoke on the home straight, leaving Ricciardo with another wasted motor - he’ll already be on his fourth and final unit by the time we get to Europe.

Heroic Pérez salvages Force India points

Sergio Pérez, Sahara Force India F1 Team: Started 11th, Finished 8th

It’s been a torrid start to the year for Force India. After a double points finish in Australia through reliability rather than speed, the Silverstone team had barely threatened the top ten. This weekend, Sergio Pérez continued his good form in Sakhir after a podium in 2014. The Mexican was just edged out of Q3 by Carlos Sainz Jr and teammate Nico Hülkenberg by a tenth of a second in Q2. Pérez ran 11th through the first stint, having lost out to Marcus Ericsson at the start, running long at the end of the stint, giving the team more flexibility on strategy.

Eighth was a very good performance
Eighth was a very good performanceCredit: Sahara Force India

The Mexican decided for a shorter final run on mediums, coming out 12th on the road with 19 laps to go but as the three stop strategies were played out, Pérez rose up through the field, overtaking Felipe Massa, ailing on very old medium tyres, with eight laps left. Eighth was a very good performance, particularly as Force India achieved it with a slower car on merit, with a little bit of help from strategy. It will be interesting if Sergio Pérez can continue fighting with the Lotus’ and Toro Rossos until their B-spec car arrives in Austria.