Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel produced one of the finest performances of his Formula 1 career to win the Bahrain Grand Prix last Sunday, according to Sky Sports F1 Expert Analyst Martin Brundle, who has hailed the German’s race management on ageing tyres in order to hold out for victory. The four-time Formula 1 world champion came under huge late pressure from Valtteri Bottas after opting to remain on a one-stop strategy despite already switching to the less-durable softer tyre compounds.
That was after Mercedes’ Bottas himself switched to a one-stop scheme, choosing to go for a long-run strategy on medium tyres. Sebastian Vettel’s change left him at risk of losing his lead at the climax of the Sakhir race but he managed a narrow win by less than a second at the Bahrain International Circuit – moving 17 points ahead of rival Lewis Hamilton at the top of the drivers standings.
That was his second win to start the season and his 49th career win on his 200th race start – and according to Martin Brundle, a former driver himself, one of his best yet.
Sky Sports F1 pundit Martin Brundle wrote in his Sky Sports column: “In the face of an attack from both Mercedes drivers, probably in faster cars and definitely on a better tyre strategy, Vettel eked enough speed and durability out of his tyres to cover the last 39 laps on a set of tyres which were expected to expire at 30 laps, to head off the challenge. Vettel got lucky in Melbourne when basically a lack of performance left him out on track when a Virtual Safety Car situation fell into his lap. In Bahrain he was utterly brilliant, delivering one of his best ever races. Ferrari were rather duped into pitting early by Mercedes, something which became a possibility when Valtteri Bottas was able to split the two Ferraris down to turn one. Merc then opted for a one-stopper with Bottas, and continued a one stop with Hamilton, on the more durable white marked medium tyre. A quick ‘well done’ to Pirelli here, the tyre durability and degradation appeared well defined and linear, and the compounds well chosen to give us a marginal one stop, possible two stop scenario. That usually makes for a good race and a bit of a cliffhanger.” – he explained.
Scuderia Ferrari’s delight was somewhat dampened by a horrific injury suffered by one of their pit crew in a mismanaged pit stop for Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen on his second stop for Supersofts. And Martin Brundle added: “Ferrari eventually had no choice but to convert to a one-stopper for Vettel and just hope. Although it didn’t stop them bringing Raikkonen in to try to destabilise Mercedes and give them an option if nobody else could make the one stop work. Very sadly that stop would result in a failed removal of the left rear and the car being released anyway, immediately running over Francesco Cigarini and badly breaking his leg.” – he concluded.
Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes will continue the fight for the Formula 1 title this coming weekend at the Chinese Grand Prix.