Those who feared the wheels were about to fall off Formula One had better think again. The sport has come in for a fuel tank full of criticism lately, much of it self-inflicted, but Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix broke the negative spiral with a race that lit up the track in more ways than one.
The cars were too quiet and not quick enough, likened ludicrously to golf buggies with cautious ‘taxi drivers’ more preoccupied with saving fuel and sparing the tyres than overtaking.
Listening to some people, racing had become boring and the glamour sport had lost its mojo. Or maybe not. “Unless I am very much mistaken,” as retired British television commentator Murray ‘pants on fire’ Walker would no doubt have opined had he been at the microphone on Sunday night at the floodlit Sakhir circuit: “And I AM very much mistaken…”
After a dull race in Malaysia the previous weekend, Sunday was suddenly showtime again. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg seized the sport by the scruff of the neck and, in a superbly illuminated night race, gave it full throttle. And some.
They, and other team mates duelling down the field, demonstrated that the sport is still in full possession of its licence to thrill and eager to use it. Hamilton’s win, after being chased by his team mate all evening in a wheel-to-wheel battle that left them separated by barely a second at the finish, provided the perfect riposte to the critics.
“That made me happier than anything really,” commented Mercedes technical head Paddy Lowe as he celebrated his team’s third win in three races this season and second successive one-two finish. “It’s a great result for Mercedes and the team, but more than that it’s a great result for Formula One because there has been so much negative stuff going on around, generated perhaps by some of our competitors putting in doubt the nature of this new formula.”
Only hours before the race, Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo — whose cars have plenty of catching up to do and slunk home ninth and 10th — had sauntered into the Sakhir circuit to hold forth in front of the television cameras. He referred again to the famous ‘taxi drivers’ and spoke firmly of the need to bring back the lost ‘music’ of the engines and allow flat-out racing from lights to chequered flag.
International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt, attending his first race of the season, met the major players while commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told reporters the public wanted change and it had to happen.
The sound will be altered, with a general agreement to come up with a way of raising the decibels after the first European race in Spain next month, but continued…