This weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix taught us much about the shape of Formula One for both the present and the future on and off the track.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg powered home to victory after outpacing Lewis Hamilton on the run down to the first corner and he was well clear when Valtteri Bottas ploughed into the world champion at turn one.
Hamilton suffered damage and fell behind Kimi Raikkonen, where he stayed throughout the rest of the race. Rosberg though was rarely challenged on a weekend where – despite Hamilton nicking pole – the German had genuinely looked like he had an answer.
Rosberg has a point when he says that we haven’t seen the real Ferrari yet. A strategy blunder in Australia cost them a possible victory, Vettel’s engine blew on the formation lap in Bahrain and the eventual second finisher, Raikkonen, also went in reverse at the start.
If a weekend was to come together for the Scuderia then there’s a chance they will be able to improve on the three race victories they secured last season.
Raikkonen was at one point 14 seconds behind Rosberg, but for most of the final two stints the gap fluctuated between 5 and 7 seconds. There’s genuine pace in that Ferrari, and that pace could mean a fight is on between the Prancing Horse and the Silver Arrows at the front throughout the remainder of the season.
Very few predicted that Haas’ excellent start at Melbourne ,which saw the team score points on their debut, would carry on into Bahrain.
Haas were extremely quick and Romain Grosjean grabbed a fantastic fifth place as their wonderful start continued. They would have had a double points finish had Esteban Gutierrez, who was eighth, not had a turbo failure.
Some have their opinions about Haas’ model, which includes a partnership with Ferrari, but you cannot deny this is an excellent achievement and F1 needs to embrace privateer teams, no matter how they go about it.
The weekend saw two of the brightest young stars in Formula One begin to emerge, as Stoffel Vandoorne flew in on Thursday to replace the injured Fernando Alonso to score a point in his first ever F1 race.
Meanwhile Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein qualified in 16th and set the sixth fastest lap of the race on his way to 13th.
Vandoorne has the most impressive CV of anyone not driving full time in F1 – and arguably better than some who do – having easily won the GP2 series in 2015.
Wehrlein has long been around at Mercedes and having spent three years in Germany’s DTM, where he is the reigning champion, it was never likely to be long before he dined at motorsport’s top table.
The future’s bright – on the track – if these two and others such as Max Verstappen, begin to realise their potential.
While F1 is in rude health on the track, off the track we’ve seen yet more evidence that it is a complete mess with a lack of direction.
The elimination style qualifying format should never have made it beyond Melbourne, and we were treated to NINE minutes of empty track across the three sessions. Even the man who had to wield the chequered flag lost his enthusiasm as he completed a now pointless formality.
After banning and then reintroducing this pointless system, Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt have refused to go back to the old system; two knockout sessions and a pole position shootout.
For almost the first time in modern F1 history, the teams agreed that a return to that system was best, but former Ferrari team principal Todt later at an FIA meeting only allowed a tweaked version of the elimination system, which would see the final session not feature any knockouts, as an alternative.
Now, Ecclestone has proposed a hopeless aggregate system that would see two times added together, rather than just one lap counting.
The irony of that is that the last in-season qualifying change back in 2005 was to get rid of an aggregate qualifying system.
It’s a fitting way to demonstrate the chaos behind the scenes in F1.