The 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix: An Electric Season Opener!
What a thrilling opener for the 2021 Formula One Season! We had some incredible overtakes, an early scrap between Norris and Leclerc, as well as a massive Verstappen v. Hamilton battle.
Max Verstappen had pole position for the Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton started in second place. They both started on medium tyres.
Hamilton boxed for a set of the hard compound tyres on lap 14 to attempt the undercut on Verstappen. Verstappen led the race for three more laps before pitting for another set of medium tyres. He rejoined the track 7 seconds behind Hamilton.
With sixteen laps to go, both drivers had stopped again for new sets of hard tyres. After his last stop, Verstappen exited the pit lane 8.5 seconds behind Hamilton, but with his tyres 11 laps fresher, he rapidly began closing in on the seven-time World Champion. Eleven laps later, Verstappen had narrowed their gap to a mere 1.5 seconds, and everybody watching was at the edge of their seats. Hamilton went wide going into the tenth turn, which sliced the time between them to just one-second. Crucially this gave him the use of DRS, and he was quickly right on Hamilton’s gearbox. There were only three laps of the race left, but Verstappen made his move going in to turn 3. However, he ran wide on his exit (turn 4) and went outside the track limits. The stewards instructed Verstappen to give the place back to Hamilton as he had gained a ‘lasting advantage’ when exceeding the track limits. For the next 2 laps, Verstappen’s driving was more ragged, and he was unable to get close enough to attempt another overtaking move. But Verstappen closed up again within DRS range on the last lap, and it took every ounce of Hamilton’s skill and experience to hold off the flying Dutchman by seven-tenths of a second and snatch up his 96th career win!
In my opinion, this race really showed Hamilton’s skill on the race track. He was able to win the Grand Prix on older, worn-out tyres and in a slower car. A mighty achievement, even for Hamilton. After the race, Hamilton said that: “Wow. What a difficult race that was. Stopping early we knew would be difficult but we had to cover Max, they have had an amazing performance all weekend. Max was all over me at the end and I was just about able to hold him off. That was one of the hardest races I’ve had for a while.”
The Grand Prix also marked yet another record-breaking race for Lewis Hamilton as he beat Michael Schumacher’s total of 5,111 laps led.
Standout moments from the rest of the grid.
Sergio Perez made his debut with Red Bull on Sunday at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Perez qualified in eleventh for the race but had to start from the pitlane after an electrical problem experienced on the formation lap. Nevertheless, Perez fought his way through the field to end the race in fifth place. Perez was awarded the Driver of the Day award for his accomplishments in the race.
Lando Norris began his third season in Formula One after qualifying in seventh position for the race. Norris’s driving skills shone at the Grand Prix. On the first lap of the race, he overtook his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. As the race progressed, he also moved in front of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Norris finished in fourth place as a result, scoring twelve Championship points for the season. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo ended the race three positions behind Norris, but comparisons shouldn’t be drawn between the two.
McLaren Team Principal, Andreas Seidl stated that “Post-race we found damage to Daniel’s floor from the impact of Pierre (Gasly) running into the back of his car at the beginning of the race,”
“The level of damage cost a considerable amount of downforce. Despite the performance loss Daniel used his experience to cope with the issues and score important points for the team.”
With his confident personality and stellar driving style, Yuki Tsunoda is already an F1 fan favourite. Tsunoda crossed the finish line in ninth after some impressive overtakes on excellent drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. Tsunoda described passing two-time World Champion Alonso during the race as “a little bit emotional”.
He said that “The last time I saw Alonso racing was 13 years ago – I was watching at Fuji Speedway when he was driving for McLaren and Renault. I’m really proud.”
Tsunoda continued, saying that, “I was really happy that I overtook him, of course it’s not the same car, but yeah, I was happy.”
On Sunday, Tsunoda became the first Japanese driver to score points on their F1 debut. He also became the first driver from Japan to score points since Kamui Kobayashi nine years ago.
Fernando Alonso competed in his first F1 race in two years on Sunday for Alpine. Unfortunately, Alonso experienced an issue with his brakes. The problem was later confirmed to be a sandwich wrapper stuck in his Alpine’s brake duct. He retired from the Grand Prix after thirty-six laps.
Sebastian Vettel’s race in Bahrain was a miserable one. His first few laps went well, and he gained several places. However, his day quickly soured after his collision with Esteban Ocon on lap 44. Vettel smashed into the back of Ocon’s Alpine and was later given a 10-second penalty for causing a collision.
Vettel finished the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix in 15th place. The race was his first for Aston Martin, and the team’s first race start since the 1960 F1 season.
The 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix marked the start of Kimi Raikkonen’s 20th season in Formula One. Here he is pictured on the pitlane in an image that has become an instant meme:
He is the oldest driver on the grid at 41 years old. Last year, Raikkonen became the most experienced driver in Formula 1’s history, with a total of 330 races started.
At Sunday’s Grand Prix, Raikkonen finished in 11th, just two seconds away from Lance Stroll ahead. While Raikkonen fell short of catching Stroll, the season opener showed the progression of Alfa Romeo’s F1 car. This is mainly due to the improvement of the Ferrari engine, which was radically changed during the winter break.
The Ferrari team’s progress was also apparent, with both drivers finishing within the points. Charles Leclerc ended the race in P6, while Carlos Sainz placed P8 in his debut race for the Italian team.
Mick Schumacher has completed his first-ever Formula One race, deciding to do so under the timing initials ‘MSC’ in honour of his father, the seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher. Mick has also started his first Formula One season thirty years after Michael’s debut in 1991.
He spun on the first lap of Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix but eventually recovered and became the last driver to see the chequered flag.
Nikita Mazepin described Sunday as “one of the worst days” of his life. The Russian driver spun at the third turn of his debut race and hit the barriers. He had to retire from the Grand Prix due to the damages. Mazepin said of the incident, “Totally my mistake. I’m very sorry for the team because they deserved to do much better than that. I am very angry with myself.” In fact, Mazepin’s first race in F1 marked the sport’s shortest debut performance in nineteen years.
The full results are shown below:
Originally published on: March 30 2021
Cover Image Credit: @mercedesamgf1