Team-Mate Battles

Team Mate Battles – Bahrain GP

In Formula One, the very first person you have to beat is your team-mate. So who did just that in Sakhir? Let’s go through the teams and hand out the TMB points!

Click here to read the rules to which the drivers are being judged.

Points system:

1 point is awarded to the driver who sets the faster lap.

3 points are awarded to the driver who performs best in qualifying.

5 points are awarded to the driver who performs best on raceday.

Sauber:

Just a tenth separated the two Sauber drivers in Q1, growing to 0.3 seconds in Q2. The gap was in Felipe Nasr’s favour, but it didn’t put him far ahead of Marcus Ericsson, with the Brazilian taking 12th to the Swede’s 13th. With Nasr lapping quite well on Friday, consistently within the points positions and Marcus not far behind, hopes were high that Sauber could continue with their excellent start to 2015.

At the start of the race, Ericsson made a great start to vault up to 9th place, while Felipe held his ground in 12th, benefitting from Felipe Massa’s disappearance to the back. From there, Sauber employed a three stop strategy for both of their men, utilising the soft tyres throughout until the final stint.

Both Ericsson & Nasr put in great performances in the first half of the race, with Marcus holding position in 8th and Felipe Nasr battling with his namesake in the Williams for 10th place, only a handful of seconds behind Marcus. Then it all went quite wrong for Sauber, with Marcus pitting for the second time on Lap 25. Instead of putting in a nice clean 25 second turnaround like almost everybody else, a problem changing the left front wheel meant Marcus was sitting there for almost 30 seconds longer, resulting in a 49 second pit-stop. This ruined his chances of a points finish, but maybe this allowed Nasr to take over the role of lead Sauber?

Unfortunately not. As Sauber explained afterwards, Nasr was struck with a mysterious power related problem that slowed him. According to engineer Giampaolo Dall’Ara, this cost Felipe around 12 seconds. While the team were somewhat vague about when exactly the problem occurred, it appears to have been around Lap 34-40, where Felipe suddenly started losing some time to Felipe Massa and his times dipped from the 1.40s to 1.42s and mid 1.41s.

While neither recovered to finish in the points, Marcus finished just 8.5 seconds behind Felipe despite his massive pit delay, and seemed to have more race pace overall than his team-mate. With Sauber convinced that Nasr’s power problems were solved, the race points go to Marcus.

Fastest Lap: Felipe Nasr (3 – 1 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Felipe Nasr (9 – 3 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 4)
Race: Marcus Ericsson (15-5 to Felipe Nasr) (after Round 4)

  • Sauber: 27 – 9 to Felipe Nasr (Total After Round 4)

 

Manor Marussia:

Another double finish for the Manor Marussia team, but we did get the first signs of a little fire in the belly now that the initial euphoria of getting the cars to run has worn off. Much has been made of the ‘ugly’ and ‘offensive’ tweet that Will Stevens put up on Twitter after beating Roberto Merhi home by a significant margin. The tweet read: “Really good race pace today, car felt good and got into a really nice rhythm. I won our own little race again 🙂 #44seconds #WS28 #BahrainGP”.

Stevens deleted the tweet after it was highlighted in Spanish media. While there’s little reason to think there was any malice behind Will’s message, he’d do well to remember that he is driving for a team that are criminally under resourced and have barely figured out how to get their cars to run in the few short weeks since the car first took to the track in Malaysian FP1. Merhi has been sounding off to Spanish media that he feels the two cars are not yet equal, something that was a common complaint at Caterham last year, and this is likely to be true at the moment. A chassis that was bodged together to meet 2015 regulations, coupled with an older, heavier 2014 Ferrari power unit, means an advantage is automatically handed to the lighter driver due to the overall weight of the car. At 15kg less than Roberto, Will very much is the lighter driver.

Speaking to El Confidencial, Merhi has spoken of his frustrations, saying: “I don’t know, it’s very strange, I have no traction. The car runs out of tyres even if I do not force it, in fact during the first laps I don’t run aggressively at all, and even so I run out of tyres very quickly. I’m lacking some top speed and traction, and the front of the car is out of balance so I run out of tyres very soon. We have many problems and we have to work on them because there are too many differences with my team mate’s car that are quite suspicious.”

Roberto qualified a full second behind Will on Saturday, but got ahead at the start of the race, something Will put down to Pastor Maldonado starting from the wrong grid slot and confusing the issue at the back. Will managed to overtake Roberto on Lap 6, and pulled away to win the battle by 44 seconds by race end, a gap of almost a second a lap. Roberto’s top speed deficit complaint is not borne out by the race data, but the gap between the pair is bigger than their pre-F1 records and relative experience suggest that it should be. With Merhi bringing no money to the team, unlike Stevens, it’s hard to see Roberto keep his seat indefinitely, particularly with his initial announcement confirming the ‘opening rounds’ only.

Fastest lap: Will Stevens (3 – 1 to Will Stevens) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Will Stevens (9 – 3 to Will Stevens) (after Round 4)
Race: Will Stevens (15 – 5 to Will Stevens) (after Round 4)

  • Manor Marussia: 27 – 9 to Will Stevens (Total After Round 4)*
  • Rounds 1 & 2 were adjudged to be split points, due to non-participation of one or both.

 

Lotus:

Where does one set about starting the story of Lotus’ race? Or more specifically, the story of Pastor Maldonado’s race, as he is the man determined to produce as much drama as possible during the hour and a half duration of a Grand Prix. Starting with qualifying, Romain Grosjean took a nice, solid 10th place. Pastor took an unrepresentative 16th, having had his brakes lock into a semi-closed position during Q1, thus preventing him from running as quickly as the E23 would allow. Split points for qualifying seems fairest, particularly as Pastor had been the quicker man through the practice sessions.

At the start of the race, Pastor decided that he might as well pre-empt any possible penalties by starting the race from the 18th grid slot instead of the 16th. This wily tactic backfired, as he picked up a 5 second penalty for disadvantaging himself (and others). It’s not really clear why Pastor did this. While he was more than likely informed that Felipe Massa had been removed from the grid, the Brazilian wasn’t near Pastor and so wouldn’t have affected his formation regardless.

At the start, Romain Grosjean jumped up to 7th, clearing Hulkenberg & Carlos Sainz as well as having Felipe Massa disappear. He couldn’t quite keep with Daniel Ricciardo or Valtteri Bottas in front of him, falling to around 5 seconds behind Daniel by Lap 12 when he pitted for the first time. Employing a standard two stop strategy, Romain switched to the medium tyre on Lap 31 and took the 7th position in style, 20 seconds clear of 8th place Sergio Perez.

Pastor, dissatisfied that he hadn’t quite been in the wars enough, was the only man to start the race on the medium tyre and he opted to run the softs throughout while making three pit stops. Dicing with Felipe Massa on Lap 4 saw the Venezuelan make contact with the back of the Williams, much to Massa’s consternation. No damage to the Lotus meant he could continue without problem, and he then served his five second penalty on Lap 10.

As noted before, there’s no problems with Pastor when it comes to pace, and he slowly started to make his three stop strategy work. Approaching his final stop, the differing strategies meant Romain & himself were vying for position and seemingly all set for a grandstand finish with Pastor on the soft tyres catching Romain on considerably older mediums. However, entering the pits on Lap 41, Pastor’s engine went into anti-stall and that was the end of that. Having lost almost 2 minutes as his mechanics scrambled to get him going again, he came home in 15th and a lap down. Race points to Grosjean even though Pastor looked to have more pace in his pocket.

Fastest Lap: Pastor Maldonado (2.5 – 1.5 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Split points (10.5 – 1.5 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 4)
Race: Romain Grosjean (20 – 0 to Romain Grosjean) (after Round 4)

  • Lotus: 33 – 3 to Romain Grosjean (Total After Round 4)

 

Toro Rosso:

A huge turn out of support for both Max Verstappen & Carlos Sainz in Bahrain did little for their fortunes. Cheered on by their respective mothers, sisters & famous fathers, Toro Rosso seemed to be lacking the pace that they showed in earlier rounds. Max Verstappen fell by the wayside during Q2 having complained of oversteer, while Sainz fared better, making it into Q3 and taking 9th place ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.

Sainz undid some of his good work by picking up a rather pernickety penalty for ‘exceeding the maximum permitted time between the two safety car lines’ on his reconnaissance lap, a transgression that saw the Spaniard lap 14 seconds too slowly. In the end, that penalty was inconsequential as Sainz retired at the halfway point. Having just pitted, he was sent back out on track with an apparent loose wheel, and he pulled over safely off the track. Verstappen didn’t get much further, retiring from 16th place with an electrical problem.

Whilst Verstappen has unquestionably caught the eye in the early rounds due to his mix of maturity, extreme youth, and lack of lower formulae pedigree, Carlos Sainz is holding his own against his highly rated team-mate. Sainz looked more comfortable over the Bahrain weekend, and led his team-mate on track despite taking his 5 second penalty during his first pit stop. The only significant difference between their respective strategies was Verstappen taking on the medium tyre five laps earlier than Sainz for the middle stint, but the gap between the pair was still 11 seconds when Sainz pulled in for the pit stop that ruined his race.

Fastest Lap: Max Verstappen (2 – 2 to each) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Carlos Sainz (6 – 6 to each) (after Round 4)
Race: Carlos Sainz (12.5 – 7.5 to Max Verstappen) (after Round 4)

  • Toro Rosso: 20.5 – 15.5 to Max Verstappen (Total After Round 4)

 

Force India:

Is Nico Hulkenberg starting to lose his mojo for Formula 1? Post-Bahrain, the German driver has made his feelings known that he views WEC as a possible sanctuary for himself, sensing that doors are closed to him to progress within Formula 1. With Red Bull, McLaren & Ferrari all having full driver rosters and development programs, Mercedes seemingly locked into a Hamilton/Rosberg partnership for at least another season, and Lotus seemingly under the impression that it’s drivers, not trophies, they’re supposed to be collecting, Hulkenberg’s opportunities are limited.

Nico qualified well on Saturday, taking 8th place ahead of cars with a lot more development and testing time than the VJM08, but it all fell apart on Sunday. While he held 8th place through the opening phase, higher than expected tyre wear coupled with rarely running in free air meant that he ended up pitting three times, the first time on Lap 10 for softs, Lap 25 for Mediums, and then just 13 laps later for another set of mediums. This resulted in 13th place, even behind the troubled Felipe Nasr & the McLaren of Fernando Alonso. Nico was unable to dip into the 1.39s on more than a handful of occasions, something his team-mate was able to do regularly, particularly towards the end of the race.

Sergio may have started from behind Nico in 11th place, but was able to move forward in the race. As he showed during his previous stint as a Sauber driver, Sergio is extremely good at keeping tyres alive without losing too much pace, and this was his key to success in Bahrain. Employing the popular soft-soft-medium two stop strategy, Sergio was even as high as 7th at the mid point of the race, shaking out into a 10th place after his final stop. From there, he went on to overtake Felipe Massa, while Maldonado rolled out the red carpet to give Sergio 8th on the anniversary race of his most recent F1 podium.

Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez (3 – 1 to Sergio Perez) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Nico Hulkenberg (9 – 3 to Nico Hulkenberg) (after Round 4)
Race: Sergio Perez (15 – 5 to Sergio Perez) (after Round 4)

Force India: 21 – 15 to Sergio Perez (Total After Round 4)

Sahara Force India Formula One Team
Sahara Force India Formula One Team

McLaren:

Split points on all three sections between the two drivers due to Jenson Button’s inability to take part in the race. Fernando Alonso may have had an altogether better weekend than he perhaps might have expected, but with Jenson coming away from Bahrain with an intimate knowledge of the hidden outer perimeter areas and escape roads lining the Sakhir circuit, I think he’s the real winner from this particular weekend.

Of all the races for McLaren to endure such a nightmare, it would come while the team had representatives from Mumtalakat Investments – their Bahraini investors – in their garage and hospitality areas. Maybe that explains Ron Dennis’ outward show of frustration when Jenson Button broke down at the start of Q1. After all, it must be pretty difficult explaining things about garage procedure to one of your main investors when one of the cars keeps breaking down just outside the pitlane.

Outwardly though, McLaren & Jenson managed to keep their composure in public and to the media, offering a measured and pragmatic explanation behind the decision to keep Jenson in the garage due to the high probability of another failure. On the other side of the garage, Fernando Alonso managed to make it into Q2, but this was more due to Kvyat, Maldonado & Verstappen having problems as opposed to McLaren finding performance.

However, in the race, Fernando put in a stoic drive to come home in 11th place in an unenjoyable race that saw him overtaken by former team-mate Felipe Massa and lapped by another, Kimi Raikkonen. Surely it can only get better from here?

Fastest Lap: Split points (2 – 2 to each) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Split points (10.5 – 1.5 to Jenson Button) (after Round 4)
Race: Split points (12.5 – 7.5 to Fernando Alonso) (after Round 4)

  • McLaren: 20 – 16 to Jenson Button (Total After Round 4)

 

Ferrari:

Just like his former team mate Romain Grosjean, fatherhood doesn’t seem to have slowed down Kimi Raikkonen at all. While the enigmatic Finn’s private life isn’t quite as accessible as some of his immediate rivals, Minttu Virtanen seems to be doing her best to show that Kimi’s new role in life is calming him. Coupled with comments recently from Arrivabene about the Finn needing to feel the support of the team, and suddenly the Iceman doesn’t seem quite so cold and aloof as he has appeared throughout most of his career. Coupled with the heavy drinking, party going image that accompanied Raikkonen in his younger days, the family man cuts an altogether more mature figure. Apart from a shaky 2014, Kimi’s abilities have never been in doubt, and the increased focus of a man content behind the scenes means that 2015 Kimi appears to giving F1 his full attention.

There’s no question that, despite protestations to the contrary, Kimi has occasionally not been as interested in F1 as his employers would have wanted. That doesn’t seem to be the case now, with Raikkonen saying he has ‘unfinished business’ in F1. Racing with the support of a family, alongside a team-mate he regards as a friend, and in a team which is recognising his unique set of demands, Kimi is awakening from his slumber to remind us what he’s capable of. Faster than Vettel in FP1 & FP2, Kimi fell behind in FP3 and qualifying, something which isn’t really that unusual for a man who has lost his Saturday touch over the last couple of years.

The race was a different story, Raikkonen succeeding in jumping past Nico Rosberg at the start, much to the effervescent delight of Arrivabene, Allison et al. in the garage. While he couldn’t hold onto the third place due to Rosberg’s DRS, his side of the garage had planned a different tyre strategy for the middle stint, showing initiative and a boldness that had been lacking from Ferrari in 2014. While Raikkonen understandably questioned the tyre choices during the race, he was consistently one of the fastest men on track, and only lost 1.5 seconds to race leader Lewis Hamilton between Laps 20 & 32. The soft tyre switch arguably came a lap or two too late, with Raikkonen putting in a 1.38.0 on his final lap to show he hadn’t run out of tyre life, and on such minutiae are races won and lost. Raikkonen took his first Ferrari podium since Monza 2009, and the 41st fastest lap of his career to put him a clear 2nd on that particular record table.

Vettel, by comparison, had a scrappy race. Unusually, Sebastian showed signs of feeling under pressure, making several errors and running wide during the race. He got quite unlucky with the front wing damage incurred after running wide onto the main straight and keeping the boot in, something that no driver on the grid would have done any differently. A despondent Vettel didn’t try to make excuses afterwards, saying that he felt ‘he just tried too hard’ after struggling with the rear of his car during the race. At least he got a chance to have a good clear examination of the back of the FW37.

Fastest Lap: Kimi Raikkonen (2 – 2 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Sebastian Vettel (12 – 0 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 4)
Race: Kimi Raikkonen (12.5 – 7.5 to Sebastian Vettel) (after Round 4)

  • Ferrari: 26.5 – 9.5 to Sebastian Vettel (Total After Round 4)

 

Williams:

Bottas was back on form in Bahrain after being second best to Felipe in Shanghai. He outqualified Felipe by 0.4 seconds on Saturday, as well as being quicker throughout all three practice sessions. That’s where any meaningful comparison has to end, with Felipe’s car cutting out on the formation grid due to a sensor issue.

Starting from the pit lane, Felipe was very quickly able to scythe his way through the lower half of the field, including a nice pass on former team-mate Fernando Alonso. He also had to weather some contact from Pastor Maldonado which damaged the rear diffuser on the Williams. This resulted in Felipe complaining after the race about the car being tricky to drive, but due to him constantly being behind other cars, it’s difficult to quantify how much of a pace deficit the Williams suffered. Felipe embarked on a two stop strategy, using the undercut by pitting on Lap 10 for another set of softs. This meant Felipe climbed to a net 10th place once the first stops had played out. Felipe then became the first of the two stoppers to make his second stop, changing to the mediums on Lap 24. Attempting to complete the entire second half of the race on the one set of tyres proved too much of a challenge, and he was overtaken by Perez & Kvyat towards the end, falling from 8th to 10th. So sporadic was his pace towards the end, varying between 1.41s and 1.44s, that 11th placed Fernando Alonso closed a thirty second gap on Lap 40 to just 4 seconds at the end. 1-2 laps longer, and Felipe would have had to relinquish 10th to the McLaren.

Bottas had an uneventful but pressure filled race by comparison. Settling into 5th place off the start, the Williams again entered that bizarre purgatory they occupy behind the Ferraris & Mercs. Not fast enough to take on anyone in front, Valtteri was able to ease away from 6th placed Daniel Ricciardo. Up ahead of Bottas, Sebastian Vettel was busy making mistakes, and eventually made the error that damaged his SF15-T and shuffled him behind Valtteri after repairs. While Vettel closed down a seven second deficit to nothing between Laps 38 & 42, the Finn was able to hold his nerve and didn’t put a wheel wrong to deny the faster Ferrari a 4th place the Williams doesn’t deserve on pace.

I debated split points for the race, and would have gone for them as the fairest option if Valtteri hadn’t had to take the heat from Vettel towards the end. With such a strong show of stoic defence against one of the headline cars, Valtteri earned the race points.

Fastest Lap: Valtteri Bottas (2.5 – 1.5 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Valtteri Bottas (7.5 – 4.5 to Felipe Massa) (after Round 4)
Race: Valtteri Bottas (12.5 – 7.5 to Valtteri Bottas) (after Round 4)

  • Williams: 18.5 – 17.5 to Felipe Massa (Total After Round 4)

 

Red Bull:

Looking back on the 2015 Bahrain GP, Daniil Kvyat will probably feel somewhat pleased with himself, all things considering. A problematic Saturday saw the young Russian spin out in FP3, before being caught out by rapid improvements from others in Q1. He blamed Renault power issues for the poor qualifying, but having set a 1.35.8 on his soft tyre run, it’s more likely that he had just not put in a good enough lap considering his proximity to the likes of Max Verstappen and Nico Hulkenberg. Christian Horner also seemed surprised by the situation, saying that the team ‘needed to review data’ after the session.

Regardless of the reason for his poor qualification, Daniil made up for it on Sunday. Employing a brand new set of soft tyres for the opening stint didn’t yield much in the way of positions, and following his first stop on Lap 15, resumed the race in 14th place. Another 19 lap soft tyre stint later, he was down to 15th on Lap 35. He quickly climbed past Fernando Alonso and gained positions as drivers such as Hulkenberg, Nasr & Ericsson pitted. Benefitting from Maldonado’s extended pit-stop, he was able to catch and pass the struggling Felipe Massa towards the end of the race and took 9th place.

By comparison, there’s little to say about Daniel’s race. Qualifying an excellent 7th was as good as Red Bull can hope for at this .Sp5rl!47r of the season, and once Felipe Massa was out of the way, Daniel set about making that 6th place all his. The twenty second gap in front and, more importantly, behind came in very handy when his Renault power unit exploded leaving the final corner, perhaps feeling coaxed into it by all the exploding fireworks.

Read about why I think Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull seat is under pressure for 2016.

Fastest Lap: Daniil Kvyat (2.5 – 1.5 to Daniil Kvyat) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Daniel Ricciardo (12 – 0 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 4)
Race: Daniel Ricciardo (12.5 – 7.5 to Daniel Ricciardo) (after Round 4)

  • Red Bull: 26 – 10 to Daniel Ricciardo (Total After Round 4)

 

Mercedes:

Much has been made of Nico Rosberg’s ‘improvement’ in Bahrain, with Toto Wolff hailing his driver and saying that his performance should ‘prove his doubters wrong’. Why, exactly? His performance, relative to any other Grand Prix recently, was no different. The only thing that flattered him was the fact that Ferrari got all up in his face.

Hamilton took a convincing pole position, and then went on to win. The only real threat to Lewis turned out to be his brakes, as opposed to any on track rival. Nico didn’t even take second place on the grid, citing a failure to anticipate the Ferrari’s pace. Which seemed somewhat silly, considering he himself actually highlighted how good the Ferraris were after Friday practice. With Vettel to overcome at the start of the race, Nico immediately made it worse for himself by adding Kimi Raikkonen to his list of obstacles.

In fairness to Nico, there was nothing timid about his overtakes on the two Ferraris. In fact, they were downright aggressive, an aggression we haven’t really seen apart from Spa 2014. Assuming he intentionally pushed the Ferraris as wide as he did, the moves were hard but fair, and his spectacular dive up the inside of Vettel while Lewis emerged from the pits made for great TV shots. The only problem was…that was the closest Nico ever got to Lewis. A gap of 1.38 seconds the lap he regained second place from Vettel was over five seconds 14 laps later, and he didn’t get any closer during the final stint. He was unlucky to encounter his braking problem at a point where he couldn’t rescue the situation, having looked as though he had just enough pace to hold off Raikkonen. Lewis, on the other hand, paced himself throughout, and would never have had anyone come near him had Ferrari not gotten inventive with a driver able to make the tyres work. The reigning Champion kept his head when his brakes also wanted to give up and eased his W06 across the line, knowing that the buffer he had meant Kimi would run out of time.

Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (2 – 2 to each) (after Round 4)
Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton (12 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 4)
Race: Lewis Hamilton (20 – 0 to Lewis Hamilton) (after Round 4)

  • Mercedes: 34 – 2 to Lewis Hamilton (Total After Round 4)

 

Totals:

  • Lewis Hamilton – 34 points
  • Romain Grosjean – 33 points
  • Felipe Nasr – 27 points
  • Sebastian Vettel – 26.5 points
  • Daniel Ricciardo – 26 points
  • Sergio Perez – 21 points
  • Max Verstappen – 20.5 points
  • Jenson Button – 20 points*
  • Valtteri Bottas –  18.5 points
  • Felipe Massa – 17.5 points
  • Fernando Alonso – 16 points*
  • Carlos Sainz – 15.5 points
  • Nico Hulkenberg – 15 points
  • Daniil Kvyat – 10 points
  • Kimi Raikkonen – 9.5 points
  • Marcus Ericsson – 9 points
  • Kevin Magnussen – 3 points*
  • Pastor Maldonado – 3 points
  • Nico Rosberg – 2 points

-Manor excluded until true average emerges.

*Due to split points in Melbourne

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Thomas Maher

Co-owner, Chief Editor and a journalist for FormulaSpy.com - Ireland's only accredited F1 & Formula E website. Also working in the Irish radio broadcasting industry. Donations: PayPal - paypal.me/thomasmaheronf1 ETH/ERC20 - 0x9d0b8071180AAcB0bD5f0c1d43281768C73e8763

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