Gulf Air Bahrain GP Sakhir round 1 – Sunday 28th March
Bahrain International circuit 57 laps
Lap record still at 1m 31.447s held by P. de la Rosa (2005).
It is the first time this circuit has been the season opener, although it was scheduled for that in 2011 until the race was cancelled due to civil unrest in the country. Last year the race was won by Ham from pole position with Ver & Alb joining him on the podium.
FP1 started with the temperature at 34ºC. It was a fairly calm session with a few of spins & offs and the drivers getting to grips with their cars again. FP2 with the floodlights on saw Maz spun off causing yellow flags. Räi clipped the barriers and broke his nose cone. More spins & offs and quite a few times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 4. FP3 saw Lec have a minor spin. Vet lost some bodywork off his AMR21. Ver, Ham, Gas, Bot & Per made up the top five.
Q1 started under floodlights with the temperature down to 35ºC. Out went both Haas cars along with Vet, Lat & Oco. Q2 was another trouble free session but with quite a few times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 4, but out went both Alfa Romeo cars along with Rus, Tsu & Per. Q3 was the usual fast and furious 12 minutes. Ver, Ham, Bot, Lec, Gas, Ric, Nor, Sai, Alo & Str made up the top ten. Vet was handed a 5 place grid penalty & 3 points on his licence for ignoring the yellow flags in Q1.
Race day was cooler with the temperature at 21ºC. Per stopped on the warm-up lap causing the start to be aborted and a second warm-up lap. Per started from the pit lane. There were a lot of scraps in the midfield and towards the back with some drivers going off. Maz spun off and crashed into the barrier at turn 3 – a short race for the Russian on his F1 debut! Safety car deployed for 2 laps. Ric & Gas came together with the latter breaking his front wing – long pit stop for him. Sai & Str also clashed spreading red bodywork over the circuit – VSC. The pit stops started at the end of lap 11 causing a lot of position changes. Alo was the first to retire on lap 32 with a brake problem. Vet clipped the back of Oco breaking his front wing, losing places and suffering with the bad team decision to do a one-stop strategy. Lat returned to the garage with a boost leak followed by Gas still suffering with damage from his incident earlier. Bot made a very late pit stop on lap 54 to get the fastest lap taking a point away from Ver & RBR. A really fierce battle at the end between Ham & Ver making it a good ending to the first race of the season. Ham won with Ver & Bot joining him on the podium. Vet finished 15th, having a 10 sec penalty and another 2 points on his licence. Bot posted the fastest lap of 1m 32.090s on lap 56.