Pit Stop – Bahrain Grand Prix – By Lewis Brearley

Watching the Bahrain grand prix it was hard not to imagine being in the shoes of Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal.

As his two drivers, the experienced Jenson Button and his new protégé Sergio Perez aggressively raced each other and banged wheels, I was on edge. Whitmarsh, as the man responsible for McLaren’s success must have been near cardiac arrest.
After experiencing this sensation and reflecting upon it, it is hard not to feel confused about why there was no communication from him to either of his drivers.

Perez was getting more success with looking after his rear tyres and was therefore faster than Button at the later end of their respective stints. Button was therefore fighting a battle he could not realistically win.

With so much on the line, the race having seen the best performance from McLaren so far this season, surely it was a massive risk not to order Button to let Perez past or, if McLaren are so set on not using team orders under any circumstances, at least inform Button of the likely futility of battling his team mate, to allow him to make his own informed decision.

Certainly it is hard not to believe that with the same situation at any of the other top teams, the team principal would not be heard over the team radio with some kind of instruction.

Brawn at Mercedes, Domenicali at Ferrari and Horner at Red Bull, having now learnt his lesson would have all taken to the radio airwaves.

McLaren left Bahrain with just three points less than Mercedes but if you analyse the finishing positions it becomes clear that this wasn’t the maximum return for their efforts.

The decision not to tell Button about the risks of being so aggressive with Perez arguably exacerbated his tyre wear issues and led to a fourth pit-stop being made which dropped Button right down from sixth to tenth.

Another team to make operational mistakes in Bahrain was Ferrari. After the DRS system on Alonso’s car failed early in the race it was obvious that it would be a risk to engage the device again. Yet Ferrari told Alonso that all would be fine and this decision cost Alonso any chance of getting the podium which had looked likely.

He instead finished eighth and with the competition looking so strong, who knows how costly this could be.
After four races the season looks to have distilled into a battle between the raw pace and aerodynamic superiority of the Red Bull versus the more efficient tyre use and balance of the Lotus. In fact the podium at Bahrain was the same as it was last year.

However that doesn’t mean we can discount Ferrari, Mercedes or even McLaren, all three of these teams having shown pace at different points of the four races now passed.
Bahrain certainly showed who must be classed as the favourite to succeed though. He can lead from the front, he can overtake, he can keep his head and he’s got a terrific machine under him: Vettel.

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