Lewis hamilton repelled a quick charge Max Verstappen to win the first Grand Prix of the season in Bahrain. What he also did in the process was score Verstappen excelling in a situation where he just didn’t have the best car on the grid. It was a situation where Max Verstappen was the favorite to win the Bahrain Grand Prix until he was not in the final stages of the race as Lewis Hamilton would only keep the youngster Dutch behind and don’t make any mistakes in the process.
As a result, despite all the buzz around Red Bull and the speed of their car, Mercedes start the second round of the season in Imola leading the two championships.
In a way Lewis Hamilton showed Max Verstappen at the Bahrain Grand Prix that there are levels in this game. Of course you might have the best car on the grid, you have certainly racked up a few wins. here and there in recent years, but there’s a reason Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have won it all in recent years.
Red Bull was Bahrain’s fastest car
Without a doubt, Red Bull had the fastest car in Bahrain. But it wasn’t a mile faster, there was at best a tenth or two here and there in their favor. The Mercedes, although still lacking in stability unlike the past few years, was still a handful and Hamilton was the fastest in Q2.
What really turned the tide for Mercedes was its ability to think. The strategy of rolling the hard tires for two stints paid off as Hamilton was able to earn a position on the track and then later in the race staged a defensive masterclass.
Lewis Hamilton executed the plan to perfection
In many ways, no other driver on the grid except Lewis Hamilton could have kept Max Verstappen behind in the later stages of the race. The Mercedes was driven to perfection by Hamilton who took care of his tires for the most part and at the end of the race managed to position his car brilliantly and left no space for Max Verstappen to make the trip. To some extent, even the error at Turn 4 was caused by Hamilton as he placed his car perfectly.
Throughout the race, Hamilton executed the plan to perfection. In the early parts of the race, Red Bull had been unable to clear a huge gap as Lewis Hamilton would keep his Mercedes about 2 seconds away.
This helped the German team make the clearance and allowed Hamilton to run in the open on his hard tires. Hamilton, for his part, preserved the tires perfectly and there was not much Verstappen could do after botching the pass at Turn 4. Lewis Hamilton to his credit although he drove like a man possessed. , when it was important to never put the car at one of the vulnerable points of the track. It was a master class on how you maximize the resources you have available, a lesson that would be a bitter pill for Verstappen to swallow.
Max Verstappen can’t get too desperate
In many ways, you could say that Red Bull was taken aback by the strategy Mercedes managed to implement. But more than that, it’s a shift in mindset that the team has yet to put in place. Red Bull has been a hunter for 7 years. They never had the car to fight for the championships at that time. For them, the weekends were about hitting the tracks and trying to maximize their chances of getting the best result in the race which had Mercedes as the dominant favorite.
This is the first time in seven years that Red Bull has had a car capable of fighting for the championship and it requires a change of mindset. They must go from being a hunter to being a leader. It’s a 23-race championship and in a 23-race championship you have to be on your toes all the time.
Red Bull and Max Verstappen have to be patient on weekends like Bahrain. These will surely be there, but they cannot get too desperate and start to panic. At the end of the day, in a 23-race championship, it is patience and consistency that gives you victory most of the time.
Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton landed the first shot in the 23-round fight. It will be interesting to see how Red Bull and their young prodigy react to it and bounce back.