F1 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix – Lewis Wins Season Opener with Smart Strategy

Grand Prix

Apr 21st, 2021

F1 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix – Lewis Wins Season Opener with Smart Strategy

Formula 1 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix was held at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain. The F1 season was initially slated to commence in Australia, but there have been a few changes in the racing schedule, including the opening in Bahrain. The Australian Grand Prix will instead take place in the last quarter of the 23-race calendar. 

Bahrain Opens F1 2021 Season for the Second Time

This was the 17th running of the Bahrain Grand Prix and the second time that it has held the opening round of an F1 season. The pre-season test, which only lasted for three days, was held at the same circuit, so teams were well prepared for the race weekend. 

Red Bull was super quick throughout the race weekend, and Max claimed pole position on Saturday. Lewis Hamilton pulled the victory on Sunday evening with the help of a clever race strategy from the Mercedes team. This was Hamilton's 96-career race win and is now four short of completing his 100 F1 career wins.

Pre-race Preparations Thursday: Blazing Race on Scorching Desert Track

It hardly rains in the desert of Sakhir, and this year the weather prediction was no different: hot and dry weather through the race weekend with a chance of an occasional sand storm. This is a rear-limited circuit; thus, cars need to have a stable rear end and good traction to power out of the corners for a good lap time. This results in rear tyres that degrade much faster than the front tyres as they are constantly under extreme loads and high temperatures. Pirelli brought the C2, C3 and C4 tyre compounds for the Bahrain GP. Each driver got two sets of hard tyres (C2), three sets of medium tyres (C3) and eight sets of soft tyres (C4).

Friday Practice: Red Bull - the Team to Beat 

It was expected before the start of the event that Red Bull was the team to beat, and timing sheets confirmed that by the end of the practice session on Friday evening. Max Verstappen topped both the hour-long sessions and the car looked super-fast on low fuel-run and a match for Mercedes in the long run pace. Mercedes F1 team was not very confident about the qualifying pace of the car, and technical changes to the floor and surrounding parts seemed to have had a significant impact on vehicles with low rake concept.

Lando Norris delivered a swift time in second practice, which was less than a tenth slower than Max Verstappen's time. It raised a few eyebrows in the paddock, but the number-crunching placed McLaren as the third quickest but much closer on pure pace than last year. Ferrari looked to have made a decent step over the winter and fourth on the list. Alpha Tauri completed the top half of the grid, expecting to qualify in the top 10 in qualifying.

Saturday Practice: Verstappen Finishes Ahead of Hamilton

Max Verstappen delivered the fast time consistently on Saturday to finish the session on top ahead of Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Pierre Gasly was a surprise third for Alpha Tauri ahead of the second Mercedes of Bottas. Sergio Perez was 5th, Sainz 6th, Kimi Räikkönen 7th, Ocon (Alpine) 8th, Stroll 9th, and Ricciardo 10th.

Qualifying: Max Claims Pole

Rookie Yuki Tsunoda was the star of the Q1 session when he logged in a time less than a tenth slower than the time posted by Max Verstappen. Lewis Hamilton was third at the end of the session, with the top three covered by a tenth. On the other end of the grid, it was a disappointing start for Vettel at Aston Martin. He was knocked out of Q1 along with Nikita Mazepin (Haas), Mick Schumacher (Haas), Latifi and Ocon.

Verstappen led every session until Q2, when both the Ferrari drivers occupied the top two slots, with Sainz leading the way. Both the drivers used soft tyres to achieve that. Lewis was in third place on medium tyres ahead of Norris on softs. Perez disappointed on his first Red Bull qualifying and was eliminated in Q2 along with Kimi, Giovinazzi, Tsunoda and Russell.

Max was back on top at the end of the first round of hot laps, but he was only ahead by less than a tenth of a second. Mercedes went out early for the final laps, and Lewis improved on his original time, but Verstappen went even quicker and took his first pole position by more than four-tenths. Bottas was third on the grid; Leclerc was a brilliant fourth, Gasly 5th, Ricciardo 6th, Norris 7th, Sainz 8th, Alonso on his return in 9th place ahead of Lance Stroll.

Sunday Race: Mercedes Does Smart Pit Moves to Snatch the First F1 2021 Win from Red Bull!

Sergio Perez was due to start the race from the 11th place on the grid, but his Red Bull engine switched off during the formation lap and stopped in the last sector. The rest of the field did the second formation lap, and Perez somehow restarted the car and joined the field in the last place. Max made a great start from the P1 slot and emerged ahead of Lewis Hamilton after the opening sequence of corners. Leclerc was ahead of slow-moving Bottas before Nikita Mazepin brought out the first safety car of the 2021 season. The race restarted on lap 4, and Max led the pack from Lewis, Leclerc, Bottas, Gasly, Norris, Ricciardo, Alonso, Stroll and Sainz.

Mercedes rolled the dice on lap 13 and switched him to hard tyres. This move outsmarted the Red Bull crew and turned out to be the race-winning move. Max pitted four laps later and came out behind Lewis on track. Behind the leading trio was flying Norris ahead of Leclerc, Ricciardo, Stroll, Sainz, Alonso and Vettel.

Max was speedy and was catching Lewis at nearly 1 sec/lap; hence Mercedes decided to pit Lewis again after only 16 laps on hard tyres and switched to another set of hards. Bottas pitted two laps later; he came out in P5 behind Leclerc and Norris. Both the drivers pitted the same lap, followed by Ricciardo and Sainz.

Verstappen pitted in lap 39 and came out 8.5 sec behind Lewis. His tyres were 10 laps younger and had 16 laps to catch and pass Hamilton. Finally, on lap 53 of 56, Max had a good run on Lewis and tried to muscle his way past around the outside of Lewis. While doing that, he ran wide in turn four and completed the move off the track. The team instructed Max to give the place back to Lewis, which he did, but he could not really mount a challenge after that.

Lewis won the opening race of the season in a slower car ahead of Max and his teammate. Norris finished a solid fourth for McLaren ahead of Perez, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Sainz, Tsunoda and Stroll.

F1 2021 Emilia Romagna GP Coming Up Next!

Formula 1 heads back to Italy for the second race of the season on the famous Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari (Imola).