There are races that are marked by a stamp of certainty. At times, you just know the eventual outcome; the pole sitter has a relatively easy stroll to the checkered flag. Then there are races like the 2018 Bahrain Grand prix that are stamped by brazen uncertainty.
But these are also racing fests that ultimately reward the very best talent at the end.
Here’s a perspective of Vettel’s 49th F1 triumph
At the completion of a race, customary to every grand prix, the driver is to measure his weight. The idea is to judge the water retention level in the body caused by the exhaustion that the daunting challenge of driving for two back-to-back hours serves.
But on April 8, at the completion of the 2018 Bahrain Grand prix, how light, it ought to be asked, would Sebastian Vettel be feeling?
How must those legs be feeling; the ones, he dragged on from the 35th lap onward in the fight to the checkered flag till lap 57 was completed?
What might have been in the mind of former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger as he waved the checkered flag, seeing a contemporary Formula 1 legend blaze past in what was a nail-biting finish?
Vettel’s massive triumph
By winning his 200th race start and his 49th grand prix overall, Vettel prized himself a bold win. It’s a win that he must cherish in the times to come; for when you race in the burgeoning heat of the Gulf emirate of Bahrain, you don’t just race against world-class contemporaries alone.
You race against nature.
Moreover, in gaining an upper-hand in a feisty battle that continued from nearly cataclysmic 23 laps, Sebastian Vettel exhibited absolute class in his tyre management skills. That too for a considerably long 23 lap stint bearing the enormous threat of waning tyres and the degradation thereof, against the likes of Valtteri Bottas- P2- who held on to a brilliant podium finish having overtaken Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen in the opening lap.
But Bottas’ eventual race result, it could be said, is tantamount to nothing less than a win in itself. As fans, you ought to feel that the Mercedes driver should give himself a pat on the back for producing those final two corner skirmishes, coming within a split second of a distance to Vettel’s SF- 71H right ahead of the checkered flag. In so doing, Valtteri Bottas produced the quintessential nervousness that is such a useful component of close finishes.
2018 Bahrain Grand Prix was the oversimplification to a weird math that always dictates terms in F1. That the winner takes it all. In fact, time for a reprisal. The winner is the one who gives it all. You warmed up to the finger-waging Vettel as much as you felt for Bottas’ P2.
He caught Raikkonen napping in the opening lap of the 2018 Bahrain Grand prix, who was undone by a bizarre Ferrari pit crew mishap in lap 37. In making a bold move just marginally before approaching the first right-hander into turn 1, the Finn ensured that Mercedes would be in it to for a stern fight till the end.
But apart from Vettel’s win, there were major victories in the grand prix further back down the order.
Scuderia Torro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, in only his 8th race entry, secured his best ever finish- a fighting P4 in fetching the Italian Team 12 valuable points thanks to his vital efforts. The delight coming at the back of a Honda engine- Fernando fans to note.
Kevin Magnussen of Haas, secured his second-best finish in his 63rd race start.
But above all, Lewis Hamilton, handed a 5-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change at the start, ended with P4- a win in its own right. Having begun the race from P9 and at one stage, passing three drivers in one stellar move before lap 17, Hamilton, true to his fighting might made most of what was clearly Ferrari’s night despite Raikkonen’s pit disaster.
But how often have we seen the three drivers so drained out on the celebratory podium as to be seeming immensely worthy of seeking a week-long break?
Exhaustion ruled the glowing faces the eventual trio- Vettel, Bottas and, Hamilton waved out to elated crowds from the podium. So on Sunday, under the blazing lights at the Sakhir, it was hardly a surprise when Coulthard in congratulating the German driver shared candidly, “The sweat on your face tells me you want that 2018 title.”
That said, the battle resumes in China shortly. Till then, it’s Ferrari and Vettel on top. Is this the start of a red season?