Disclaimer – this article contains a detailed description of an upsetting accident that occurred during today’s race. There were no fatalities during the race and the article has been written in the most respectful way possible; but if this topic is upsetting for you, please take care.
The first of two Bahrain Grand Prix in 2020 has now concluded, and the atmosphere following the race was more concerning than exciting. Today’s race saw a massive accident by Haas driver, Romain Grosjean, that could have ended in so many different ways should the scenario have played out in a different place. Before we get into the race, let’s take a look at qualifying.
Qualifying for the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix stuck to the same formula that we have been used to for the entire year. Q1 saw Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen miss out on the second qualifying session once more, finishing in 16th and 17th place respectively. Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean would start behind the red and white cars in 18th and 19th place respectively, with Nicolas Latifi rounding off the grid in 20th and last place. It was a close call for Lando Norris, who would finish Q1 in 16th place, barely making it through to the second session.
Q2 started with drama for the other McLaren driver – Carlos Sainz – when his brakes failed. The Spaniard brought out the red flags after braking heavily into Turn One (as usual) before the rear of the car locks, and sent him into a spin; very similar to that of Lewis Hamilton in Austria 2014. Sainz would finish last in the session, which was not ideal for McLaren, who are still competing with Racing Point and Renault for third in the championship. Sebastian Vettel would out-qualify teammate Charles Leclerc; with the pair missing out on Q3 and starting 11th and 12th respectively. Lance Stroll would line up behind them in 13th place, ahead of George Russell in 14th, who will have been happy with his performance.
LEWIS: “The continuation of what we do as a team amazes me. These guys are going to be away from their families now for three weeks and I’m so grateful to them. The lap started off well and was a good one overall, so I was happy with it in the end”#BahrainGP 🇧🇭 #F1 pic.twitter.com/t3UY4xrFBN— Formula 1 (@F1) November 28, 2020
The final qualifying saw the same outcome that we have seen throughout the year – a masterclass performance by Lewis Hamilton to put the car on pole; followed by Valtteri Bottas in second and Max Verstappen in third. Alex Albon did a great job to slot behind his teammate in fourth place, though he was still six-tenths behind, which means there is more pace for the Thai driver to unlock. Sergio Perez would take the ‘best of the rest’ spot in fifth, ahead of the Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon in sixth and seventh places respectively. Pierre Gasly would line up ahead in eighth place, ahead of teammate Daniil Kvyat in tenth. Lando Norris would split the two Alpha Tauris in ninth place.
Now that we are all caught up with qualifying, let’s move on to the race.
The start of the Bahrain Grand Prix would only last a single sector before a huge accident at the start of the race. Lewis Hamilton got the better getaway when compared to his teammate, who was on the dirty side of the track. Bottas was passed by Verstappen and Perez on the approach to Turn One, before Alex Albon, Bottas and Ricciardo went three-wide into the corner, dropping the number 77 driver to sixth place.
As the drivers went through the Turn 2 and 3 left-right handers and up the hill towards Turn 4, there was a bit of contact behind them. Lando Norris had made contact with the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly at Turn 2, prompting the Frenchman to go wide. Vettel slowed down to avoid the McLaren while Stroll took to the escape road. Norris and Vettel draw alongside each other and send Raikkonen – who had nowhere to go – off track and to the left of the circuit.
At this point, this little group of cars had all lifted off the throttle to avoid a collision, but behind them were Romain Grosjean and Daniil Kvyat, who were travelling at full racing speed. Grosjean saw that Raikkonen had gone off track and would need to rejoin, as well as the slower Norris and Vettel ahead of them (as well as Kevin Magnussen, who was close, but slow) and darted to the right-hand side of the track to avoid a potential collision. Since the Frenchman likely didn’t see Kvyat in his mirrors, he tried to go around the group of cars by turning right to go passed Magnussen.
Grosjean’s rear-right tyre made contact with the front left of Daniil Kvyat’s Alpha Tauri, spinning the number 8 Haas driver to the inside of the track. The barriers at this point of the circuit are straight, but at an angle so that the run-off can turn back into the regular barriers on the mini straight. Grosjean – who put into a side-spin at this point – hit the barrier head on at roughly 140mph before a massive fireball erupted over our screens. It took a while for replays to show what had happened as FOM will not show the accident until the driver is confirmed to be okay, but the front end of Grosjean’s car had pierced through the barrier and snapped his car in half.
The front end of the car went through the barrier, while the back end was still moving on the track side of the barrier due to the speed of the impact. The car had been torn clearly in half, and burst into flames due to the destroyed and leaking fuel tank. Grosjean was trapped in the safety cell within the barriers and was stuck inside the flames. The 34-year old was able to climb out of the car himself, but walked away gingerly. Thank goodness he was okay.
Had the halo have not been there, the outcome of this accident could have been very different. The halo prevented the barrier from striking Grosjean’s helmet and ultimately saved his life. However, the impressively quick arrival of the marshals and the medical car, as well quickly climbing out himself was what helped him prevent further harm. Grosjean is currently in hospital at the time of writing, being treated for burns on his hands. The Haas driver also suffered burns on his ankles, since his shoe did fall off while climbing out of the car; and was rumoured to have broken or fractured his ribs; but X-rays have come back clear of fractures according to Haas.
The race was red-flagged for around an hour and a half as the marshals worked hard to remove the huge amount of debris from both pieces of Grosjean’s car, as well as fix the barrier that had split in half. The race was re-started from a standing start, and all the drivers had to overtake on the formation lap in order to reach the positions they were in at the time of the red flag being waved.
On the second restart, Lewis Hamilton once again got away cleanly, with Verstappen and Perez following. Bottas was able to pass Ricciardo and Albon by the time they reached Turn 2, and the field were able to make their way through the first sector without any difficulty. Alex Albon tried to attack Bottas around the outside of Turn 4 and drew alongside him as they navigated down the tricky Turn 5, 6 and 7 complex, where a bit of contact that wasn’t shown on the feed caused Bottas to have a puncture.
Fast-forward a few corners, and behind them was Lance Stroll, who was being attacked by Daniil Kvyat into Turn 8. Kvyat was able to draw almost alongside the Racing Point, but the gap closed and Daniil Kvyat’s left-front once again made contact with the left-rear tyre of the other car. Lance’s car was flipped upside down and another Safety Car was deployed. Bottas was able to pit for a new set of tyres before the race was restarted on Lap 9. Magnussen also had to pit for a new front wing, after hitting Vettel when trying to avoid the flipped over car of Lance Stroll. Thankfully the halo once again came in handy and prevented the Candian’s head from making contact with the floor; and the Racing Point driver was able to climb out without any injuries.
Charles Leclerc was ready to get racing on the restart, battling with Esteban Ocon at Turn 1 on lap 9, followed but was soon overtaken by Carlos Sainz when his tyres started to drop off. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel was losing a lot of time in an ‘undriveable car’, and was passed by a recovering Bottas.
The first of the pitstops start on Lap 17, with Ricciardo, Ocon, Kvyat and Raikkonen all stopping to fit a set of Hard tyres. Hamilton pits on Lap 19 from the lead to fit a set of Medium tyres, and Red Bull respond by bringing Albon in from fourth place for a set of Hard tyres.
On lap 21 we see Daniel Ricciardo barge his way passed Giovinazzi at Turn 8 and make a little bit of contact, followed by Verstappen pitting on Lap 21 to fit the Hard tyres. Red Bull had planned to make the one-stop strategy to work, while Mercedes were clearly trying to make the two-stop work on the Medium tyres.
A lot more drivers pit over the next few laps, fitting either the Hard or Medium tyres for the middle stint. Albon looks a lot more comfortable on his tyres, making his way past Leclerc and ex-teammate Pierre Gasly. Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas starts to struggle on his tyres when Lando Norris overtakes the Mercedes driver down the inside at Turn 1 on lap 25, and Leclerc also looks a lot more comfortable on his tyres.
Carlos Sainz overtakes both of his constructor’s championship rivals, Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, on laps 27 and 28 respectively, while Giovinazzi overtakes a his teammate, who is slower due to damage to his wing. Carlos Sainz starts to pull away and Ricciardo asks his team why he is still racing his teammate on lap 30 when he is on much younger tyres – Ocon lets his Daniel through.
Verstappen and Albon both pit on Lap 35 for the second stops of the day, fitting another set of Hard tyres after failing to make the one-stop work; and Lewis Hamilton responds on Lap 36 for a set of Hard tyres too. Perez also pits from third for the same compound.
There was another squabble between teammates at Renault when Ricciardo emerged from the pits and Esteban Ocon swooped his way around the outside at Turn 1. Ricciardo would return the favour and overtake the Frenchman on fresh tyres at Turn 4 a lap later. Sainz is passed by Perez and Bottas on lap 38 and 39, while his teammate pits for a fresh set of tyres. Sainz pits on lap 40 for a set of Hard tyres for the final push to the end.
On lap 43, Valtteri Bottas passes Esteban Ocon for ninth place in a difficult recovery drive, but Ocon doesn’t give up easily and attempts to fight back – but the position was lost. Norris catches up to Pierre Gasly and overtakes him at Turn 4 on lap 44.
Verstappen realised that he won’t catch up to Lewis Hamilton on lap 47 and pits to fit another set of Medium tyres in order to go for the fastest lap. At the same time, Sainz also performs an impressive double switchback on Pierre Gasly and passes him at Turn 3.
On lap 54 of 57, heartbreak would occur for Racing Point when Perez’s engine starts releasing smoke from the engine. Perez was running in third and was due to score his second consecutive podium, but retired when his engine caught fire with two laps to go. Racing Point would finish the first of two races in Bahrain with zero points, which was crucial in the constructors championship battle with McLaren and Renault.
This prompted the second Safety Car of the day, and bunched the pack up again. This looked to give Verstappen an opportunity to pass Hamilton on the last lap with his fresh tyres; but for the second year in a row, the Bahrain Grand Prix would end under the Safety Car with Hamilton claiming his 95th F1 victory.
Max Verstappen would finish in second place, followed by Alex Albon, who did well to inherit Sergio Perez’s podium in third place. Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz would do a fantastic job to finish in 4th and 5th places respectively, especially since Sainz started in 15th. It was a strong points finish for McLaren, allowing them to overtake Racing Point for third in the constructors.
Overall, the Bahrain Grand Prix was a strange one. After the massive accident at the start caused a huge delay, as well as Stroll’s accident; it didn’t feel right to have the cars running during the first half of the race. While the rest of the race was not particularly exciting as the leaders pulled away; the midfield battle was interesting nevertheless.
I am so thankful that Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll are okay after both of their accidents; it was a miracle that Grosjean was able to get out of his car especially – we really do have the halo to thank for allowing the situation to have a much better outcome than it could have been. The team here at DriveTribe F1 wish Romain the absolute best in his recovery.
What did you think of the race? Be sure to let me know in the comments below. In the meantime, you can see your final results below:
Thank you for reading.