"Today was a day for the sport”: Bahrain Grand Prix, 2014
Even before the start, there was an extra buzz of excitement around the Sakhir circuit that Sunday, as the crowds gathered at the end of what is a working day in Bahrain. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of this Grand Prix, coincidentally, the 900th in the history of Formula 1, the event was being held as a night race under floodlights for the very first time. Little did they know they were about to witness a thriller, one of the best Grand Prix in years, a real ‘Duel in the Desert'.
We did not know it at the time, but that year’s switch to hybrid power would mark a period of dominance for the Mercedes team that still continues today, seven years later. The Anglo-German squad has taken very Drivers’ and Constructors’ title since then, with Lewis Hamilton winning the Drivers’ crown five times out of six. The only other driver to have been champion in that period was his team-mate Nico Rosberg and the 2014 Bahrain GP would be the first real indication of the battles these two would have.
It was the third round of the championship and the two rivals had one win apiece. That Sunday, it was Rosberg who started from pole, but Hamilton had the faster reactions and led at the first corner. By lap 18 they were already fighting tooth and nail, with Rosberg even complaining about his team-mate’s aggressive passing attempts over the radio. Thankfully, Mercedes’ attitude was that they were here to race and put on a show for the crowd, even though they could have ordered their two fired-up charges to maintain station. Even this early in the season, it was clear that the team had the edge and a big one at that, over the rest of the field and could pretty much win as they pleased.
The race was building to a climax and the key to it all would be tyre choices. When Hamilton brought his silver car down pit lane around lap 20, he opted for another set of the faster Soft tyres, hoping to build up a lead in this middle stint before ending the race on the more durable Mediums. Rosberg on the other hand, went the other way – Mediums this time, with the plan to run Softs for a final sprint to the flag.
The Englishman’s plan appeared to be working, as he shook off the German and built up a lead of almost ten seconds by lap 40 of the 57 lap race. It was at this point that everyone’s plans were turned upside down, as indeed was Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber after he had been hit by the Lotus of the sport’s crashmeister Pastor Maldonado. The ensuing Safety Car period wiped out Hamilton’s lead. Lap 47 and the Safety Car headed back for the pit lane.
For what seemed like lap after lap, the German pulled alongside Hamilton and almost got past, first at Turn 1 and again at Turn 4, but Lewis Hamilton knew how to make his car as wide as possible, defending robustly but fairly. It was only in the last four laps that Rosberg’s soft tyres lost their performance edge, allowing Hamilton to pull away and cross the finish line to take his second win of the year. The other winner that day was the sport, as this race was a real classic, thanks in part to the lack of team orders from Mercedes.
Lewis won, but he also learned the important lesson, that he wasn’t going to have it all his own way in the internecine Mercedes battle and that in Nico Rosberg he was facing a determined and redoubtable opponent. Actually, this was not news to the Englishman as he and Rosberg had been rivals since their very early pre-teen days racing in karts. In fact, their battles would draw comparison with those between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in the late Eighties and early Nineties.
As teammates, Hamilton and Rosberg won 54 of 78 races over four seasons. Hamilton had 32 victories, 55 podium finishes while Rosberg had 22 victories, 50 podium finishes. The Briton took home two F1 championship titles during the period 2014-2016 ahead of Rosberg’s single title win in 2016. "Imagine if we had imposed team orders from lap two or something - what a terrible thing that would be for F1 and for the philosophy of Mercedes in motorsport," said Lowe at the post-race press conference in Sakhir.
ETCHED IN SAND
How do you keep this 2014 edition of Bahrain Grand Prix from getting lost in the sands of time? A race, where even a disappointed Rosberg who finished second couldn’t help but Acknowledge, that was ‘a big win for the sport’. Commemorating the neck-and-neck heated battle between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the Bahrain Grand Prix 2014, where the former finally took top position, Automobilist released, in early 2020, a special set of ‘Duel in the Desert’ design artworks expressed through a Fine Art Print and a Limited edition Design Posters. The print has been created with full CGI accuracy over a period of 4 months and 1000 hours of work that combines both design and creativity. It has been captured from an angle hard to view the wheel-to-wheel battle from, even with modern technology and cameras due to safety measures and minimum distance from the actual cars. The cars have been re-created in 3D using drawings from the actual car, and the moment truly captures the intensity of the tight battle between Hamilton and Rosberg.
Images courtesy Hoch Zwei / Automobilist