F1 headed to Bahrain this weekend for the second round with Ferrari looking set to be right up there with Mercedes.
This weekend certainly proved that so what are the five big lessons from three days of thrilling action?
Three Constructor Fight at Top
This weekend has seen Mercedes fail to top a single session since Hungary 2017, so could we have a definite three constructor battle at top this season?
After a competitive set of practice sessions, come end of qualifying Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull were split by just 0.440s despite Max Verstappen crashing out in Q1.
The tightness of the qualifying gap left Daniel Ricciardo pleased with how competitive the front is.
Speaking post qualifying, Ricciardo said; “That was really close. Part of me is disappointed that we are so close but still at the tail of the lead pack in Qualifying…”
Reliability however is a hindrance to all three teams this weekend.
Red Bull saw both drivers retire from the race early on, disappointing team principal Christian Horner who believed that they were ‘capable of challenging Ferrari and Mercedes,’
Ferrari meanwhile need to sort out their pit stop practice after two botched pit stops on Kimi Raikkonen’s car this weekend.
Sebastian Vettel meanwhile had a solid weekend, timing his pace to better Kimi when it mattered most after the Finn dominated free practice.
Mercedes’ might of had the reliability this weekend but needed to change Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox after Australia, giving him a grid penalty and cost them a potential shot at victory.
Progress for Force India
After a challenging weekend in Australia as the team got to grips with their upgrades, Force India made an assured step forward this weekend.
They might still be firmly in midfield behind Renault and Haas F1 but a step forward now is a good solid progress.
Esteban Ocon certainly thought that there has been improvement having made Q3 for first time this season.
Speaking to the media after qualifying, Ocon was in a positive mood, saying; “We did a huge amount of work yesterday – testing, learning and understanding things on the car – and we can already see the improvement compared to Melbourne.”
The Frenchman also praised the ‘strength of this team even when we are under pressure.’ and believes that this step forward is a ‘good sign for the future’.
Race day might of brought contrasting fortunes with Ocon getting the team’s first point of 2018, whilst Sergio Perez struggled after an early collision made life tough for him.
In summary, a definite step forward and China should hopefully bring further improvement.
Williams continue to struggle
After a concerning weekend in Melbourne, Williams came here looking to kick start their season.
Sadly they’re still struggling with a Q1 exit for both drivers suggesting that there are serious problems getting the car to deliver its potential
Lance Stroll backed that up when he revealed after qualifying that ‘a lot of things are wrong.’ which just sums up how much the team is struggling
The young Canadian then went into detail discussing the main problems, saying; “The balance isn’t there, the grip isn’t high enough and we need more speed….”
Fortunes didn’t improve in race with both drivers finishing last on the road.
Chief Technical Officer, Paddy Lowe is however calling for unity in a challenging time for the team.
Discussing post race how the team moves forward, Lowe said; “This is a time to stick together as a team and work intelligently and diligently on the problems we face.”
Given how early it is in the season, Lowe has the right approach but clear progress in results needs to be made in coming races to justify that comment.
Gasly shines in the desert
Toro Rosso’s new engine partnership with Honda didn’t exactly impress in Australia but this weekend saw Pierre Gasly shine in the desert.
Whilst teammate – Brendon Hartley struggled, Gasly was on fire all weekend with a top ten result in each session which culminated in his best ever qualifying result so far of sixth place (fifth after Lewis Hamilton took five place grid penalty).
The improvement came about from ‘changes made to the aero package’ according to Toyoharu Tanabe – Honda’s technical director.
Whatever changes that have been made are definitely working because Gasly went on to finish the race in fourth place.
Future is Bright
* Beware of potential spoilers if not seen F2 races yet!!!!
This weekend saw Formula Two get their new season underway, featuring several young drivers linked to current F1 teams, and the future for F1 is looking bright if they all make the grade.
Like past two seasons, F2 was at its absolute best from the get go with McLaren’s reserve driver – Lando Norris taking an assured debut feature race win from pole despite engine issues.
The 18-year old followed that win up with fourth place in the sprint race to leave Bahrain as championship leader.
Other drivers like Jack Aitken (Renault), Arjun Maini (Haas F1) and George Russell (Mercedes) showed excellent one lap pace, but the stand out driver and future F1 star in waiting has to be Renault’s new development driver, Artem Markelov.
There are little words to decide Markelov because he is just a genuine joy to watch.
This Russian is exceptional when it comes to just about everything from tyre management to overtaking to making strategies work.
Having faced an uncertain winter over where he was racing this season, Markelov has managed to turn a disastrous start to weekend into a brilliant top notch performance in how to go from technical issues to a double podium result by end of weekend.
For someone to do that despite F2 bringing in a new complex car this season is just unbelievable and in first race weekend too.
All in all, F1’s future is bright if these juniors continue to grow in talent and F2 is definitely looking set for another classic season to rival F1.