Feature image: cnn.com
With a new engine formula shaking up the grid ahead of the 2014 season, no one really knew if Red Bull would continue their dominance with Renault or if another team would step up and take charge of the 1.6-litre V6 era. As we know now, of course, the latter would be true, and Mercedes would be the team to do that.
They started the season in flying fashion, with Nico Rosberg taking victory in the season opener at Albert Park and Lewis Hamilton following up with a Grand Slam win in Malaysia two weeks later. The Mercedes duo were loving life in the hybrid era and their results after two rounds were showing just that. Next stop was Bahrain, where the German constructor was yet to win since their return to the sport:
Sunday Night Lights
The third round of the 2014 season also marked the 900th race in the Formula One World Championship since the inaugural race at RAF Silverstone in 1950. Some months before the start of the season, it was announced that the Grand Prix would take place in the evening under the 495 floodlights littered around the track.
The reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel sat in P10 after falling out of Q2 and being bumped up by a grid penalty for his new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian had a tough start to the season after having P2 taken off him at his home Grand Prix for a breach in fuel flow regulations and retiring in Malaysia due to a front wing failure.
The Silver Arrows took an easy 1-2 in qualifying, their fifth front row lockout since their return in 2010 with Nico Rosberg in first ahead Lewis Hamilton in second. Looking at the a front angle shot of the grid, you could notice how both drivers angled themselves towards each other knowing that whoever got to turn one first would have the advantage.
When the lights went out, their V6 engines underwhelmingly roared as the drag race to the first braking point was on. Hamilton had the benefit of starting on the right-hand side of the track meaning he would have an inside line, which he used every bit of. Rosberg tried to fight back around the outside of turn four, but Hamilton had no problem in pushing him wide.
No Team Orders
As the two Mercedes focused on getting a considerable gap on the rest of the pack, Rosberg’s attacks on Hamilton started on lap 18. At turn one, where the majority of his moves would end up happening, the German overshot is braking point and dived down the inside of his team-mate who stayed on the racing line and re-took the lead. A heated exchange then ensued with Nico and his race engineer after he hopped on the radio to complain about the Brit’s aggressive re-overtake.
A lap later, at the exact same corner, Rosberg went for it again. He got his braking just right and Hamilton attempted to counter with another switch back, but it didn’t work this time. He instead got an excellent run up the straight after turn three and went for the same move that his team-mate attempted on the first lap and nailed it. The two Silver arrows then went side by side around the next few turns like they were glued to the sides of each other. Lewis Hamilton came out on top again and swiftly took the lead from Rosberg after leading for only a few corners.
Seven laps later, the Force India’s took the cameras away from the Mercedes for a second as they also went side by side. Sergio Perez, who had started in P4, was in a fierce four-way battle for the final spot on the podium with his team-mate Nico Hülkenberg and the two Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Perez ended up getting the better of his team-mate and set his eyes on the Williams in front.
A Defensive Masterclass
On lap 41, the safety car was brought out after a spectacular accident between Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutiérrez saw the Lotus shunt into the side of the Sauber and send it flipping into the air. Before the safety car had been called, Hamilton had gained a ten second advantage over his team-mate which was reduced to nothing due to the slowdown on track.
Paddy Lowe, the Mercedes F1 Technical Director, got onto the radio to both cars and told them, “Ten laps left to race, can we just make sure we bring both cars home”. This could have been typical team orders for the drivers to calm down and not race each other too hard, but it was quite obvious from the final laps of the race that they weren’t interested in stopping.
As the Safety Car was recalled back into the pits there was a repeat of the opening lap of the race as Hamilton defended from Rosberg into the first few corners before forcing the German into a much wider line out of turn four and keeping the lead. Over the final ten laps of the race, Rosberg attempted the overtake Hamilton at turn one over and over again, with Hamilton somehow managing to stay ahead.
Hamilton defended right until the final corner to take his 24th victory in Formula One, putting him on par with five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio and also marking his first consecutive race wins since 2010. Gutted with his second place, Rosberg was a good loser, stating the duel was “the most exciting race I’ve ever done in my whole career”. Sergio Perez clinched the final podium position after holding off Daniel Ricciardo in the final few laps, his first podium since the 2012 Italian Grand Prix. Bahrain has always been a special place for Checo…
Hamilton vs. Rosberg
As thrilling as the race was, not much else was as thrilling as what came after. The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is a team-mate rivalry that is up there with Senna/Prost and Hunt/Lauda. Between 2014 and 2016 they battled relentlessly which led to a broken friendship which was around since their karting days. They produced one of the most intense championship battles in 2016 which went right down to the wire in Abu Dhabi which won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
[This was originally posted in January 2021 on DriveTribe.com]