Leclerc owned the race, but at the end the car owned him.
After a dominating performance during the weekend that resulted with securing pole position on Saturday, Leclerc was in prime position to win the race. Even after dropping to third place after the first lap, he fought back on lap 2 to pass Bottas and then on lap 5 to reclaim first place from his team mate Vettel, and he managed to continue the dominating command for the majority of the race.
Then came the last 11 laps and the radio message played and we heard it, “there is a something strange with the engine”, and the hearts ofF1 fans fell.
I say this knowing that Mercedes fans are thrilled for the1-2 that was secured, however any F1 fan would have felt gutted for this young driver losing the race, due to engine failure, robbing him from the maiden victory he deserved. The late Safety car due to the double retirement of the Renault team saved his podium finish. A bittersweet finish for what was about to be a dream finish.
I appreciate the class shown by Hamilton, first in waving apologetically when he passed him, and then in post-race acknowledging his skill and encouraging him to fight on and reminding him that his future is a bright one.
The battle of the mid-field intensifies
Red Bull: Verstappen is a beast that does not back out from a fight, and I love him for that, however he needs to start managing his fights better. I have no doubt that he can be an F1 champion. But he needs to find the right mindset to be able to challenge.
McLaren: With Lando Norris pulling a good recovery from a poor start and finishing sixth place, while holding off the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen, the young rookie showed signs of being a good replacement for the amazing Fernando Alonso.
Haas: Kevin Magnussen badly suffering from a one-stop strategy, and Romain Grosjean having a bad weekend and a grid penalty for blocking during qualifying, it is a second weekend in row where the team that showed plenty of promise in the 2018 campaign, having allot of work to do in improving their qualifying and race performance.
Alfa Romeo: I admit I was skeptical of Kimi’s decision to move back to Sauber (now Alfa Romeo), but I stand corrected after witnessing his consistent performance during the race. However, I believe that the team needs to work hard on their qualifying performance to be able to challenge for best of the rest
Renault: lets not go there. Double retirement within a few seconds on the same turn due to engine failure, shows that Red Bull made the right decision by switching to Honda power units. Lets see what the future holds, but Renault are not yet ready to challenge.
I did not mention the mishaps of Vettel today on purpose.His misadventures in Bahrain are a clear indication that he is not in the right mindset and he needs to regain that which he showed in 2018. For now, Leclerc is getting the best of him, and so is Hamilton and Bottas, and to a some extent, Verstappen.
Ferrari have allot of work to do, and so do the other teams in the mid-field. However, Mercedes as they have proven in 2017 and 2018 campaigns are master strategists and have nailed each race. Hiding their performance to when it matters, qualifying and race.
All eyes now focus onChina, which I believe Mercedes will be the better team simply because they will execute a better strategy than Ferrari and the rest.
Time will tell. See you next week