Two wins in the first three races of the 2017 Formula One season and a second place finish is probably more than any Ferrari fan imagined at the end of last year. Yet Sebastian Vettel has had a perfect start of the F1 championship and leads Lewis Hamilton in the points standings, ahead of the 2017 Russian Grand Prix, which will take place on 30 April.
Let’s look at five things we learned from Sunday’s race at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir:
1. Seb on top of his game
Sebastian Vettel has definitely got his mojo back. The four-time Formula One world champion had a difficult period during the last two seasons and at the beginning of the new year was even warned by the Scuderia Ferrari hierarchy that he would have to earn his next contract, as his current deal with the Maranello team is available only until the end of the 2017 F1 season. The German driver, however, is doing exactly that. He was faster out of the blocks than Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, and then later on the brakes at turn one, to get ahead of his main title rival. He, and Scuderia Ferrari, then made the undercut (at the opening round of pit stops) work to perfection. A flawless drive from then on in ensured he returned to the top of the standings and confirmed that Sebastian Vettel is back in business.
2. Kimi needs to bring the “Iceman” back
Kimi Raikkonen is the last driver to have won the Formula 1 title for Scuderia Ferrari and his talent and abilities should not be questioned. However, the “Iceman” is not performing at his best for the moment and needs to quickly improve in order to help Scuderia Ferrari fight for the Formula One World Constructors’ Championship. Most importantly, Kimi should always finish ahead of Red Bull and at least Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes in order for the Italian team to be able to stay ahead of its main rival. On the one hand Kimi Raikkonen needs to avoid getting stuck behind other drivers, which has cost him precious time in each race so for, but on the other hand Ferrari must also improve when it comes to strategy calls and help Kimi capitalize on the huge potential of the SF70H car. Kimi can prove to be a valuable resource and play an important part in the outcome of both Formula One titles.
3. Ferrari has a potentially championship-winning race car
After many years and several changes in the team, Scuderia Ferrari is finally ready to reclaim its glory and deliver results according to the Italian team’s reputation. The SF70H car has confirmed the possitive impressions from the testing sessions and has some of the key elements needed to win: engine power, balance, proper management of the tyres and mechanical grip. Of course, Ferrari has to continue the development process and constantly improve the car, in the attemp to gain tenth of a second from each and every possible element, but the basic design and concept of the SF70H has definitely been a success for the Scuderia.
4. Team orders at Mercedes
The fact that Nico Rosberg decided to retire at the end of last season inevitably made Hamilton the number one at Mercedes, and while Bottas insisted he did not join to play second fiddle to the Briton, the 2017 Bahrain GP showed that Bottas is not viewed as a top driver, not even by his own team, a situation which could favour Ferrari during the year. With only one driver in the top, Mercedes will definitely have a much harder task than in recent years and if Kimi Raikkonen will get back his best form, there is a good chance the Maranello team can put an end to its rival’s domination.
5. Mercedes cracking under pressure?
Mercedes may have won the drivers’ and constructors’ championships for the last three seasons, but this is the first year in which they have had to deal with another trully competitive team. That creates an altogether different proposition, and Mercedes showed signs of mistakes during the first races of the 2017 F1 season. An issue with their power generator on the grid left Valtteri Bottas with too much air in his tyres during his first stint. After that, Bottas and Hamilton lost a lot of time during their first pit stops, while the latter was penalised for trying to block Daniel Ricciardo, which undoubtedly favoured Ferrari and made things a lot easier for Sebastian Vettel in Sakhir. Mercedes then spent seven laps evaluating over whether or not to order Bottas out of Hamilton’s way. By the time they finally made the call, Seb was too far up the road for Hamilton to catch. If we take into consideration the fact that Mercedes locked out the front row in qualifying, the results from the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix cannot be seen as one of the team’s best races, which shows that Mercedes can make mistakes and get things wrong when put under pressure.