Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel continued his excellent start to the season, with win 2 of 2 ahead of the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, while Ferrari team mate, Kimi Raikkonen’s race ended in the pits with a mismatched set of tires after a botched pit stop, which caused a Ferrari mechanic, Francesco Cigarini to suffer a double leg fracture, which will cost the team, 50,000 Euros.
Vettel made a good start to head out of turn 1 first from pole position, while teammate Raikkonen, who qualified on the front row, made a poor start finding himself behind Bottas coming out of turn one. Hamilton failed to make up any places from the start, however former McLaren teammate, Fernando Alonso did make good progress, moving up to ninth place from 13th place before the start of lap two.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen also made good progress to challenge Hamilton for 10th place into turn one on lap two, but it all ended in tears for the Dutchman as he made contact with Hamilton as he pushed the Englishman wide, causing a left rear puncture, leaving Verstappen to limp back to the pits. Meanwhile, it was a double blow for Red Bull as Daniel Ricciardo retired with a complete loss of power, despite making it back to the pits and out again, Verstappen also stopped his Red Bull on the side of the road on lap five.
Verstappen blamed Hamilton for the collision, saying the Briton didn’t allow sufficient room. I think that Hamilton was fair, from what I remember, Hamilton was on the white line marking the track limits. In my view, Verstappen was trying to thread the needle between Hamilton and Alonso, unsuccessfully, Hamilton cannot just disappear, it was a racing incident, let’s leave it at that, instead of having this war of words.
At the end of the virtual safety car period caused by Ricciardo’s stricken car on lap five, Hamilton took advantage of the Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Ocon and Alonso squabble for sixth place, the Briton slid down the inside of all three drivers to steal sixth place going into turn one. In the next three laps, Hamilton made up another two places, passing Magnussen and Gasly to run in fourth behind Raikkonen.
During the first round of pit stops, it was clear that Mercedes was planning an endurance strategy while Ferrari was going for a performance strategy. Mercedes fitted the white painted medium tire, while Ferrari opted for the yellow painted soft tire. This meant that Ferrari would have to pit a second time, while the Mercedes drivers would not have to stop again during the race, barring any mishaps.
Come lap 36, Ferrari probably wished that they went with a single stop strategy as a pit stop blunder caused Raikkonen’s retirement and an injury to a Ferrari mechanic. A few laps later, Vettel was told over the team radio to switch to plan B, which clearly was to stay out on the soft tires until the end. This caused some excitement near the end of the race as Bottas closed into less than a half second of the German.
Although he had an anonymous race, big props to Pierre Gasly for bringing his STR Honda home in fourth place, the best result for Honda since their return I believe, correct me if I am wrong. Kevin Magnussen finished the race with all wheels secured, after Australia’s HAAS pit-stop disaster, to claim fifth. The top 10 was rounded out by Hulkenberg, Alonso, Vandoorne, Ericsson and Ocon in sixth thru 10th respectively.
This second win for Vettel gives the German a 17 point lead over main title rival, Hamilton, as we go into the third race of the season, the surprise in the current standings, is that Alonso is fourth in the driver’s championship, ahead of Raikkonen. Dare I say it? could Ferrari truly challenge Mercedes for the drivers and constructors titles? Well, that remains to be seen, after Ferrari’s capitulation during the 2017 season.
Bahrain Grand Prix 2018 Results
|1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:32:01.940
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.699
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +6.512
4. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +62.234
5. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +75.046
|6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +99.024
7. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 LAP
8. Stoffeel Vandoorne (McLaren) +1 LAP
9. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1 LAP
10. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP