I think I would be improper for me to comment on this race without commenting on the circumstances surrounding it. Personally I think the decision to go there was the wrong one, solely because the race was always going to be hijacked by both sides of the civil-unrest in Bahrain, but some of the reportage surrounding the race was gratuitous. Some media outlets only reported on the situation in Bahrain because the F1 circus travelled there, and then immediately stopped once it left, this did a disservice both the Bahraini people and F1 a disservice. That’s all I have to say on that, so on to the race itself.
After the 2010 experiment of using the “endurance” layout of the Sakhir track, we reverted back to the less boring (but still oh-so-dreary) “grand prix” configuration, but the result seemed very 2011. Sebastian Vettel beat Hamilton to pole by less than a tenth of a second, pulled out his customary gap of more than a second in the first two laps and then kept his tyres in shape. The young German showed why he is a double world champion by yet again having speed and knowing when to use it. Red Bull and Vettel haven’t had the best opening few races, but nobody else has either, so by winning this race (along with Webber finishing fourth for the fourth time running), both team and driver top their respective championship.
One race down then, so what have we learned? Well it would appear to be good news for most, but especially to those of us watching, competition all through the field is always a good thing.
Jenson Button leaves Melbourne with a smile on his face; he claimed to be more nervous than normal before the race, possibly because he realised he was sitting in the best car he’d had since the start of the 2009 season, but nervous or not, he was imperious. Button took a page from the Book of Vettel and scampered off into the distance to the tune of three seconds – well away from the danger of DRS – but was able to keep the tyres in good shape thanks to his smooth style. Hamilton is less happy, he failed to convert a superb pole into a win, he never looked capable of challenging for the win, but second looked assured until Petrov parked up in a dangerous position and the resulting safety car allowed Vettel to jump him at the stops. Hamilton will most be upset by his lack of pace against his teammate, you get the impression that the 2011 demons won’t truly have been exorcised until Lewis gets the upper hand over Jenson for a few races straight.
As we approach the end of pre-season testing, a picture of where the teams stand is beginning to emerge. We may be subjected to some horrific looking noses on this year’s cars, but it would appear we will see some more competition for the top step of the podium. So in order of last year’s constructors’ championship, let’s see where we stand going into the 2012 season.