What a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix!
Here’s the race wrap-up, team-by-team.
Lewis Hamilton, P1; Valtteri Bottas, P2
Mercedes were forced to cover off Max Verstappen’s first pit stop, but this didn’t work as Verstappen managed to get ahead of Bottas after he pitted.
Hamilton was not comfortable on his soft-compound tyres in his second stint and was unable to get past Vettel despite the German locking up into turn one and going wide. Hamilton was eventually forced to pit for a second time.
If Charles Leclerc did not have the problems he did, Mercedes would not have won this grand prix, but they were in the right place at the right time, finishing one-two. I hope everyone at Mercedes reads this, because I was disgusted to see them applaud as Hamilton and then Bottas overtook the wounded Ferrari of Leclerc.
Bottas leads the world championship by one point – the point he got for fastest lap in Australia – so these fastest-lap points are critical!
Hamilton told Martin Brundle: “Today was a really hard job. The Ferraris have been incredible. I’m sure it’s a devastating result for Charles because he had a great race. This is a great result for the team considering how hard it was”.
Bottas told Brundle: “I think as a team we got a bit lucky today. The car was very reliable. Hard work at the factory is paying off. Otherwise a difficult race for me as the balance of the car was off”.
Charles Leclerc, P3; Sebastian Vettel P5
Vettel got a better start than Leclerc, who fell back behind Bottas initially. However, the young Monegasque had a wonderful ding-dong battle with his teammate reminiscent of the Lewis Hamilton-Nico Rosberg battle here in 2014. In fact my dad and I commented that this was the first time the Ferraris have had a proper battle for the lead since the Michael Schumacher-Rubens Barrichello days!
Leclerc benefitted from the first round of pitstops while Vettel did not as Hamilton’s undercut worked. Vettel, while trying to defend against Hamilton, spun when he lit up his rear tyres as he accelerated out of turn four. Then, as he headed down the back straight, his front wing went from beneath him, disintegrating in a shower of sparks in dramatic scenes as the car was lifted into the air by the oscillation.
He was able to salvage his race as much as he could, coming home in fifth.
Charles Leclerc had problems in the latter stages of the race, losing a significant amount of power from a failed cylinder. This was a bittersweet grand prix weekend for Leclerc, getting pole position but failing to convert it into victory. I was on the brink of tears watching him try to bring the car home, which he did in third because of the safety car.
Quite rightfully Leclerc won driver of the day with 50 per cent of the vote. He also picked up the fastest lap point, achieved in the early stages as he pulled away. Every cloud has a silver lining.
Charles Leclerc, before his interview with Martin Brundle, received loud cheers from the crowd. He told Brundle: “It happens. It’s part of motorsport. Unfortunately, today, it wasn’t our day. I’m extremely disappointed but it happens. We’ve been lucky in an unlucky situation. Thanks to the team for the amazing car all weekend long. I’m sure we’ll come back stronger”.
Mattia Binotto reflected on Leclerc’s race with Sky Sports’s Simon Lazenby and Johnny Herbert, saying, “We need to look now at the engine, at the car, at the data. We don’t have a full indication now, it’s too early. I think we need to look at the positives of the weekend and come back next time stronger”.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. (Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen, P4; Pierre Gasly, P8
Red Bull Racing have not finished on the podium in Bahrain in the turbo-hybrid era, and this trend continued in 2019. Max Verstappen did finish well in fourth, albeit needing Vettel to spin in order for him to get this position. Pierre Gasly scored his first points of the season and spent his race firmly in the midfield. He will only improve further if he qualifies in the top ten, which I’m sure he will.
Lando Norris, P6; Carlos Sainz, DNF
Carlos Sainz made contact with Max Verstappen as he tried to go around the outside of the Dutchman at turn four. He damaged his front wing, spectacularly making sparks as it became stuck under his front-right tyre. Sainz came onto the team radio to say he couldn’t believe Verstappen did that, but I don’t agree with the Spaniard and nor did the stewards – you have to yield if you’re on the outside of the corner as it’s the driver on the inside who has the right of way. Sainz eventually retired from the race.
The race went much better on the other side of the garage as Lando Norris performed well in his second grand prix, convincingly overtaking Kimi Raikkonen on lap 26. As I said in my qualifying report, it is fantastic to see McLaren actually be able to make overtakes instead of being overtaken. Lando Norris eventually finished in sixth position.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen. (Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Kimi Raikkonen, P7; Antonio Giovinazzi, P11
For the second grand prix in a row Kimi Raikkonen was the first person to pit on lap ten, evidence perhaps of the tyre degradation that drivers in both F1 and F2 experienced all weekend.
Antonio Giovinazzi, meanwhile, was attacking rather than leading a train like he did in Melbourne. He hit Daniil Kvyat into turn 11, forcing the Russian into a spin. Giovinazzi was not penalised for this incident, and he was not the only driver who was involved in an altercation to be exonerated of their crime – race control were lenient in Sakhir. Let’s hope this continues so that the drivers can race.
Alexander Albon, P9; Daniil Kvyat, P12
Daniil Kvyat was running in the top ten until Giovinazzi collided with him and hampered his race. His race was further affected when he received a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane. His teammate, Alexander Albon, scored his first points in Formula One, finishing in ninth.
Sergio Perez, P10; Lance Stroll, P14
Lance Stroll was involved in a first-lap incident with Romain Grosjean and finished out of the points, while his teammate, Sergio Perez, came home in tenth.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Kevin Magnussen, P13; Romain Grosjean, DNF
Romain Grosjean retired from this race as a result of damage inflicted on the first lap. Kevin Magnussen was running off the pace and was told on team radio to go for the one-stop while his rivals aimed for two stops.
George Russell, P15; Robert Kubica, P16
George Russell made his first overtake in Formula One! It was on Robert Kubica, and Kubica retook the position. Williams’s woes continued as Kubica was lapped on lap 27, less than halfway through the race. As they did last week, Russell and Kubica finished second-last and last respectively.
Nico Hulkenberg, DNF; Daniel Ricciardo, DNF
Daniel Ricciardo led the grand prix after the frontrunners pitted, but it wasn’t to last for long. At the end of the race both Renaults had power unit failures almost simultaneously, bringing out a safety car.