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Opinion

Five talking points from the Bahrain Grand Prix

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Roar Guru
30th November, 2020
18

It’s a race that won’t go down in history as one of the most memorable, however one horrific accident certainly will make it a talking point for many years to come. Let’s get to it.

The most horrific accident I’ve seen in 26 years
I’ve been watching this sport since I was about seven years old. I remember seeing Ayrton Senna’s crash in Imola in 1994 and being turned away for a couple of years before my favourite driver Michael Schumacher joined my favourite team Ferrari in 1996.

Since then I’ve been hooked and treated F1 like my religion. In that time, I’ve seen some absolutely terrible accidents.

From the aforementioned Senna’s at Imola, to Schumacher breaking his leg at Silverstone in 1999 causing a 12-year-old me to be in tears for about a week. I watched in horror as Robert Kubica was flung through the air like a rag doll at Montreal in 2008, gasped as Mark Webber was launched over the back of Heikki Kovalainen at Valencia in 2010, sat confused at the unknown after Jules Bianchi’s crash at Suzuka in 2014 and sat in the stands at Melbourne in 2016 in horror as Fernando Alonso’s McLaren dismantled around him at Albert Park.

But I was completely left speechless after witnessing the crash at the Bahrain Grand Prix in which somehow Romain Grosjean escaped with his life.

To see a Formula One car split in two, a massive fireball engulfing the main survival cell and a driver walk away with only small burns and a potential cracked rib is miraculous.

The images shown of Grosjean emerging from that fireball are some of the most extraordinary images you will ever see. For the millions of F1 fans around the world, the fact that we can sit here and talk about Romain in the present tense is just extraordinary.

It was something you would expect to see, and sadly did see, 40 years ago, when at that stage a driver had no chance of surviving a crash like that.

Thankfully for Romain, modern F1 standards are so high that he was able to come away from this. And also, it seems that once and for all, the debate around the halo is over. That was undoubtedly what saved his life.

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Romain Grosjean escapes a fireball

A fire is pictured following the crash of Romain Grosjean of France and Haas F1 during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on November 29, 2020 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

The incident left a bit of a stain on the race, a race that was maybe one of, if not the most boring race of the season. But at the end of the day I think I speak for the majority of F1 fans when I say who cares, because all we care about is the fact that we witnessed a miracle today and that miracle is that Romain Grosjean is still alive.

Perez, Albon and the continued unfairness of F1
It’s an odd thing to call F1 ‘unfair’. Let’s be honest, all sport is unfair. Life is unfair. It’s the way of the world. But it’s unfair to say that a driver such as Sergio Perez will be without a job in 2021.

At the time of writing this, the big whisper going around is that Red Bull is set to announce Alex Albon as continuing on with the team in 2021. Perez came out during the weekend and said that if he wasn’t able to land the Red Bull seat, he would take a sabbatical from the sport with no other options available to him.

This would make it two years in a row in which a highly talented and capable driver is without a job in F1 for the following year. And we’ll get to that other driver in my next point shortly.

Now of course, may are set to argue that Albon did well this weekend by securing a podium. And he did drive well. He qualified fourth and maintained that for the majority of the race. However for the second time this season it was down to a Racing Point failure that allowed him to secure a podium.

Granted, he had two podiums taken away from him in the last 12 months due to an over-exuberant Lewis Hamilton, so you might argue it’s karma making things right.

And perhaps it is. However on both occasions of his podium, Albon wasn’t really challenging for those positions, positions he should be challenging for every single weekend with that car behind him. The fact it was Red Bull’s first double podium in three years speaks volumes for the troubles they’ve been having in that second seat.

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Perez not being on the grid next year will be a travesty. He has improved significantly in the years since he had his first shot at a big team back in 2013, and he is arguably the most consistent mid-field driver around and one who deserves to be back in a top team.

I couldn’t imagine him being in that Mercedes next to Lewis Hamilton he would be doing a worse job than Valtteri Bottas at the moment, and I’m a Bottas fan. I feel for the guy and feel he has had some wretched bad luck in 2020.

However if I had to rate Bottas against Perez, that’s a tricky conversation to have.

I want to be wrong on Albon. Despite my negativity on the kid this year, I like him. I’m a fan of his personality as he seems almost the complete opposite of what an F1 driver should be. Almost like Charles Leclerc in the fact that he is just a shy kid who happens to be on the biggest stage in motorsports.

Somebody who isn’t afraid to admit their faults and be honest about what happens out there and also have some fun. So with all of that, I want to be here in 12 months’ time typing how I was wrong about him and that I’m happy to see him be a success in that Red Bull. For now though, he’s not there.

Perez is. And to me that’s what needs to happen. Sadly, it doesn’t seem likely.

And on the note of drivers who should be in the sport and were replaced with somebody who perhaps shouldn’t be…

Esteban Slow-con 2.0
Back in July in my first talking point of the season after the Austrian Grand Prix, I called out Esteban Ocon for being well off the pace.

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I’ve remained silent on the Frenchman since, willing to give him a shot to see him improve.

Well, here we are with only two races remaining and nothing has changed. And it’s baffling to me to see him escape the criticism that say Albon is getting, or even my beloved Lance Stroll.

When Ocon found himself without a drive at the end of 2018 there was outcry. People were bemoaning the loss of a huge talent and people seemingly counted down the days until he got a sit back on the grid for 2020. That opportunity came with Renault, and the extremely reliable and talented Nico Hulkenberg got the flick.

And yet, we sit here now with Ocon languishing in 12th place in the championship on 42 points, 60 points and 2 podiums behind Daniel Ricciardo who looks set to finish an impressive fourth in the standings.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Renault Sport F1 celebrates on the podium

Daniel Ricciardo. (Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)

Of course the argument can easily be made that Ricciardo is a much more complete and talented driver than Ocon and is punching above his weight in that car, but Ocon is somebody who is extremely highly rated and let’s be honest, he has done nothing in 2020.

Next year will surely be a breaker for Esteban. With Fernando Alonso joining the team it’ll be fascinating to see how he handles going up against the pressure cooker that is being in a team with the Spaniard.

Alonso doesn’t create the best team environment wherever he lands, so to have that change around him next year in a newly branded team will be interesting to watch. I’m no Alonso fan in the slightest, but I can’t not see him wiping the floor with Ocon based on what has been seen this year.

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The F2 battle is where all the excitement is at
I for one will be glued to my screen as always next weekend for the next race, particularly given it’s going to be at a ‘new’ circuit with the fast outer layout of the Sakhir circuit set to produce laps below 60 seconds.

However my main attention will be focussed on the battle for the F2 crown, particularly around a certain Mick Schumacher.

With only two races remaining, Mick leads Callum Ilott by 14 points. Coming into the weekend just gone, he had a lead of 22 points.

While that seems like he lost out, Mick drove two pretty solid races to maintain a points gap of Ilott, especially after Ilott secured pole on Friday for the feature race and Mick only qualified 10th. So what looked likely to be a bad weekend for Schumacher turned into a pretty solid result.

It looks all but certain Schumacher will be on the grid next year for Haas in F1, which will bring with it all levels of excitement. There is even a chance he might get offered the seat early for this weekend’s F1 race given the chances of Grosjean racing look slim. But I think Mick would prioritise his chance to win the F2 title over going for an early F1 debut, given the current situation.

I’ll be keeping all fingers and toes crossed that another M Schumacher will be crowned champion once again this weekend.

A flipping bad time for Canada
Two weeks ago, it was a celebration for Lance Stroll and that magical pole position. This week he ends up upside down and out of the race before a lap was completed. How things can change. However, it has to be said things were actually looking good this weekend for Lance, he just had some pretty bad luck.

His practice pace was solid, maintaining top tens throughout the weekend before finishing Q1 in second place. It was looking very good for him for another high qualifying spot.

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However for the second consecutive race, Racing Point made an error in the pits, fitting a set of used mediums to his car instead of fresh softs, compromising his Q2 lap and he ended up starting in 13th.

Another incredible Lance Stroll start was abound though on the first start before being punted off in a racing incident by future teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The second start saw him start this time from 12th, where he had a full lap battle with Carlos Sainz, losing track position before an over eager torpedo move from the torpedo himself Daniil Kvyat sent him flipping over onto his roof and it was race over.

While no doubt the talk once again goes back to his talent and his DNF, it’s important to talk about the positives he had across the weekend and that a bit of bad luck really overshadowed another solid and strong performance by the Canadian.

And on that note, the other Canadian in Mr Nicholas Latifi had a fairly Nicholas Latifi weekend. Qualified last, made some places up during the race, even had a bit of a battle with a Mercedes (hello Mr Bottas) and finished in 14th place, with 3 cars behind him. That in itself was a win for him.

With all of that to digest it’s time to take a couple of breaths and regroup for the next race in less than a week. As always, bring it on.

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