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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Raikkonen, Red Bull and Haas with plenty to prove: Bahrain Grand Prix talking points

Three key talking points ahead of the second race of the Formula One season at the Bahrain International Circuit

The race-winning performance of Sebastian Vettel, right, in Australia overshadowed the impressive drive of Kimi Raikkonen, left, but the Finn has the chance at the Bahrain Grand Prix to prove that his effort in Melbourne was the start of greater consistency. Getty
The race-winning performance of Sebastian Vettel, right, in Australia overshadowed the impressive drive of Kimi Raikkonen, left, but the Finn has the chance at the Bahrain Grand Prix to prove that his effort in Melbourne was the start of greater consistency. Getty

Can Raikkonen do it again?

Understandably, it got lost in all the excitement of Sebastian Vettel winning the opening race of the season for Ferrari in Australia last month, but Kimi Raikkonen did a superb job in finishing third. It was arguably one of his most impressive performances since rejoining the Italian team in 2014.

Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion, out-qualified Vettel and pulled away from his German teammate in the opening laps as he pushed Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes-GP hard.

Such was Raikkonen's pressure on four-time world champion Hamilton that when the Finn did pit, it forced Mercedes to respond and bring their man in.

That opened the door for Vettel's strategy of staying out in case a Virtual Safety Car period happened, which on this occasion did take place.

Raikkonen ended up a distant third, but his efforts are hopefully not an one-off. He showed occasional good form in 2017, taking pole in Monaco and challenging Vettel in Hungary, but those were rare moments.

If Raikkonen can put in another strong display in Bahrain, both in qualifying and the race, this weekend then he will offer a timely reminder why he won a world championship.

Raikkonen is better than being a No 2 to Vettel and it is up to him to prove it. He has started the season well. He must now build on it.

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Read more:

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Red Bull's moment of truth

Red Bull Racing drivers Max Verstappen, left, and Daniel Ricciardo in action at the Australian Grand Prix. EPA
Red Bull Racing drivers Max Verstappen, left, and Daniel Ricciardo in action at the Australian Grand Prix. EPA

Red Bull Racing went into the Australia Grand Prix optimistic that they were closer to Mercedes-GP for the start of a season than they have been since the 1.6-litre V6 engine was introduced in 2014.

Melbourne did not give us a clear answer on just where Red Bull are compared to Mercedes, largely because of errors from their drivers that left them out of position.

Daniel Ricciardo received a three-place grid penalty for going too fast in practice during red flag conditions, while Max Verstappen got stuck behind a slower car and then spun on his way to a sixth-place finish.

Ricciardo was fourth and pushed Raikkonen's Ferrari hard in the closing stages, so clearly the Austrian team's car does appear competitive.

Presuming Ricciardo and Verstappen stay out of trouble, Bahrain should offer a better indication of just where Red Bull are in terms of pace.

The likelihood is they will be tussling with Ferrari for best of the rest, hoping for more misfortune to hit Mercedes and Hamilton if they are to do challenge for victory.

Haas need to strike early

Kevin Magnussen climbs out of his Haas car after a break down during the Australian Grand Prix. EPA
Kevin Magnussen climbs out of his Haas car after a break down during the Australian Grand Prix. EPA

The Haas team scored 47 points on their way to finish eighth in the 2017 constructors' championship.

They were on target to score almost half of that points tally in the first race of the season when Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were running fourth and fifth in Australia.

That would have netted Haas 22 points and got the American team off to a dream start in their third season in F1.

But a faulty wheel gun meant both drivers left the pit lane after tyre changes with one wheel not properly attached and both had to retire.

A massive missed opportunity, but the pace of the cars means they should again expect to compete with the rest of the field behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull in Bahrain.

But it is vital they score well this time around. Just because they have the fourth best car on the grid right now does not mean it will stay that way for the remaining 20 races of the season.

Cars are always being developed in F1, with McLaren, Renault and Force India all expected to push hard to find ways to improve their package and close the gap.

Haas must strike now and score points on their good days because you can never be sure how long they will last.