Sebastian Vettel beat Valtteri Bottas in a nail-biting finish to the Bahrain Grand Prix, a race that saw Lewis Hamilton recover to third and a double DNF for Red Bull.
After the bore-fest that was Australia, Bahrain delivered in both picturesque setting and drama from start to finish.
Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel set himself up for a second win of this season with a clinical start, unchallenged off the line by either Kimi Raikkonen or Valtteri Bottas. Instead the two Finns were left to battle amongst themselves for second place in the early running with Bottas coming out on top.
Lap 1 tussles saw Lewis Hamilton, who started P9, versus Max Verstappen, who made a flying start from 15th place. The duo didn’t have much space because Fernando Alonso’s McLaren was on the inside, with Verstappen running over the Mercedes’ front wing. He was left with a rear left puncture and limped back to the pits for new tyres before retiring the car due to damage from the early incident. Red Bull’s troubles were doubled as Daniel Ricciardo, who was running fourth, parked his RB14 on the side of the track.
Back inside the top ten the drama continued as Magnussen took on Gasly for fifth, and Hamilton took on Hulkenberg, Alonso and Esteban Ocon for sixth – triple overtake! He won that before making short work of Magnussen to run P5 after six laps and P4 after eight as he then passed Gasly. He was nine seconds behind third-placed Raikkonen and 14 off the lead.
Laps 14 to 16 saw the drivers fighting for the points, but not the podium, all pit with Gasly coming out ahead of Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Alonso. Brendon Hartley, facing a 10 second stop-go penalty for colliding with Sergio Perez on the opening lap, stayed out longer and fell all the way to the back of the field after his stop and penalty.
Vettel was the first of the top four to pit, coming in on lap 18 and handing the lead to Bottas. Raikkonen came in a lap later, the Ferraris falling to third and fourth before Bottas stopped on lap 20. He re-emerged in third place with Hamilton lead. And while the Ferraris swapped to the soft tyres, Mercedes put the medium tyres on Bottas’ car.
Vettel with his fresh soft tyres quickly caught Hamilton and passed him into the first corner on lap 26. But with Mercedes on a one-stopper and Ferrari seeming to be two-stopping, the playing field was a lot more even than it looked. Hamilton stopped a lap later, swapping his soft tyres for mediums.
The top ten midway: Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Gasly, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Vandoorne and Ocon.
Magnussen dropped to 10th when he came in for his second stop and wasn’t impressed with his team-mate Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman was lapping with a damaged car, a chunk of the bargeboard having broken off, and held up his team-mate before pitting himself. Magnussen used some rather colourful language to express his thoughts.
Back at the very front, Vettel tried to pull away from Bottas but could only build up a gap of just over four seconds. Raikkonen in third was 16s ahead of Hamilton but recorded his first DNF of this season when he was forced to stop in the pits due as Ferrari failed to change his rear left tyre. The Finn also hit and injured one of his mechanics as he pulled away.
Vettel continued to push, the gap up to seven seconds over Bottas, and was told to move to “Plan B” with Ferrari swapping from a two-stop to a one-stopper. It became a case of Vettel’s softs versus Mercedes’ mediums. With the gap up to 7.6s, Mercedes told Bottas to focus on “closing Vettel down” with the Finn upping his pace and narrowing the deficit.
It, however, wasn’t enough with Vettel racing to the victory by 0.699 seconds ahead of Bottas. Hamilton, who voiced his frustrations over the radio on several occasions, completed the podium in third place.
Gasly raced to a highly-impressive fourth place ahead of Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Vandoorne. Marcus Ericsson one stopped his way to Sauber’s first points of the season ahead of Esteban Ocon.
His team-mate Sergio Perez, and Brendon Hartley, were both given 30-second penalties after the race for a mix-up on the formation lap, relegating them from P12 and P13 respectively to the bottom of the standings.
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.699s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 6.512s
4 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 63.717s
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas 74.264s
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 84.906s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1 LAP
8 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1 LAP
9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1 LAP
10 Esteban Ocon Force India 1 LAP
11 Carlos Sainz Renault 1 LAP
12 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1 LAP
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 1 LAP
14 Lance Stroll Williams 1 LAP
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1 LAP
16 Sergio Perez Force India 1 LAP
17 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1 LAP
Did not finish
Raikkonen Ferrari wheel
Verstappen Red Bull crash
Ricciardo Red Bull loss of power