The away win; the scrum won against the head; the break of serve. Many sports have their equivalent. And whatever you’d call them in F1 Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes had something like it in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Don’t let the apparent familiarity of the winner’s identity fool you. This one wasn’t expected. Yes, Lewis took pole, as he has done everywhere in 2015, but come Sunday this was supposed to be just like Malaysia. The heat combined with the abrasive surface we thought would reward the Ferrari and its gentle touch on the tyres. That in Friday practice the red cars had a clear advantage over the Mercs – perhaps of a second per lap – in their race simulations apparently confirmed it all. And in another echo of the Malaysian round, Sebastian Vettel was poised tantalisingly in second on the grid.
Lewis takes command again
But things decoupled from Sepang when things actually got going. Mercedes had changed since Friday; the times then were peculiar. Suddenly the quiet confidence of all in silver and the non-forthcoming comportment of those in red after qualifying made sense.
Lewis moved clear of Seb in the early laps. Nico then underlined matters by, having already cleared Kimi Raikkonen, spearing past Vettel before too long. And come the end Lewis was still ahead in that ever so habitual fashion. Just as in his previous two triumphs this year he never was far ahead of his pursuers, but equally it never looked likely that he would be challenged let alone headed.
Seb’s run was scrappy. There were a few locked brakes and trips out wide. Then shortly after his pit crew got him ahead of Nico for the second time he gave the place back by running off the track. This necessitated a front wing change, which relegated him to fifth, where he stayed. After his first few months at the Scuderia in which nothing would go wrong for him Vettel in Bahrain’s race had his first faltering steps.
Kimi comes out swinging
But the towel was not thrown in from the red corner. The fight instead was brought by Raikkonen. He’s looked to be more like the driver of old this year, with a car more to his handling taste, and after some rotten luck in previous rounds things came to him in Bahrain. And it was classic Kimi, all mesmerising touch of his machine and ghosting forwards on a more stretched-out strategy. Late on with newer, softer tyres, he bore down on the Mercs like something out of their nightmares, and while Lewis it transpired was out of range the Finn was right with Nico with two laps left. But the matter was resolved by the Merc developing a problem with its brake-by-wire system, consigning Nico to third.
Lewis indeed developed a similar problem himself on the final lap. But it proved the most minor of irritants; not affecting the final outcome. Pretty much like anything else he was presented with that day.
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