Rosberg must up his game
But he needs to do it on the track to reach a position of strength in their psychological battle having been left behind in that regard after his accusations of selfishness at the Chinese Grand Prix. Most importantly he needs to start this process with qualifying. He has been outqualified by Hamilton at every race this season and, more significantly, twice by Sebastian Vettel. He admitted he made a misjudgment in Bahrain, not doing a hot sighting lap as Hamilton did in Q2 and then could not push on used tyres in his first run in Q3. Having his nose ahead on the grid must be the first step in forcing Hamilton to come at him rather than vice versa.
The Iceman cometh
Having struggled with last year’s Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen is looking altogether more at home in this year’s model. The signs were there in China, where after running a much longer middle stint than his rivals, he was chasing down Vettel for a podium spot before the safety car intervened. Then, in Bahrain, he delivered a masterclass in eking the best from car and tyres. Switching to the medium rubber – theoretically up to two seconds a lap slower than the soft – he might have been expected to lose time to the leaders at his first stop. Instead he matched Hamilton, who was on the faster tyre, which allowed him to stay in touch and chase Rosberg at the end. Even without the latter’s brake problem he would likely have passed him. He expects more from himself and so should we this season.
It’s a three big weeks for McLaren
Fernando Alonso may have scored the team’s highest finish of the season with an 11th place in Bahrain but it was overshadowed by the team being unable to field two cars because of an electrical fault on Jenson Button’s MP4-30. It was a terrible end to a hugely frustrating weekend for the British driver who had suffered failures in both of Friday’s free practice sessions and then failed to set a lap time in qualifying. It was frustrating too for McLaren and Honda and it is almost awkward to watch the team struggle so. They did not enter two cars in Australia either after Kevin Magnussen’s engine failed on the way to the grid so – while Button admits every aspect of the car needs work, particularly downforce – before the next round in Barcelona the team must see it as a matter of urgency to make it reliable.
Williams too must step up
Unthreatened as the third fastest team on the grid is not where Williams want to be. The team are open that their task this year was to consolidate the huge gains they made last year and to an extent they are doing so. They have lost ground to Ferrari, having been palpably the closest team to Mercedes in the closing rounds of last season. The team insist Felipe Massa is in the form of his life and he drove well to recover to 10th in Bahrain, while Valtteri Bottas’s talent is clear, fending off Vettel with aplomb on Sunday but he was almost 40 seconds back from Raikkonen’s Ferrari at the finish. Pat Symonds was proud of the way his team out-developed their opposition last year – they must do the same again.
Must Monza go?
Germany, which has hosted a grand prix every year since 1960, is already off the calendar for this year and in Bahrain, Bernie Ecclestone cast further doubt that Monza – whose contract to run the race runs out in 2016 – will remain a Formula One fixture. “They don’t have an agreement – a bit like Germany,’’ he said. Italy, alongside Britain is the only country to have hosted a race since the world championship began in 1950. Losing it would be unthinkable surely? “I tell you something, I was told that when we didn’t have a race in France. And Germany now. We’ve got some good replacements, haven’t we?” Ecclestone said. But can there really be a replacement for Monza? No. Amid all the talk of dwindling viewing figures and crowds, losing the spectacle of racing at Monza would be folly. A case where for once in F1 the money really should not do the talking.
This article was written by Giles Richards in Bahrain, for theguardian.com on Monday 20th April 2015 14.24 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010