Bahrain GP - Stat Wrap
By Sean Kelly
C4F1's Virtual Statman
Talking about statistics after the events of Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix seems rather frivolous, but a race did eventually take place, and even in such dramatic circumstances some things remained the same.
Dr Ian Roberts and F1 Medical Car driver Alan van der Merwe discuss those crucial few seconds following @RGrosjean's crash in Bahrain— Formula 1 (@F1) November 29, 2020
An amazing response by all involved #BahrainGP 🇧🇭 #F1 pic.twitter.com/oY2TDffBR3
Primarily, Lewis Hamilton’s propensity to win everything. This weekend saw Hamilton stay on course not only to reach 100 career pole positions, but also maintain a shot at tying the single season record for victories.
Qualifying saw a team lock out the front row in Bahrain for the fifth consecutive year, with Hamilton leading Valtteri Bottas in Mercedes’ 125th pole in constructor history, and their 75th front row lockout – 69 of which have come since the start of 2014, enough to be an all-time record in its own right.
Hamilton converted this advantage into his 11th win of 2020, an extraordinarily dominant year even by his standards. Should he win the Sakhir and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix in the upcoming weeks then he will tie the single season win record of 13, jointly held by Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013), although with only 17 races, Hamilton would be achieving it in a shorter season than his German rivals.
Hamilton led all-but-one lap on way to victory, moving him up to 5,099 career laps led, just 12 short of Schumacher’s all-time record of 5,111. Given that next weekend’s race is scheduled for 87 laps, he is an odds-on favourite to break the record this coming Sunday.
But there’s more.
This was Hamilton’s fifth consecutive race victory in 2020, matching the longest previous winning streak of his career, set from the 2014 Italian to US Grands Prix. Most significantly for Mercedes, it was their 115th victory, passing Williams and moving into 3rd place on the all-time win list. Only McLaren (182) and Ferrari (238) now have more wins in F1 history than the dominant team of this generation.
It didn’t all go Mercedes’ way on Sunday, with a puncture relegating Valtteri Bottas to the back of the field after the restart. That gave Max Verstappen an unobstructed run to second place, claiming his tenth podium of the 2020 season and surpassing his total from last year. There’s nothing too unusual about that in isolation, but this was a big weekend for his team in more ways than one.
For a start, Red Bull had never previously started in the top three or finished on the podium in Bahrain since it became a night race in 2014. Verstappen finally called a halt to those numbers over the weekend, and while that part was not that surprising, he was joined on the podium by teammate Alex Albon, in what may yet be a pivotal result for the Thai driver.
Verstappen and Albon made it two Red Bulls on the podium in the same race for the first time since Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo achieved it at the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix…. which is exactly the sort of result that could/would keep Albon in gainful employment in 2021.
His future at Red Bull has been under considerable speculation, particularly that he may be replaced by Racing Point refugee Sergio Perez. It was therefore ironic that Albon’s podium came at Perez’s expense.
The Mexican driver continues to highlight the folly that he is set to be unemployed in two weeks’ time. Taking advantage of Bottas’ early misfortune, Perez looked to be cruising to third place when he suffered a power unit failure with just four laps to go, robbing him of what would have been a second career podium finish in Bahrain, having previously been up there in 2014.
Consider that with some relatively small changes in fortune, Perez could have been on the podium in the last three consecutive races. Aside from finishing second in Turkey, his late disappointment in Bahrain can be matched with his team’s decision to pit him from third during the late Safety Car period at Imola, a move that left him only sixth at the chequered flag.
While the mechanical failure was disappointing for Perez, it also meant yet more squandered points for Racing Point. They entered the evening at the head of a four-way battle for third place in the Constructors’ Championship, with only 24 points separating themselves, McLaren, Renault and Ferrari – albeit after Racing Point were penalized 15 points for their brake duct violation in Austria.
As Perez headed for third it seems Racing Point were taking a huge step to clinching a top three finish. Instead, not only did they lose another 15 points via his retirement, but one of the chief beneficiaries were their big rivals from McLaren, for whom Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz finished fourth and fifth as a direct consequence. They now lead Racing Point by 17 points with three races remaining in their efforts to clinch their first top-three finish since Lewis Hamilton left the team at the end of 2012.
McLaren were also inadvertently assisted by Pierre Gasly, whose sixth place denied the Renault team extra points in the championship battle. Gasly seems to really enjoy Bahrain – he has now finished eighth or better in all three of his starts here.
Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t get the better of Gasly this time, but he has now scored in nine consecutive races, compared to just nine points finishes in the entire 2019 season. His longest points streak since 2016 means he has now moved back into fourth in the Drivers’ Championship at the expense of the aforementioned Perez.
Ricciardo has outqualified his Renault teammate Esteban Ocon for 13 consecutive races, but it couldn’t have been much closer in Bahrain, with Ocon only being edged out by 0.002s. The Frenchman was ninth on Sunday night, keeping up his 100% point-scoring record in his three Bahrain GP starts.
The Renaults sandwiched the recovering Bottas, who spent a second consecutive race recovering from early misfortune. The Finn has been outscored 127-40 by teammate Hamilton in the last five races, but given that the title was as good as over even before this run of results, perhaps it is better to get them out of the way now rather than in early 2021….
The final point belonged to Charles Leclerc, driving for a Ferrari team that locked out the front row in 2018, the front row in 2019 and….the sixth row in 2020. It was notable that in the 20-month interval between Bahrain Grands Prix, every team improved upon their 2019 qualifying times with the exception of Ferrari and their power unit customer teams, Alfa Romeo and Haas….
….and speaking of Haas, most of the preceding statistics will fade in the memory, but nobody who watched Sunday’s race will forget the horrific accident suffered by Romain Grosjean in the opening corners, and the subsequent conflagration that brought to mind the darkest days of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
When – or even, if – Grosjean will return to an F1 drive is as yet unconfirmed, but let us not forget that the Frenchman is a ten-time podium finisher, two of which came in previous Bahrain GPs.
It has been the worst season of his career and he has seen his fair share of keyboard warrior critics as a consequence, but in a heartwarming end to a very rough night, a video message posted to Grosjean’s personal Instagram page from his hospital bed received almost 50,000 comments in the first ten hours, including from dozens of his fellow racing drivers.
Get well soon Romain!