• The Final Stint - Bahrain Grand Prix

Taxi for di Montezemolo

Nate Saunders
April 7, 2014
After one of the most gripping races Formula One has seen in recent times, ESPNF1 rounds up the good, the bad, and the downright ugly from the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix

Hamilton beats Rosberg in Bahrain thriller

One for the naysayers

You could have been forgiven for thinking on Sunday morning the Bahrain Grand Prix was a sideshow to the appearance of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who used his opportunity to suggest F1 faces a rapid decline under the new regulations, with his biggest concern being fuel allowance. His statement that this year the drivers were effectively "taxi drivers" now they had less fuel in their cars was needlessly provocative, but thankfully F1 served up the most perfect of responses under the lights in Sakhir.

In what was easily one of the best races in recent memory, there was action across the field, with some truly great racing and an absolutely breathless final ten laps, and all on one of the circuits which used to be known for producing annual snooze-fests. Most importantly of all, fuel saving did not appear to be a huge issue before the safety car period on what was supposed to be the most demanding of circuits. The classic in Sakhir could not have been more perfectly timed.

The calls for rules to be changed mid-season are complete nonsense and thankfully we saw exactly how good the new era of Formula One can be in Bahrain. As Martin Brundle said at the conclusion of the Australian Grand Prix, "I think I rather like F1 in 2014." You know what Martin, we are inclined to agree with you, too.

The return of Crashtor Maldonado

Perhaps the only blot on the most memorable race of the season so far was the incident on Lap 41, where Pastor Maldonado sent Esteban Gutierrez into a quite terrifying barrel-roll after flying down the inside of Turn 1 like a maniac after exiting the pits. Gutierrez's baffled radio response afterwards showed him to be entirely blameless, and thankfully the Sauber driver escaped unharmed. It's never nice to suggest a driver is dangerous but Maldonado is making it difficult to shake that tag.

Esteban Gutierrez's terrifying spin was the only blot on an incredible race © Getty Images

Unfortunately, Maldonado has previous in this department. His run-ins with Lewis Hamilton in 2011 and 2012 left a blot on his reputation, while Adrian Sutil flat-out labelled him dangerous after an incident in Texas last year, saying the Venezuelan was "on a different planet". The same could probably be said about him in Sakhir on Sunday evening. Maldonado received an in-race penalty and two further punishments after the race; a rather lenient five-place grid penalty for China but three points on his licence, the most handed to a driver for once incident this season. It probably could have been more.

The champion has serious competition

What a race it was from Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian has shown absolutely no trouble adapting to life at Red Bull, a seat which was rather unforgiving to his compatriot Mark Webber in the latter part of his time alongside Sebastian Vettel. In Sakhir, Ricciardo showed his form in Melbourne and Sepang was no flash in the pan. On track, he outqualified his team-mate, before being relegated to 13th as punishment for his unsafe release in Malaysia. Ricciardo grew into the race and by the time the safety car came in he was the fastest man on track not driving a Mercedes. His pass on Vettel five laps from the end, and his calm request to the pit wall to move the world champion over earlier in the race, was a huge statement of intent.

Vintage 1988

There have been plenty of comparisons drawn between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's styles of driving with those of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. In 1988, as team-mates in an utterly dominant McLaren, Senna and Prost won all but one race. Senna won the title but the pair's relationship fell apart and turned into F1's most acrimonious rivalry. Fast-forward 26 years and it looks like we could have a similar season on our hands. Hamilton drove magnificently to keep Rosberg at bay in a performance he said reminded him of his karting days, when he was a young boy who wore a yellow helmet in tribute to Senna himself.

For the second race in a row Rosberg was unable to beat his team-mate, though he came mightily close on a couple of occasions. Rosberg reacted admirably to defeat in parc ferme and Mercedes deserves full credit for letting its drivers race each other. Whether the uneasy harmony will continue remains to be seen.

The horse is limping not prancing

"I've won three times at this grand prix and it's not as if I have forgotten how to drive here." Fernando Alonso's frustration after the race in Bahrain was clear for all to see. He complained he simply did not have the power to hold off Nico Hulkenberg earlier in the race, while Kimi Raikkonen also admitted Ferrari's lack of pace was startling. The team did expect Bahrain to be the toughest test of the season, but the race did prove that a lot of work is still required at Maranello just to catch up with Red Bull and the customer Mercedes teams.

Alonso seemed to pump his first as he crossed the line in ninth, though whether this was in joy or anger only he will know. So far Ferrari is nowhere near to making the most of having two world champions at the helm. The reaction of Montezemolo in the paddock as Hulkenberg swept by Alonso suggested that he would have actually rather liked a taxi in the Ferrari garage to whisk him to the nearest airport.

Ferrari needs to go back to the drawing board after Bahrain © Sutton Images