Vettel holds nerve to win in Bahrain

2018-04-11 06:02

IT may only be the second round of the 2018 season, but the Bahrain GP delivered a race to be remembered, packed with thrilling overtaking, drama in the pits and intense on-track action.

Ferrari’s front row lock out on Saturday meant that Sebastian Vettel was able to lead cleanly off the line while Valtteri Bottas, on the clean side of the grid, got the better of Kimi Raikkonen into turn one.

Further down the field, Hamilton, starting ninth due to a gearbox penalty, tangled slightly with Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver had started 15th after a crash in the first part of qualifying a day earlier. While Hamilton continued unscathed, Verstappen suffered what initially looked only like a left-rear puncture.

However, he retired soon after with damage to the diff. Daniel Ricciardo, running a solid fourth, pulled over moments later with a suspected electrical issue prompting the deployment of the virtual safety car.

As racing resumed, Vettel was leading from Bottas and Raikkonen with fifth place starter Pierre Gasly and Kevin Magnussen running fourth and fifth respectively. Hamilton passed all three of Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg simultaneously into turn one.

He then made short work of Gasly for fourth, 14 seconds adrift of the race lead.

On lap 36 Raikkonen dived into the pitlane for his second stop. Disaster struck as the Finn’s car was released without the left-rear being changed, hitting a mechanic in the process. The Ferrari mechanic suffered a broken leg and the team were slapped with a, roughly, R735 000 fine

The system used to release cars, a set of lights that turn from red to green, is clearly flawed.

Following on from Haas’ double retirement in Australia, in similar circumstances, to Ferrari’s pitlane incident this weekend, it is clear that the FIA has to conduct a thorough investigation as to the best and safest procedure for pitstops.

Whether it was planned or not, Ferrari switched Vettel onto an ambitious one-stop strategy that required him to run the soft tyre for a 36-lap stint. By now Vettel had built a gap of seven odd seconds over Bottas with Hamilton a further nine seconds adrift.

It became clear to Mercedes that Vettel would be going to the end and both Mercedes drivers were instructed to close down on him. Bottas was able to cut the deficit by one second a lap and soon found himself on the gearbox of the Ferrari.

By this stage, Vettel’s tyres were falling off the performance cliff and he was sure that it would be a matter of time before the Merc came flying by. But Bottas lacked the crucial bit of tenacity and resolved to pass the Ferrari into turn one.

Hamilton crossed the line in third while Toro Rosso Honda launched into euphoric celebrations as Gasly finished a brilliant fourth.

Kevin Magnussen scored Haas F1’s first points of the season in fifth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso in 6th and 7th.

F1 heads to China this weekend.

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