Dark horse Raikkonen surprises the frontrunners with Bahrain pace

Rodney Gordon Columnist

By Rodney Gordon, Rodney Gordon is a Roar Expert

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    After a disappointing 2017, Bahrain is Raikkoenen's chance to show he can be a champion (GEPA pictures/Red Bull Content Pool)

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    Brake issues for both the Mercedes couldn’t stop them claiming another victory in Bahrain, the fourth on the trot for the rampaging Lewis Hamilton.

    Nico Rosberg had a troubled race, losing further ground to his teammate in the drivers’ title race, but it was Ferrari’s mixed fortune and genuine pace that have ignited the Formula One faithful.

    Kimi Raikkonen, the man Will Buxton accused of showing “staggering racing negligence” before calling for him to be benched last year, brought home a convincing second place.

    The Finn was faster than his teammate through every phase of the Grand Prix, first leaping past third place Nico Rosberg off the line, then reporting to the team in the early phases that he “could go faster” than Sebastian Vettel.

    If Sebastian hadn’t put himself out of contention by breaking his front wing the team would have had an awkward call to make. Vettel was shadowing the strategy of the Mercs but would have had to let Raikkonen through at the end of the race as his alternate strategy saw him charging home on the faster ‘option’ tyres.

    “We did more or less the maximum, but of course finishing second is disappointing, but you have to be happy with the points,” said Raikkonen.

    It’s unclear whether Vettel’s contract guarantees him preferential treatment within Ferrari (although rumours suggest this is the case), yet to hold Kimi back would have cost him and the team valuable points challenging and passing Rosberg for P2. Indeed if the race were another lap longer or Hamilton’s break issue had presented itself any earlier it could well have been Raikkonen on the top step.

    Fourth place went to Valtteri Bottas, a position he also described as “the maximum” he could expect, followed by the ailing Vettel. Daniel Ricciardo was a long way behind the pair, limping across the line for sixth place after his Renault engine detonated under acceleration at the final corner.

    Brazilian Felipe Massa scrapped his way into the top 10 after his car failed on the formation lap with a sensor issue. Starting from the pitlane he quickly regained a number of positions before being touched up by an overly-affectionate Pastor Maldonado.

    “I don’t know what he did to be honest but he lost his braking point in corner four, lap four, and he hit my diffuser,” said Massa.

    With a 27 points buffer after four races, Hamilton’s lead is unassailable at the next Grand Prix and it appears he is doing exactly what his teammate cannot; Hamilton is building a championship season one victory at a time.

    Rather than focus on maximising each race, each phase, each lap, Rosberg seems to be lost in the mathematics of the championship battle, adrift in a sea of permutations.

    He needs to forget about “damage limitation” and start putting his car on pole at the next few races, otherwise his season will be a very sad and sorry one.

    There have been upsets aplenty in the World Cup so far, so be sure to check out our expert tips and predictions for South Korea vs Sweden, Belgium vs Panama and England vs Tunisia and get the good oil on who to tip tonight.
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