Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed victory in a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix, as Ferrari faltered due to an engine issue for Charles Leclerc and a spin from last year’s race winner Sebastian Vettel.
Leclerc recovered from a poor first lap to dominate the race, before what Ferrari initially believed to be an MGU-H failure – but later revealed was a cylinder issue – robbed his engine of power and left him limping to the finish.
This was a disappointing result for Charles after scoring his first pole position in the sport. His Ferrari lacked speed and was overtaken in the final stages of the race by both Silver Arrows.
Hamilton took the lead with nine laps to go as Leclerc was limping home to a depressing third position. At least the Ferrari driver was able to score a bonus championship point for fastest lap.
Leclerc was able to hang on to a podium finish from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, thanks to a late safety car period following a double retirement of Renault.
The Ferrari driver had recovered superbly from a poor start to dominate most of this race, dropping to third on lap one but quickly repassing Valtteri Bottas and team-mate Vettel to reclaim the lead and streaking clear before disaster struck.
Vettel compounded Ferrari’s nightmare by inexplicably spinning out of third position after being overtaken by Hamilton around the outside at Turn 4 just after the final round of pit-stops.
Vettel got his Ferrari the right way again, but his front wing shattered shortly thereafter and he was forced to make an unscheduled third pit-stop, eventually finishing a lowly fifth.
Bottas made it a Mercedes one-two by easily passing Leclerc on the main straight with just four laps to the flag, moments before the Renaults suffered problems.
The Australian Grand Prix winner was running in second with a strong first lap, including passing Leclerc around the outside at Turn 4, but generally struggled for pace and was not a match for Hamilton or either of the Ferraris.
Hamilton moved up to second position by pitting earlier than Vettel at the first round of pit-stops, but struggled to stay on the circuit, lacked pace and could not use his softer Pirelli tyres to prevent Vettel closing in and using DRS to retake the place around the outside at Turn 4 on lap 23 of 57.
But Hamilton came back at Vettel at the second round of pit-stops, attempting a brave move on Vettel at Turn 4 on lap 37, while Vettel’s tyres were cold, but could not quite gain enough momentum to complete the pass at Turn 6.
Hamilton gained DRS on the main straight but couldn’t pass into Turn 1. He went round the outside at Turn 4 again to make the overtake while Vettel spun as he tried to get back on the accelerator at the exit, dropping him down the race order.
Lando Norris sacred an impressive sixth position for McLaren, after team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr’s race was ruined by contact with Verstappen while trying to pass the Red Bull around the outside at Turn 4 early on.
Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo was seventh, ahead of Pierre Gasly, while Alexander Albon claimed his first points finish with ninth. Sergio Perez’s Racing Point rounded out the top ten, as the Renault drivers both lost likely points finishes when their cars broke down approaching Turn 1.
So an exciting night race at Bahrain Grand Prix with the unlikely winner Hamilton benefitted from the Ferrari nightmare. Such a crying shame that Charles Leclerc was unable to convert his pole position to his maiden victory. Making no mistakes and driving beautifully, the Ferrari let him down. At least Leclerc has showcased his talent to succeed.
The following race will be Formula 1’s 1000th race and it should be a spectacular contest as championship resumes in China. Mercedes have won two races with both drivers scoring victory. Can Ferrari fight back? They need to in order to make this season’s entertaining.
Bahrain Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 57 1h34m21.295s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 57 2.980s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 57 6.131s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bul-/Honda 57 6.408s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 57 36.068s
6 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 57 45.754s
7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 57 47.470s
8 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 57 58.094s
9 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso/Honda 57 1m02.697s
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 57 1m03.696s
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 57 1m04.599s
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 56 1 Lap
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 56 1 Lap
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 56 1 Lap
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 56 1 Lap
16 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 55 2 Laps
17 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 53 Power Unit
18 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 53 Not running
19 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 53 Not running
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 16 Retirement
1 Valtteri Bottas 44
2 Lewis Hamilton 43
3 Max Verstappen 27
4 Charles Leclerc 26
5 Sebastian Vettel 22
6 Kimi Raikkonen 10
7 Lando Norris 8
8 Kevin Magnussen 8
9 Nico Hulkenberg 6
10 Pierre Gasly 4
11 Alexander Albon 2
11 Lance Stroll 2
13 Daniil Kvyat 1
14 Sergio Perez 1
15 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
16 George Russell 0
17 Robert Kubica 0
18 Daniel Ricciardo 0
19 Carlos Sainz Jr. 0
1 Mercedes 87
2 Ferrari 48
3 Red Bull-Honda 31
4 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 10
5 McLaren-Renault 8
6 Haas-Ferrari 8
7 Renault 6
8 Toro Rosso-Honda 3
9 Racing Point-Mercedes 3
10 Williams-Mercedes 0