• Castor Chan

Sunday Standouts: Battles in Bahrain

The 2021 season has gotten off to a flying start with an explosive season opener. Fans already knew that this was a year to watch, with Sunday being just the third time Bahrain has led the calendar, the effect of the new aero regulations in place, and how the turbulent 2020 driver market has shaken up the grid. Clinching a win by the skin of his teeth, Lewis Hamilton is already on his way to a potential 8th World Champion. But Max Verstappen has established himself as a threat and it will surely be a thrilling fight to watch all year. But besides the obvious standouts on the podium, who were the top 5 winners of the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix? (This series will include the 5 drivers who performed the best outside of podium scoring positions unless it was a truly spectacular drive) And who were the 3 drivers who will be looking for redemption in Imola?

————— Wins —————


5. Charles Leclerc


Worry over Ferrari’s performance from last season seem to have been alleviated slightly with Leclerc’s showing last Sunday. With his sensational qualifying pace he put his car in fourth, just over five tenths quicker than new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari have evidently gained back a lot of raw speed but race pace remains questionable as in the race, Leclerc lost two positions. He did stay comfortably in 6th for a points finish in contrast to last season, where he only scored points 10/17 times last year. As the veteran in this team pairing, it can be expected that he performs better than Sainz Jr, and he has put his best foot forward.

4. Lando Norris


The driver in the number 4 car gave a solid drive, and ranks fourth here. McLaren came third in the constructors’ last year, and a strong showing from pre-season testing with the new Mercedes engine built up a lot of anticipation for a repeat performance this year. During Friday free practice, Norris placed within the top 3, but was just edged by Daniel Ricciardo on the Saturday sessions. During the Grand Prix however, stellar speed catapulted the Brit into fourth with a solid lead in front of Sergio Perez. Ricciardo did have floor damage from an incident early into the race, which affected his downforce and clearly made Norris the stronger of the McLaren duo. If he stays on this trajectory, he could claim the best position of his F1 career.


A triumphant Hamilton at the end of the race

3. Lewis Hamilton


Hamilton’s drive came under a lot of scrutiny because of the decision on track limit set last weekend. But with that aside he drove well to keep Verstappen at bay in what most thought was a guaranteed victory for the Dutch driver. Hamilton was on incredibly old tyres as Mercedes decided to go for an aggressive undercut strategy to fend off the faster Red Bulls. With Bottas mildly impeded by a botched second stop, (Bahrain hasn’t been kind to the pit crew) the team were unable to put as much pressure on Verstappen as they anticipated. Therefore it was up to Hamilton to cling on to first place, and with some beautiful positioning through the last few corners he drove home to win the first Grand Prix of the season.

2. Yuki Tsunoda


With the performance Tsunoda has just put out, it is no wonder he has been cited by Ross Brawn as one of “F1’s best rookie for years.” He was a firecracker during pre-season testing and drew many fans eyes. Qualifying was admittedly a little disappointing, with Tsunoda being knocked out in Q2 at 13th. He also lost places on the opening lap to drop down into 15th. But the latter part of his race was much more fruitful, making numerous overtakes to place 9th and become the 65th rookie to score points on debut. He will be one to watch for sure, as compared to fellow Haas rookies he is in a much more competitive car.

1. Sergio Perez


When Perez’ car suddenly died during the formation lap minutes before the race start, all thought that his first race for Red Bull was over before it had even begun. His qualifying was certainly mediocre as well, just missing out on Q3 to the Mexican’s frustration. Forced to start from the pit lane, he fought his way into P5, another incredible recovery on the Bahrain track. (But far from the maiden victory he took last December) If not for his misfortune at the start of the race, he could have potentially challenged Bottas for the podium. This was still a great result for his Red Bull debut however, perhaps he will match Verstappen and help Red Bull fight for the constructors championship this year.


Perez winning the Driver of the Day vote

————— Misses —————


3. Fernando Alonso


Alonso qualified 9th on Saturday, and his highest position during the race was P7. But an errant sandwich wrap that made its way into his brake ducts effectively caused him to retire on lap 32 to prevent too much damage from overheating. The other Alpine driver Esteban Ocon finished 13th, leading to a pointless race for the team.

2. Pierre Gasly


This was a race to forget for Gasly, as the Frenchman went from a stunning P5 during qualifying to the back of the grid when he collided with Ricciardo to take his own front wing off. Sunday looked promising for Gasly as he was able to qualify on the medium tyre, giving him a better tyre strategy overall. But that mistake cost him the entire race, forcing him to stop on lap 52. (A mere 4 from the end)

1. Nikita Mazepin


Not much can be said for Mazepin’s race as he completed not much of it. The Russian’s F1 debut lasted 25 seconds, when he crashed out (thankfully unharmed) of the race. Despite his engineer remarking that “we’re here to learn”, it was simply a bit of a poor first impression.


 

That is it for my Sunday Standouts for the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, if you enjoyed it share it on Twitter! I will be making this a regular series for the 2021 season, so make sure follow my Twitter @castorscorner and fill out the subscribe form to keep updated!

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