By Luke Smith Follow @LukeSmithF1 on Twitter

The 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix may not be remembered as Formula 1's most scintillating grand prix but in today's context it is hard to forget its ultimate poignancy. Seven years on, we salute that sweltering Sunday in the desert and reflect on why it is important today.

In the wake of Brawn GP's fairytale championship victory in 2009, anticipation was high for the start of the new season in Bahrain, the race taking place on this day in 2010. With the traditional season opener switched to Bahrain from Australia, the 2010 curtain raiser already exuded an unusual ambience off track, which was perhaps fitting given the myriad of talking points on it.

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The overriding feeling for the paddock in Bahrain was that F1 was about to dive into a brand new world. With a number of new teams, new drivers, driver swaps and exits of big hitters Toyota and BMW, plus a new track in Korea, the 14th March 2010 felt like a new era was probably dawning.

The main attraction was undoubtedly the returning Michael Schumacher, who at the age of 41 had been lured out of retirement for another crack at revising the record books. Statistically the greatest driver in the history of the sport, Schumacher was back and keen to add to his haul of 91 race wins and seven world titles, having been forced to quit Ferrari at the end of 2006 to make way for the arriving Kimi Raikkonen.

It has long been said Schumacher never wanted to retire when he hung up his helmet at the end of 2006 and been seeking the correct opportunity to come about for a return. Schumacher took Mercedes up on its offer with former technical boss Ross Brawn at the new Mercedes factory team - a German legend in a title-winning team (Brawn) under new big money ownership and long-time collaborator at the helm, it made for an eye-catching premise.

The excitement of the day was palpable as Schumacher took his first grid position for four years but for all of the headlines, his fairly nondescript run to sixth place behind team-mate Nico Rosberg set the tone for the coming three seasons.

With the 'Silver Arrows' finding its way, Rosberg emerged as the team leader as Schumacher struggled to rekindle the kind of form that was evident throughout his time with Ferrari. Schumacher retired for good at the end of 2012 with just one podium finish to his name, making way for Lewis Hamilton to join. Hamilton and Rosberg would of course go on to form one of F1's all-time great rivalries, battling for the title in 2014, 2015 and 2016 as Mercedes became the class of the field. It offered quite a bitter sporting story: for all of the success that Schumacher enjoyed with Ferrari, it would be without the German that Mercedes would go on to reach such lofty heights once again. Perhaps curiously, it also came without Ross Brawn, who left Mercedes at the end of 2013.

Of course the Schumacher tale has since taken a tragic turn after sustaining severe head injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013, for which he continues to undergo rehabilitation and recover from. Successful his comeback may not have been, poignant it has certainly become.

Bahrain 2010 also saw another popular comeback: Felipe Massa. The Brazilian had not raced since the German Grand Prix in 2009, having suffered life-threatening head injuries when he was struck by an errant suspension spring in Hungary qualifying. After undergoing surgery, Massa was able to make a full recovery and return to his race seat with Ferrari for the 2010 season.

Massa found himself with a new teammate across the garage in the form of Fernando Alonso. Alonso had been scrambling for a top-line seat since his acrimonious exit from McLaren at the end of 2007, spending two years with Renault before making the move to Maranello. Alonso and Massa romped home to a one-two finish in Bahrain, capitalising on a gearbox issue that denied Sebastian Vettel a sure-fire victory for Red Bull.

Jenson Button was another man driving for a new team at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix, linking up with McLaren in one of the more surprising moves from the winter. Button had won a breakthrough drivers' title with Brawn the previous year, but did not stay on with the new Mercedes regime, instead fancying a move to Woking where he would shape up against Lewis Hamilton.

Most expected Hamilton to wipe the floor with Button, yet it was the latter who won their overall team points battle during three years together. Button won his second race for McLaren in Australia, and came second in the 2011 championship before eventually stepping away from his seat at the end of 2016, with McLaren still looking for any kind of form with new engine partner Honda. Rather symbolically, the arrival of Mercedes' works team spelt the beginning of the end of McLaren's relationship with the German manufacturer that had yielded much success since 1995. The two eventually parted company at the end of 2014.


2010 also welcomed the arrival of three new teams to F1: Lotus Racing, Virgin Racing and Hispania Racing. All arrived in F1 with the promise of a budget cap that never came to be amid the ongoing FOTA crisis, making their stories rather complicated ones. Hispania were fortunate to even make the grid in Bahrain, having been unable to complete any pre-season testing and finished way off the pace. After three years mired at the back of the grid, Hispania - later known as HRT - folded, with Caterham (n?e Lotus) following suit at the end of 2014. Virgin had become Marussia and then Manor, and was the most successful of the 'new teams' from 2010, scoring two points at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix through Jules Bianchi. However, it too collapsed financially on multiple occasions, eventually closing its doors ahead of the 2017 season.

Finally, the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix also marked the start of Sebastian Vettel's stint at the top of the F1 world. While he only finished the race fourth due to the gearbox issue, Vettel showed that both he and Red Bull had the march of the field in terms of pace, setting himself up for a charge to a maiden world title in 2010. Vettel won the championship in dramatic circumstances, moving ahead of Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber at the final race in Abu Dhabi after failing to lead the standings at any other point in the year. The German then swept to repeat wins in 2011, 2012 and 2013, emerging as one of the greatest drivers in recent F1 history.

In some ways, the race in Bahrain did mark the beginning of a new era - just not necessarily how it was supposed to.

There was no great success for Schumacher's second stint in F1; the new teams ultimately withered and perished instead of flourishing and helping to bring down costs in F1; and Massa failed to get close to his title near-miss from 2008.

Instead, it was Vettel and Mercedes that would set the tone for the years to come... all starting on that hot Sunday afternoon in Bahrain seven years ago.