The sun dropped, the lights glowed and things were a little windy in the Arabian desert as twilight hours hit for one the aesthetically pleasing but quite soulless and empty atmosphere of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Still, at least the racing is usually good around the 5.412 kilometer (3.363 mile) circuit, and it didn’t let down this time either.
Romain Grosjean, who donned a special golden flaked helmet to replace the usual bright orange accents for the occasion, and Kevin Magnussen both started on the Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tyres.
Starting in 20th and rising to as high as 15th after the start Magnussen went off at Turn 8 on lap 9 bringing out the caution flags temporarily. Electronic issues cut the cars power supply meaning he had no choice but to stop the car.
Grosjean meanwhile started 9th and held position until a short caution on lap 10 after Lance Stroll was hit by Carlos Sainz. Sainz, who’s been talked about as a possible Ferrari replacement or someone who deserved Bottas’ Mercedes seat, crashed into Stroll coming out of the pits in what was a widely and loudly recognized fault of Sainz by the racing community and stewards who handed him a 3-place penalty for the next round in Sochi, Russia. Shortly thereafter Max Verstappen went off on lap 15 in apparent brake failure, not a huge lock up, we are told. This made for just the 3rd safety car in Bahrain history (I still can’t believe that stat no matter how many times I hear it).
At the restart on lap 16 Grosjean was between the two Force India’s defending from Estaban Ocon while trying to overtake Perez in front. After his second and final stop Grosjean was again on P Zero Red supesofts. On lap 38 Grosjean caught the Toro Rosso of Dannil Kvyat from P9 on the pit straight and overtook him on the inside of Turn 1 getting him into his finishing position of 8th and giving him 4 points in the WDC.
“It was a pretty good race…we had bad luck with the safety car, as we’d pitted just before. I saw Perez come out and I thought, ‘How did he come out in front of me when he’d been 10 seconds behind?’…At the restart I struggled a little bit with top speed. But, eventually we made the right strategy call and pushed on good laps with some great overtaking maneuvers.”
– Romain Grosjean
“Conditions until then [electrical DNF] were pretty good..It would have been a good race. I just look forward now and am happy with the car. It’s running in the points and qualifying in Q3.”
– Kevin Magnussen
It’s a relief the teams arguably #1 driver has gotten points you definitely don’t want your strongest driver to become frustrated which Grosjean is prone to do, but Magnussen is quietly been proving he is a good racer despite the reputation bouncing from team to team has given him. Haas need to make a double points finish quickly to help themselves out later in the season when things may get close. VF17 performance is still obviously very strong but the reliability is a question mark.
Haas will head to Sochi Russia next for the 4th Round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship starting with FP1 on April 28th.