Mercedes thought they could beat Vettel
Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff has admitted the team thought that their tyre strategy would have given the team a “ninety percent” chance of beating Sebastian Vettel in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Vettel said following the race on Sunday which was trilling from the start, that he feared that Mercedes had put him into “checkmate” after he responded to the German’s pit stop for soft tyres by switching second-placed Valtteri Bottas on to the mediums – a compound more able to complete the remainder of the race without the need for another stop.
Vettel was unable to respond to Bottas threat despite his advantage on tyres and completed ‘Plan D’ which turned into a mammoth thirty-nine lap run. Bottas did close up in the closing laps of the race, but Vettel unexpected hung on to win the race, which wasn’t expected.
Wolff told the media after the race “I think we had won the race already after coming out on the medium behind Sebastian with a gap that we were able to close down, knowing that they would either need to stop once again or they would run out tyre if we were to push them.”
“This was the moment where I would say 90 percent probability was on us winning and we lost that.” Mercedes had no new supersoft tyres for the race as they struggled on that compound in practice and committed to a two stop when Bottas went onto softs for the second stint.
Wolff believes Ferrari took a “risk” by subsequently running to the end – but commended Mercedes’ rivals for making the gamble work. “We saw that on Alonso and then we decided to try the medium and see how it would be on our car, still with the option of stopping twice.”
He believes that if the race was slightly longer that Bottas could have won the race, however, Wolff praised Ferrari for how they adapted to the situation.
Bahrain showed how heart ripping F1 is – Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo says that Red Bull’s implosion at the Bahrain Grand Prix within the first two laps shows how Formula One “can rip your heart out.”
Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen picked up a puncher while fighting with Lewis Hamilton at the start of lap two, which lead to damage to his gearbox leading to his retirement. Then the Australian suffered an energy store problem and stopped on track from fourth.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Ricciardo said “Being out so early in a race is just the worst feeling, especially when it’s a night race and you are up all day waiting for those two hours and after two minutes it’s over. This sport can rip your heart out, it’s brutal sometimes.”
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner believes that Ricciardo’s fastest lap in Melbourne was the only real indicator of the team’s performance.
Ricciardo said he got another serious glimpse of its potential in the opening lap-and-a-bit in Bahrain. Saying “The weekend was going pretty good for us and I really believe our race car was even better.”
“I know I only did one lap but I could already see Kimi sliding on the rear tyres.” He says that the team believed that they were in with a good chance and that makes it more frustrating.
Red Bull’s pace on Friday where they were the strongest on single lap pace meant that the team has dropped to fourth in the constructors. Horner added “That’s an element beyond our control, and a racing incident between two competitive drivers.
“F1 is full of ifs, buts and maybes. The only solace we can take is once we again we genuinely feel we had a shot at a competitive race.”
McLaren admit to difficult start
McLaren has admitted the team start to the 2018 season has been harder than the team expected it to be despite the team currently being third in the constructor’s championship.
The British team ended it’s partnership with Honda after three difficult seasons ahead of this year, the team switched to Renault for 2018 but suffered reliability problems in testing. Despite a strong opening race in Melbourne, McLaren slipped down the order in Sakhir with left racing director Eric Boullier “astonished”.
Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne fought back to score a second double-points finish in two races but Boullier told Motorsport.com it was “definitely” a harder start than anticipated.
“We have good race pace, which helps us to recover, but we have been benefitting from race circumstances. We took points we had to take, we did a good job to recover on reliability [from pre-season], so the guys did a good job at the factory.”
McLaren’s results in the last few races have been boosted by other teams not scoring points. The team is currently third in the constructor’s championship but were still unhappy with their performance.
Boullier says the team made mistakes with set up of the car and that the mistakes could be avoided in the future. Adding “We need to be where we believe we should be and can’t have too many mistakes like this.”
He said that he had a hundred percent confidence in the team and part of the problem was getting the most from the tyres and having too much downforce.
McLaren’s pre-season reliability woe forced it to alter its updates schedule, and Boullier added: “That’s why we have a lot to come and that’s why I think Fernando is so positive in terms of upgrades and the next few races. Hopefully that will be enough to clear it [the midfield].”
Brown appointed CEO in McLaren restructure
Zak Brown has been appointed as chief executive of McLaren’s Formula One operation as part of a restructuring of the McLaren Group.
On Tuesday, the British based group announced the group was being split into three divisions McLaren Applied Technologies, McLaren Automotive and McLaren Racing.
Previously, there had been two sides to the company – McLaren Automotive and the McLaren Technology Group, which comprised Racing, Applied Technologies and Marketing. The restructuring allowed the group to have a more defined management structure to help deal better with future growth.
Jonathan Neale becomes COO of the McLaren Group, while Brown has become CEO of McLaren Racing after previously being its executive director. Mike Flewitt remains CEO of McLaren Automotive and a new CEO will be appointed to McLaren Applied Technologies.
Eric Boullier remains racing director in the new structure.
Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, McLaren Group Executive Chairman, explained: “The work of the past year at a corporate level has been focused on structuring and positioning McLaren for growth.
“These latest developments are a natural consequence of that work and are designed to bring greater simplicity and clarity to the structure and leadership of the group.”
Ericsson feels a weight lifted after first points
Marcus Ericsson says that his ninth place finish in Bahrain feels like a weight has lifted from his shoulders. The Sauber driver scored his first points in the race as one of four drivers who completed the race on a one-stop strategy.
The Swede has struggled since he joined the team in 2014 to get rid of his label as a pay driver and there questions over Sauber’s decision to retain him for 2018 over Pascal Wehrlein or Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi.
After several near-misses to end his points-scoring drought, which was just shy of 1,000 days in length, Ericsson left Bahrain a relieved man. Speaking to ESPN, he said “I’ve had some really difficult years and I’ve worked really hard with some really great performances and races.”
“I have finished eleventh four times since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix so I’ve been very close but there’s always been something happening — a Safety Car or something happened – when I’ve been looking to try and score those points.”
Ericsson says that scoring points is a big relief and was a weight lifted from his shoulders. The result was also Sauber’s first finish in the top ten since last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.