Sebastian Vettel claimed his second victory of 2017 for Ferrari, after Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton hit problems at the start of the race and on pit lane in Bahrain.
It’s Vettel’s 44th Grand Prix victory, and his margin over Hamilton at the line was 6.66s. Joining them on the podium was Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas, making Bahrain a carbon copy of the podium from Melbourne.
The result puts Vettel back on top in the drivers championship by eight points over Hamilton. Ferrari also retakes the lead in the constructors championship, thanks to Kimi Raikkonen’s fourth place.
Bottas had earlier successfully converted his first-ever Formula 1 pole to a confident first lap lead. However, Hamilton’s fears about about starting on the dirty side of the track had been confirmed. Wheel spin off the line caused him to lose second to Vettel into turn 1.
Behind them, Max Verstappen switched to the outside line through the first corner to overtake his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo. Kimi Raikkonen tried to attack Verstappen only to find his way forward blocked. That allowed Williams’ Felipe Massa to steal sixth place. The Ferrari was subsequently able to regain the position on lap 8 with an easy DRS pass into turn 1
During the opening laps Bottas found himself unable to pull away from his pursuers. The Finn was soon complaining of a lack of rear grip due to high tyre pressures. Behind him, the top six were all packed together. Despite being within DRS range of the car in front, no one was unable to pass. Vettel broke the gridlock by pitting from second place at the end of lap 10.
Verstappen crashes out, safety car stirs things up
Verstappen responded immediately to Vettel’s stop and pitted on the next lap. However he then suffered a rear brake failure and went off into turn 4. The RB13 made light contact with the tyre barrier, putting Verstappen out of the race.
At the same moment, Williams’ Lance Stroll was hit by Carlos Sainz as the Toro Rosso exited pit lane, resulting in retirements for both drivers as well as a safety car.
Mercedes reacted by calling in both Bottas and Hamilton, but the stops were slow by their standards. Hamilton was additionally delayed waiting for the pit crew to finish with Bottas. He was then further held up waiting for other cars streaming down pit lane. To add insult to injury, Hamilton was judged to have held up Ricciardo by driving too slowly in pit lane entry. He was handed a five second penalty by the race stewards as a result.
The round of pit stops had put Vettel in the lead ahead of Bottas for the restart, with Ricciardo in third. The Red Bull was struggling for pace on this stint and was soon overtaken by Hamilton, Raikkonen and Massa in quick succession.
Bottas continued to struggle for rear grip. He eventually acceded to a team request to allow his team mate through on lap 27. That allowed Hamilton to take up second place, but by now he was over five seconds behind the race leader.
Bottas opted to make his second stop at the end of lap 30, changing to soft compound tyres for the remainder of the race. He emerged in seventh just behind Sergio Perez, and his fresh tyres made quick work of getting past the Force India. Vettel followed suit three laps later, surrendering the lead to Hamilton. He came back out in third between Raikkonen and Ricciardo, both of whom were yet to stop.
Team mates make way
Vettel made short work of passing his co-operative team mate for second place. Hamilton was still 15s down the road having taken the more durable soft compound tyres during his earlier pit stop, but Vettel soon started eating into that margin. It was halved by the time Hamilton made his final pit stop on lap 42. Delayed by the penalty, Hamilton emerged in third behind Bottas, more than 15 seconds behind Vettel with 16 laps remaining.
Bottas startled his team mate by slowing and allowing him to pass on lap 47 in a vain attempt to take the fight to Vettel. Behind them, Raikkonen was running in fourth place after his final pit stop, followed by Ricciardo, Massa and Perez. Haas’ Romain Grosjean was running in a lonely eighth place, with the top ten rounded out by Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon.
Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein narrowly missed out on a points position on his maiden outing for Sauber in 2017, surviving a last lap battle with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. The Russian had also been in the wars during the race, making contact with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer an an extended battle for position. Palmer finished behind Wehrlein and Kvyat in 13th place.
More woes for McLaren
Only 19 cars started the race. McLaren was forced to withdraw Stoffel Vandoorne with recurring MGU-H issues on the MCL32.
The first actual retirement of the race came on lap 9 when Kevin Magnussen was forced to pull over in the Haas. Verstappen’s exit from the race came on lap 11, swiftly followed by the clash between Sainz and Stroll that trigged a safety car.
Following that torrid start to proceedings, the next retirement didn’t materialise until lap 52. The only driver to start on soft compound tyres on a one-stop strategy, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was forced out with a gearbox failure.
After his team mate’s failure to start, Fernando Alonso came within two laps of completing the full race distance. Further engine issues forced him to retire on pit lane, but it still meant he was included in the final race classification.
57 laps – 1:33:53.374s
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GALLERY: All the action from the Bahrain Grand Prix
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