The Bahrain Grand Prix will be remembered for Romain Grosjean’s incredible escape much more than the race’s results.
Reflection on Grosjean’s huge crash will obviously dominate the aftermath of this event, and that leads our reflections on the highs and lows of Sakhir’s opener too.
F1 car safety
Car safety as a winner may sound dubious given that Grosjean’s Haas snapped in two and burst into flames.
But the plain fact of the matter is that he appears to have emerged with only minor injuries from what might easily have been a fatal accident.
The safety cell integrity and the halo appear to be what saved him.
The separation of engine from cockpit was perhaps inevitable given the angle and speed of impact, once the front of the car was embedded but the energy was still in the car.
This too may ultimately have saved Grosjean in that it will have dissipated some of the energy that would otherwise have been transmitted into the cockpit.
The questions that remain are to do with whether the ERS battery played a part in the explosion and whether the metal barrier is at the appropriate place.
But a huge sigh of relief all-round following such a terrifying incident. – Mark Hughes
Pierre Gasly was doing his usual diligent 2020 job for most of the day but wasn’t on course for a particularly significant points haul until AlphaTauri rolled the dice and committed to a one-stop strategy.
He was never going to keep the McLarens at bay, but a decent seventh place looked plausible while under late pressure from Daniel Ricciardo’s extra-sparking Renault – before Sergio Perez’s failure made it sixth place and ensured it by bringing out the safety car.
A dash of good fortune? Sure – but it was a direct result of a brave strategy, and gave AlphaTauri’s team leader another strong result in a standout season. – Valentin Khorounzhiy
A first double-podium finish since 2017 is a huge boost for Red Bull. If nothing else because it probably gives the team the justification needed to keep Alex Albon on for another season.
To be frank, Albon didn’t earn his second podium of the year. It took Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez to be removed for it to happen.
So, this isn’t the sign of the end to the weird driver limbo the team has been in since Daniel Ricciardo left that it might look on paper.
However, it’s a direction the team is heading in. Max Verstappen reiterated why he is the undisputed team leader, with an excellent effort harrying race winner Lewis Hamilton to the very end. And Albon being in position to pick up the pieces is closer to what Red Bull needs.
There have been small shoots of recovery from Albon and to have evidence of that is important to Red Bull.
It wants to keep Albon, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s because of the faith it has in him as a driver or the commercial benefit of having a Thai racer given the roots Red Bull has in Thailand.
Albon’s pace still needs to improve for Red Bull to have a top driver line-up. But races like these are closer to what a team like Red Bull must be producing. – Scott Mitchell
Yes, he lost third place with an engine problem late on but despite being denied what would have been his 10th F1 podium, he again showed his class as he seeks to earn a future in F1.
Having the result would have been even better, but he reminded everyone of his class yet again with an excellent race drive after starting fifth.
Perez would be an asset for any team that picks him up and hopefully has more than two races left in his F1 career. – Edd Straw
The Bahrain Grand Prix didn’t start promisingly for McLaren after problems for Carlos Sainz Jr in qualifying and Lando Norris not nailing his Q3 lap.
But it took a big stride towards third in the constructors’ championship in the race.
With Perez retiring late, Norris and Sainz bagged 22 points to take a 17-point lead over Racing Point in the battle for third.
And they showed good race pace along the way that proves even if they qualify poorly, good results are still possible. – ES
It wasn’t the most emphatic Hamilton win of 2020, but it was still pretty emphatic.
While his unfortunate team-mate languished in midfield battles, Hamilton – who was further ahead of Bottas in qualifying than Bottas was of Verstappen – streaked away in two race starts and a safety car restart, and never looked under any serious pressure.
His 11 wins this season have already matched a career high, and there’s two more opportunities to set a new personal record and match F1’s outright one.
We appreciate he’s a frequent guest of this section of the feature – but as long as he’s driving like this, it’ll continue to be the case. – VK
Another pole and long spell in a race lead was always very unlikely, but the scale of Lance Stroll’s change of circumstance in Bahrain was pretty painful.
Having ended up only 13th on the grid in a messy qualifying, he was off the road at the first start and then upside down in the second.
Daniil Kvyat was the one penalised for that clash, but perhaps harshly for what seemed like a racing incident – and one where if Stroll had been aware the AlphaTauri was challenging him it really wouldn’t have hurt to leave more space. – Matt Beer
The last remnants of a chance of Vettel rescuing respectability from a weekend when Ferrari struggled evaporated when he was muscled out the way at the restart by his team-mate Charles Leclerc.
This just snowballed, for it put him in a position that meant him having to almost come to a stop for the rolling Racing Point of Lance Stroll as cars passed to his right.
Ultimately, the difference between a clean Ferrari race (such as Leclerc’s) and a compromised one such as Vettel’s was only that between 10th and 13th.
But on a day in which it would be very easy for a seasoned old hand to question what he was doing, and seeing the raw, harsh desire of Leclerc, it was difficult not to reflect on the passage of time. – MH
If Valtteri Bottas didn’t have bad luck… cliches aside, this was another frustrating race in what has turned out to be a very frustrating and mentally taxing season for Bottas.
But within that misfortune was a sub-par performance. He fluffed his start twice, and looked muted in his recovery.
There were some slick passes in there too, but overall this was a race to forget for many reasons.
He should still see off Verstappen for second in the championship, and avoid a record level of ‘defeat’ for the runner-up despite Hamilton bursting into such a huge lead.
But that’s obviously well short of what Bottas is aiming for. – SM
Vettel’s race was spectacularly bad, but it wasn’t like he was an outlier on this occasion.
Even Leclerc’s assertive efforts weren’t going to get a point without Perez’s late misfortune and the three remaining Ferrari customer cars of Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi and Kevin Magnussen finished behind the two Williams in 15th through 17th.
And next week’s variant of the Sakhir layout is going to be even tougher on underpowered cars… – MB
While Perez keeps his personal slot in the winners section of this article given how much he impressed today, there’s not really any consolation for his team.
Agony for Checo Perez!
After looking certain to finish in P3, his car starts billowing smoke
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 29, 2020
Those plumes of smoke not only denied Racing Point a podium and Perez another big result, but led to a potentially decisive swing in the battle for third in the constructors’ championship.
With Stroll out and both McLarens doing well, McLaren was still going to outscore Racing Point today, but it was going to be a two-point nibble not the 22-point swing it became – one that’s left them 17 points apart with two races left. – MB
Perez’s failure meant the day wasn’t the unmitigated disaster for Renault that it could’ve been.
But doesn’t really change the fact Renault wasn’t at the races with McLaren and Racing Point despite getting both cars into the top seven on the grid.
Bahrain leaves Renault 27 points off its third-placed customer McLaren in the standings (a potentially unassailable gap given Renault hasn’t scored more than 23 points in any race this season) and 10 points off Racing Point (a potentially unassailable gap given the RP20 is a quicker car).
Now, the upcoming Bahrain Outer should fit Renault to a tee, but after today it might just be too little too late. – VK