Bahrain Sunday Review: Vettel at his absolute best

[ngg_images source=”galleries” container_ids=”43″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_pro_slideshow” image_crop=”0″ image_pan=”1″ show_playback_controls=”1″ show_captions=”0″ caption_class=”caption_overlay_bottom” caption_height=”70″ aspect_ratio=”1.5″ width=”100″ width_unit=”%” transition=”fade” transition_speed=”1″ slideshow_speed=”5″ border_size=”0″ border_color=”#ffffff” ngg_triggers_display=”always” is_ecommerce_enabled=”0″ order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″] 
In a season that has given us so much to anticipate, Sunday in Bahrain provided us with something new – what would Valtteri Bottas do from pole position?

As it turned out, not much. Able to hold position off the line, Bottas was never able to shake the P3-starting Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, and by the end had swapped positions. Partly down to strategy, partly down to driver, it was a stunning victory for the Scuderia.

Able to hang with Bottas after jumping Lewis Hamilton at the start, it didn’t take long for Vettel to get his Ferrari back on-pace after a disappointing Saturday.

Sticking to Bottas’ gearbox through his opening stint, Vettel’s aggression was repaid in kind when his team opted for an early stop, which paid major dividends after the safety car came out on lap 14, gifting him the lead.

However while Vettel was fortunate to take the lead of the race, there was nothing lucky about how he was able to control proceedings all the way to the chequered flag.

Opting to save his soft tyres for his final stint, Ferrari tasked Vettel with driving an assured race from the restart, and that’s exactly what he did. Vettel immediately built a gap, and it forced Mercedes into some serious strategic gymnastics (although Hamilton’s penalty certainly didn’t help) of which they didn’t quite stick the landing.

The German was at his absolute best, and in the SF70H, he has a car that if not on Saturday, come Sunday is every bit the Mercedes’ equal.

Outside the winner’s circle, the other big story was once again McLaren, who with Honda might have the most fruitless reunion since Hamilton and Nicole Scherzinger. One engine didn’t even make it to the grid, while the other gave up after being sworn at by Fernando Alonso for 90 minutes.

Forget improving on last year, they’d do well just to get back to that level the way they’re going.

Also I wonder if Williams and Lance Stroll have some sort of “we take your cash, you take our points” agreement in effect, as with a third-straight DNF, he’s certainly doing them no favours in the standings.

His race-ending clash with a just-pitted Carlos Sainz down into turn 1 may not have been entirely his fault, but it’s the definition of a rookie mistake, and one Williams can ill afford when Force India is right on their tail.

Adding insult to injury, Felipe Massa was able to take the same car to P6 and even mix it up with a Ferrari. So much for Paddy Lowe having less headaches in his new job.

Three races into the 2017 season, and the game is well-and-truly afoot. Bahrain was another exciting race where the see-saw swung back towards Ferrari, and it’s once again up to Mercedes to respond. Bring on Sochi.