It was all there in Nico Rosberg’s thousand-yard stare. The longer he chugged on that little bottle of Highland Spring, the longer he didn’t have to talk to Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg, massively to his credit, has made it plain he hates getting beaten by his old mate, but beaten he was this afternoon and Lewis now leads the championship by three points.
Four victories on the bounce means Lewis now has 100 points. More to the point he has a psychological lock-out on Rosberg. Rosberg’s side of the garage is head to head with Lewis’ — that much was apparent in the slew of strategic briefings leaked over the pits-to-car radio just after the two Merc’ W05’s made their first stop.
Knowing exactly what each driver had to do in their second stint made the race a lot more interesting to watch (in the last each just needed to win). But in the end you only really needed to make it back from the pub for the last 20 laps when a second Bahrain was promised. It didn’t quite work out that way, Hamilton had a lot in reserve — fuel, guile, pace — and Rosberg’s claim on the podium that ‘one more lap and he would have had him…’ rang hollow.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s going to be this summer. Daniel Ricciardo brought his Lewis-rivalling smile to the podium, but 50 secs behind — fifty seconds! So even if Red Bull could feel good about Sebastian Vettel following Ricciardo home in fourth, it will have passed by the time you read this. Vettel might well have started 15th and looked more racey than he has all season, but there was a time when Vettel could have started his Red Bull anywhere on the grid and still won.
Third best car? That has to be the Williams with Bottas coming home fifth, but ultimately unable to hold Vettel at bay. Still, he ran as high as third and his teammate Felipe Massa was nowhere – he seemed to spend the afternoon getting out of others’ way. Massa is meant to be the superstar in that team, but Bottas continues to show he’s the big next generation star.
Ferrari came home next, in sixth and seventh. Six and seventh isn’t good enough and clearly there is something not working with the way Ferrari runs its racing team. At least both its drivers had a chance to race this afternoon and we got a little taste of what having Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in the same team might look like, but the red cars should not be fighting for scraps just ahead of the Force Indias who grabbed the last two points places, Perez ahead of Hulkenberg, just behind Romain Grosjean who opened Lotus’ account for the year.
Ferrari’s great rivals McLaren were meanwhile nowhere to be seen. At the time of writing some 30 mins after the race there’s still been no sign of Jenson Button’s inevitably downbeat mug. Mind you, considering just how off-message JB’s been post-race this year, maybe McLaren have locked him away. It’s hard not to feel sad for Jenson, but at least he’s nearing the end of his career. Poor old Kevin Magnussen was nowhere. He’s a proper talent, but teams in a mess like McLaren can consume that talent — unless it has the nous to get out.
Lewis Hamilton’s ground-shaking transfer last season now looks like one of the smarter moves by an F1 driver. It’s a great shame that the architect of all this is busy fishing and not getting interviewed by Suzi Perry, but credit to Lewis for never forgetting to mention Ross Brawn.
As we said this is how it’s going to be this summer, the Mercedes W05 Hybrid is one of those racing cars that will just dominate. Five races, every single lap lead and five wins; you will not get long odds on the W05 doing what even the McLaren MP4/4 couldn’t do and win every single race. Is that something you relish? We had enough information from the radio playback and the graphics this afternoon to keep it interesting, but only just.
There are some sideshows; Vettel needing to regain his reputation; Maldonado trying to gain any kind of reputation; Lotus’s progress, and the terrible funk in which the sport’s two great names — Ferrari and McLaren — are stuck. A fortnight today is the Monaco Grand Prix, the sport’s shop front. We’re told it’s appropriate to bow down in front of a team in the form Mercedes is right now. And maybe we should. If only we hadn’t been doing that — reluctantly — for five years now. Too many races like this and it won’t just be Nico Rosberg staring in to the middle distance on a Sunday afternoon.