F1 Blast from the Past: The Silver Arrows Duel in the Desert

In the run up to the the 2021 Formula 1 season-opener in Bahrain, we bring you a classic race report from the Sakhir International Circuit. Last season, we reviewed the 2006 Bahrain GP and this year, we bring you the incredible 2014 Bahrain GP!

Background

The third round of the 2014 Formula 1 season was in Bahrain, the first Grand Prix to take place at the venue at night and under floodlights. The sport’s new hybrid era had seen Mercedes produce a dominant car, with one win a piece for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the opening rounds in Australia and Malaysia.

This was the first ever F1 night race outside of Singapore

In qualifying, it was Rosberg who got the upper hand, taking pole position ahead of Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo continued the incredible start to his Red Bull senior team career by qualifying third, although he would be sent back ten places for his unsafe pit release in Malaysia.

This meant that Valtteri Bottas started in third in his Williams with Sergio Perez alongside the Finn on the front row. Ferrari were having a torrid time, as their then-President Luca di Montezemolo lamented what he called “Formula Boredom” and that the drivers had to “trundle around like taxi drivers”.

di Montezemolo couldn’t have been more wrong, as we were treated to one of the best races in the modern era!

The Race

At the start of the of the 57 lap race it was Hamilton who made the better getaway from P2 and led into the first corner. Bottas in the Mercedes-powered Williams made a poor start and lost positions to both his teammate Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez’s Force India.

Hamilton took the lead off the line, which set us up for a brilliant scrap

Rosberg made his intentions for a scrap with his teammate known by challenging for the lead into Turn 4, but Hamilton defended the lead by pushing the German wide. Further down the field, Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus collided with Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso. The Frenchman would be forced to retire later in the race due to the damage.

As the race progressed, the two Mercedes pulled away from the rest of the field. On Lap 18, Rosberg utilised his DRS down the pit-straight and dived down the inside of Hamilton into Turn 1, but the German out-braked himself and ran wide, allowing Hamilton to take back the lead.

READ MORE BLASTS FROM THE PAST: RED BULLS LOCK HORNS IN TURKEY 2010

On the following lap, Rosberg tried the same manoeuvre, and this time he was able to make the move stick. However, Hamilton quickly fought back and took the outside line going into Turn 4, switching to the inside on the exit.

The Englishman gained great traction out of the corner and regained the lead going into the complex of Turns 5 and 6. There was a three-car battle for third between Massa and the two Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Hulkenberg tried to get past Massa into Turn 4 on Lap 26, but lost momentum allowing Perez to claim fourth place. Two laps later, the Mexican then overtook Massa for third.

The turning point

On Lap 41, Pastor Maldonado re-joined the circuit after a pit stop and collided with Esteban Gutiérrez in the Sauber going into the first corner. Gutiérrez rolled over twice in before landing upright on the track. The debris from the collision meant the safety car was deployed, while the Mexican was taken to hospital for an examination.

Maldonado and Gutierrez’s crash turned the race on its head. Image: Eurosport

Maldonado was given a ten-second penalty and a five-place grid penalty for the next race in China. Hamilton had pulled out a 10 second lead on Rosberg, but the Safety Car gave the German another chance to fight for the victory. Racing resumed with 10 laps to go and Rosberg immediately set about overtaking Hamilton. Hamilton defended again, just as he had done on lap one holding off his team mate and maintaining his lead.

It was not just the Mercedes that were engaging in inter-team squabbling, as Ricciardo passed his teammate Sebastian Vettel for fifth on Lap 50. On Lap 52, Rosberg again tried to pass Hamilton into Turn 1, but Hamilton anticipated the move and cut back to the inside as Rosberg ran wide. The German would try again the following lap, but Hamilton would not give way.

READ MORE BLAST FROM THE PAST: SCHUMACHER AND ALONSO DUEL AT IMOLA 2005

Hamilton held off Rosberg’s assault and took his second consecutive victory with his team mate finishing just one second behind. Third place was the elated Sergio Perez, taking his first podium in 29 races and a major boost after a difficult 2013 season with McLaren.

Daniel Ricciardo narrowly missed out on a podium finish in fourth, with Hulkenberg and Vettel fifth and sixth. The two Williams came home seventh and eighth ahead of the two Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. The monumental battle between the two Mercedes drivers set the tone for the Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry which would dominate Formula 1 over the next three seasons.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview the Bahrain Grand Prix? George Howson hosted panelists Louis Edwards, Sam Thatcher and Jack Watson in the Grid Talk Bahrain GP Preview. Full audio and video versions of the show are available below:

Video Highlights

If you prefer to watch your highlights, the F1 YouTube channel handily uploaded the race highlights last season:

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