Kimi Raikkonen drove one of the better races in Bahrain, more visible ones, now that he has a solid car that better suits his driving style. He finished 3.3 seconds behind the winner, Lewis Hamilton, and was only a few laps short of a run.
The Finn was aware of the lost opportunities immediately after the race, so he indulged in fruit champagne on the stage for the winners with mixed feelings, which is probably not his favorite. He said he could not be satisfied with the second place, which is completely understandable. "We were fast all the time, but we more or less got the most out of the car," he added, and it was the "more or less" that let us know that with his 13 years of experience in Formula One, he was aware that it would be even more can be achieved.
Realistically, before the race, of course, we wouldn’t expect Kimi to be one of the candidates to win, unless the Mercedes racer finds himself in trouble with tires, or technique. To prevent tire problems, the Mercedes camp was provided with different settings, which caused Rosberg and Hamilton to encounter brake problems. “We’re fast enough to follow the Mercedes, but you can’t win a duel with them,” Raikkonen explained. We certainly can’t argue with that if the silver race cars don’t have a problem, but the settings of the race cars went to the detriment of the cooling of the brakes and in the last laps of the race they started to bother you. Rosberg drove off the track in the first corner. He pressed the brake pedal and it hit the ground. The German drove off the ideal line and Raikkonen jumped past. The brake system worked with a fault, and Hamilton found himself in the same position in the last lap, receiving instructions via radio to lift his foot off the accelerator pedal and brake to the brake point (lift and coast) before braking.
Raikkonen approached him by just under a second per lap in each lap, and when problems arose, he took away the British two-second advantage. What if it was… If the Ferrari racer were closer then… if Hamilton's brakes failed sooner… if Raikkonen changed the tires a little earlier… these are all questions we can play with.
Let's take the right to be smart after the battle… Raikkonen's teammate Vettel worked a few laps a few laps after a mistake in the first turn when he dropped Rosberg in front of him. Since the Finn would do more harm than good by tracking (overheating the brakes, destroying the tires,…) as Vettel would not let him pass peacefully, they decided to change tactics on Finc's side of the red garages. They took a risk and used a harder version of the tires already in the middle of the race and not in the last. We expected this mixture to be much worse than it actually was, but at the same time the Finn had to drive several laps on this set so that he would not run out of “life” in the last set of soft tires before the finish.
As said, if we are smart now that the race is over, Raikkonen drove the last lap with a time of 1: 38.015. Hamilton did not drive the last eight laps in such a fast lap, which indicates that there was still enough potential in the soft set of tires. So the Finn could have replaced a worn set of harder tires two or three laps earlier, making the average of the last laps better and catching Hamilton earlier as well.
How would the race unfold if Raikkonen stayed on the outlined tactics and put on soft tires on the first two stops and hard tires only on the last one? This tactic was picked up in Vettl’s garage and the German fought Rosberg, and Raikkonen would have been right behind them with the same tactic, so he would also have been closer to Mercedes when Vettel had to get new front wings.
But the different tactics of the red race cars further confused Mercedes. Another thing they had to think about and an extra stranger in the equation that could make a new mistake. Similar to what they did in the pre-race brake cooling needs assessments.
Precisely for this reason, it is difficult to say whether Ferrari actually counted on it or not, as the possibility of a safety car had to be considered as well. The race served us with quite a few duels and if a safety car had been brought to the track in the back, the victory would have been Raikkonen’s. After stopping in the 40th lap when he put on soft tires, his kit was about 7 laps younger than Hamilton’s harder tires, and with such a difference in the mix and preservation of the tires, it would more than make up for the difference between a Ferrari and a Mercedes race car.
Due to the announced use of a more powerful engine at Ferrari, I became very impatient in anticipation of the next race. The difference between the engines is now supposed to be smaller by about 20-30 horsepower, which means up to three tenths of a better Ferrari time on the track.
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