Vettel beats Mercedes duo at Bahrain

By on
F1 Grand Prix, GP Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

Sebastian Vettel has won the Bahrain Grand Prix, getting past both Mercedes cars towards a reasonably comfortable victory. Lewis Hamilton finished in second position while pole sitter Valtteri Bottas completed the podium for Mercedes.

Even before the start of the race, it was all done for Stoffel Vandoorne, encountering yet another ERS-H failure on the way to the grid. He did position his McLaren in the right spot, but knowing the issue, the team pulled him off and sadly had to decide it was impossible to start the race. The failure means that Vandoorne will have no option but to start the next race with already his fourth ERS-H item. The Belgian leaves Bahrain with just 41 laps completed.

When the lights went out, Bottas made a solid start to retain pole position while Lewis Hamilton and Ricciardo behind him appeared to struggle with the dust on the track. Vettel took second ahead of Hamilton, followed by Verstappen, Ricciardo and Massa. Raikkonen followed in 7th, then Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Ocon. Sainz was 11th, Perez made a stunning start to 13th and Alonso retained his 15th position from the starting grid.

By lap 7 it became clear that Bottas wasn't the fastest man of the pack at all, with everybody up to 5th following closely. Only behind Ricciardo, the gap to Massa increased, with Raikkonen eventually getting past the Williams in Turn 1 of lap 8.

The next lap, Raikkonen proved 3 tenths faster that Ricciardo, and more than a full second than Massa.

At the end of lap 10, Vettel was the first of the top 10 to dive into the pits, changing to a new set of super softs, and rejoinig the race in 12th position, just ahead of Palmer and Alonso. He went out 1.4s down on Perez, who himself was closely chasing Sainz.

Verstappen pitted the next lap, taking on super softs as well, and returning to the track in the same situation as Vettel the lap before. The German Ferrari driver by that time had managed to get past Perez. 15s later, the race was over for Verstappen as he went straight on into the barriers for Turn 3, having locked both front wheels while braking.

One lap later, Sainz and Stroll were out of the race as well after Sainz was extremely optimistic when coming out of the pitlane, thinking he could still pass Stroll in Turn 1. The latter was probably unaware that Sainz was aside of him as well.

The subsequent safety car triggered several more pitstops. Bottas's slow pitstop was also a problem for Hamilton, as he had to wait in the pits, despite backing off on the way in, and in the process holding Ricciardo behind him. Hamilton later received a 5s time penalty for "unnecesarily slowly entering the pitlane".

When they returned to the track, Vettel was first behind the safety car, followed by Bottas, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Perez and Grosjean. Out of the top 10 were Ocon, Alonso, Palmer, Kvyat and Wehrlein, totalling 15 cars still on track.

On lap 17, the race was on again with Bottas immediately challenging Vettel for the lead. Hamilton took back third in Turn 1, indicating a possible problem for Ricciardo who lost further positions to Massa and Raikkonen in the same lap. He later managed to up the pace, suggesting he may have had his soft tyres not yet up to temperature.

In the laps that followed, the action was provided by Alonso, Palmer and Kvyat. The former got ahead of both, but his subsequent lack of DRS made it difficult to get a real advantage, eventually getting re-passed by both several laps later. The McLaren drivers reported on the race radio "I never raced with less power in my entire career", underlining the power disadvantage he's suffering.

On lap 25, when Vettel pulled a gap of 6 seconds to Bottas, Hamilton finally got past his team mate, likely following a message from the team. Hamilton was crucially on the softs vs supersoft for Vettel and Bottas.

By lap 30, Hamilton had gained a second to Vettel while Bottas lost an additional 4. The next lap, he pitted and changed to new soft tyres. The Finn dropped down to 7th but managed to get past Perez one lap later, followed by another overtake on Massa the next lap.

On lap 33, Vettel pitted, taking on new softs for his final stint. He joined in third position, 3s behind Raikkonen and 4 ahead of Ricciardo. Two laps later, Vettel had the least of problems to get past his team mate, while at the same time being told he needed to take care of his tyres.

Moments later, it was Alonso again on the radio, saying "He was, what, 300m behind us on the straight?", after getting past. His engineer replied "We're considering Plan B. How are the tyres?", to which the Spaniard said "Do what you want, man".

On lap 40, Hamilton pitted after a big lockup and rejoined the race in third, 9 seconds down on his team mate, and much to his own surprise on the softs. Following an enquiry about it on the radio, his engineer explained "It's based on the data Lewis, we think this is the better tyre". Hamilton obviously lost considerably time in the pits as he had to serve the 5s time penalty in that stop.

On lap 47, Hamilton gets near Bottas and immediately past him. Bottas didn't make it easy at all, but Hamilton's speed advantage of about 1.5s a lap was clear enough to make it happen anyway.

5 laps later, the race got neutralised for a lap with yellow flags after Markus Ericsson parked his Sauber at Turn 3 following a reported "gearbox failure".

On lap 54, with 4 left to go, the gap between Vettel and Hamilton had reduced to 6.2 seconds.

Another lap later, when it became clear Hamilton would not make it, Alonso struggled to get his car slowed down ahead of Turn 1, and subsequently reported an engine problem. The Spaniard completed the lap but returned to the pits to retire.

In the end, it became a reasonably straightforward victory for Vettel, thanks to nicely timed safety car, great pace and Hamilton's time penalty.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
15Sebastian VettelFerrari571:33:53.3740
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG57+6.660s0
377Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG57+20.397s0
47Kimi RäikkönenFerrari57+22.475s0
53Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer57+39.346s0
619Felipe MassaWilliams Mercedes57+54.326s0
711Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes57+62.606s0
88Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari57+74.865s0
927Nico HulkenbergRenault57+80.188s0
1031Esteban OconForce India Mercedes57+95.711s0
1194Pascal WehrleinSauber Ferrari56+1 lap0
1226Daniil KvyatToro Rosso56+1 lap0
1330Jolyon PalmerRenault56+1 lap0
1414Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Honda54DNF0
NC9Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari50DNF0
NC55Carlos SainzToro Rosso12DNF0
NC18Lance StrollWilliams Mercedes12DNF0
NC33Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer11DNF0
NC20Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari8DNF0
NC2Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren Honda0DNS0