Hamilton wins Bahrain Grand Prix as Ferrari falters in night thriller

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

Drivers’ standings:
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

Constructors’ standings:
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

Leclerc scores his maiden pole position in Bahrain

Ferrari’s new signing Charles Leclerc claimed his first Formula 1 pole position in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix as Ferrari locked out the front row.

The 21-year-old put in a impressive performance in Q3, setting two fastest lap times which was good enough to score P1.

On his first run, Leclerc set a one minute, 27.958 seconds on the soft Pirelli tyres, which gave him the advantage over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton while his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel did not even set an initial run.

Leclerc then went out and improved to a one minute, 27.866 seconds on his second attempt, which was three-tenths faster than Vettel managed on his single Q3 run.

Hamilton lapped just 0.030 seconds slower than Vettel to take third spot, 0.066 seconds faster than Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen was best of the rest in fifth, but he faced a tough challenge from Haas driver Kevin Magnussen – who ended up just 0.005 seconds further behind.

Carlos Sainz Jr capped a strong qualifying session for McLaren with seventh, supported by team-mate Lando Norris who was also in Q3 and ended up tenth.

Romain Grosjean’s Haas and Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen ended up between them in eighth and ninth respectively.

All drivers in the top ten set their fastest lap in Q2 on the soft Pirelli tyre, meaning they will start the race on those tyres.

Daniel Ricciardo was P11 for Renault after lapping just 0.017 seconds slower than Raikkonen in Q2.

The honey badger did not improve on his second run, meaning he was not able to improve on the position he claimed at the first attempt.

Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon was P12, just 0.042 seconds away from a place in Q1 despite only having one set of fresh softs for Q2, beating Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly.

Gasly failed to improve on his time from the first run, complaining over the radio that “I can’t put the throttle down, I don’t know why – it snaps everywhere”.

Sergio Perez only had one run on fresh softs in Q2, which was good enough for P14 ahead of Daniil Kvyat, who did not head out for a second run.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was the fastest of those eliminated in Q1 in P16 after lapping just 0.067 seconds slower than team-mate Raikkonen.

Giovinazzi briefly lifted himself out of the drop zone with his pace on his second set of softs, only to be shuffled back down during a quick fire moments of late improvements – subsequently complaining that his front tyres were too cold.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg was the big casualty in Q1 after only improving by just over two tenths on his second run, which put him just ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.

George Russell prevailed in the battle of the Williams drivers in P19, just four-hundredths of a second faster than team-mate Robert Kubica after complaining over the radio that the “tyres were well out of the window”.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in achieving his maiden pole at only his second stint representing Ferrari. Hopefully this will be the first of many for the upcoming and exciting talent in Formula 1.

Qualifying positions, Bahrain Grand Prix:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m27.866s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m28.160s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m28.190s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m28.256s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m28.752s
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m28.757s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren-Renault 1m28.813s
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m29.022s
9 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m29.043s
10 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m29.488s
11 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m29.015s
12 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 1m29.513s
13 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m29.526s
14 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m29.756s
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m29.854s
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m30.026s
17 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m30.034s
18 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m30.217s
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m31.759s
20 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m31.799s

Bottas dominates Australian Grand Prix with fine victory

Valtteri Bottas dominated the 2019 season-opening Australian Grand Prix with fine style after such awful luck last season. He passed team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the start and drove off into the distance to earn his first Formula 1 victory since 2017.

Hamilton beat Bottas in qualifying but lost his advantage almost immediately after a slower getaway.

The defending champion was able to resist pressure from Sebastian Vettel and latterly Max Verstappen to complete an one-two for Mercedes, while Verstappen claimed Honda’s first podium finish since the 2008 British Grand Prix on its maiden race with Red Bull.

Bottas outdragged Hamilton into Turn 1 and was left untroubled for the entirety of the race, aided by Mercedes being forced to react to an early Vettel pitstop and switch Hamilton to an inferior strategy.

Vettel stopped on lap 14 of 58, with Mercedes bringing in Hamilton one lap later to protect against the Ferrari’s fresh-tyre advantage.

However, neither was able to lap as quickly on new medium tyres as Bottas on old soft compound, which allowed Bottas, Verstappen and Charles Leclerc to run several laps longer.

Bottas finally stopped eight laps after his team-mate and continued unimpeded throughout the race, crushing the opposition by 20.8 seconds to win for the first time since the 2017 season finale in Abu Dhabi and produce the perfect response to his winless 2018 season.

The gap was flattered slightly by Hamilton having to nurse his mediums to the end to preserve second place, but the five-time world champion saw off Vettel in the middle phase of the race.

Hamilton then kept Verstappen at arm’s length once the Red Bull driver had cleared Vettel with ease around the outside of Turn 3 on lap 31.

Verstappen hounded the Mercedes, running 1.5 seconds behind for most of the second half of the race, before running wide at Turn 1 and bouncing over the grass.

He dropped back, continued to push and set a new fastest lap of the race in the closing stages but was unable to overhaul Hamilton.

However, Bottas hit back on the penultimate tour to steal the first bonus point of the season and take his haul from the opening race to 26 points.

Ferrari’s pre-season promise translated into fourth and fifth in Melbourne as Vettel slipped further and further back, eventually only finishing just ahead of Leclerc.

Vettel finished 50 seconds behind race winner Bottas, with Leclerc – who had a trip across the gravel at Turn 1 earlier in the race – only fifth after appearing to back off once he caught his new team-mate.

Kevin Magnussen had a lonely run to sixth to earn best-of-the-rest honours for Haas and avenge the team’s horror show in Melbourne one year ago.

He shook off the race-long attention of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, who slipped back in the final part of the race and only just held on at the head of a five-car train.

Kimi Raikkonen was next up, finishing eighth on his Alfa Romeo debut, with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll also scoring points on his first start for a new team.

Returning Toro Rosso Daniil Kvyat capped his F1 comeback with a point for P10, keeping the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly at bay.

Gasly started near the back after a qualifying blunder from Red Bull and emerged from a late pitstop ahead of Kvyat, but was passed by the Russian into Turn 3 on his out-lap.

Qualifying surprise Lando Norris was unable to grab points on his F1 debut but did finish top rookie in P12 as McLaren’s pace dropped come race day.

There were three retirements: Carlos Sainz the first of the new season after a fiery exit in his McLaren-Renault.

Home favourite Daniel Ricciardo was next to go, a precautionary non-finisher after breaking his front wing taking to the grass on the run to the first corner.

Romain Grosjean stopped on track in his Haas after running in the points early on before slipping outside the top ten because of a slow pitstop.

Behind 15th-placed Antonio Giovinazzi, whose very long first stint held up early stoppers and played a big part in settling the final points, the Williams were a very distant 16th and 17th.

Robert Kubica lost his front wing on Gasly at the first corner and was a lonely last on his F1 return for most of the distance once passed by fellow early-pitter Ricciardo.

So a fantastic result for Valtteri Bottas after such a disappointing last season. To finish miles ahead of your rivals is so satisfying and such a good morale boost. Well done Bottas.

As for Ferrari, this was such a frustrating race after promising speed in pre-season testing. Hopefully Vettel and Leclerc are more competitive in the next race.

Australian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 58 1h25m27.325s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 58 20.886s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 58 22.520s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 58 57.109s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 58 58.230s
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 58 1m27.156s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 57 1 Lap
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 57 1 Lap
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 57 1 Lap
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 57 1 Lap
11 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 57 1 Lap
12 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 57 1 Lap
13 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 57 1 Lap
14 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 57 1 Lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 57 1 Lap
16 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 56 2 Laps
17 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 55 3 Laps
– Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 29 Suspension
– Daniel Ricciardo Renault 28 Retirement
– Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 9 Power Unit

Drivers’ standings:
1 Valtteri Bottas 26
2 Lewis Hamilton 18
3 Max Verstappen 15
4 Sebastian Vettel 12
5 Charles Leclerc 10
6 Kevin Magnussen 8
7 Nico Hulkenberg 6
8 Kimi Raikkonen 4
9 Lance Stroll 2
10 Daniil Kvyat 1
11 Pierre Gasly 0
12 Lando Norris 0
13 Sergio Perez 0
14 Alexander Albon 0
15 Antonio Giovinazzi 0
16 George Russell 0
17 Robert Kubica 0

Constructors’ standings:
1 Mercedes 44
2 Ferrari 22
3 Red Bull-Honda 15
4 Haas-Ferrari 8
5 Renault 6
6 Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 4
7 Racing Point-Mercedes 2
8 Toro Rosso-Honda 1
9 McLaren-Renault 0
10 Williams-Mercedes 0

Hamilton scores pole in season opener

Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton kicked off the new Formula 1 season with style with pole position at the Australian Grand Prix, heading a front row lock-out for Mercedes.

This was the perfect result from the champions following the pre-season hype that Ferrari are the quickest. In actual racing performance, the Silver Arrows turned up to form factor to 11 and flew around the Albert Park circuit.

The time difference of seven tenths of a second between Mercedes to Ferrari is massive and really showcase how strong the W10 package is this season.

Hamilton achieved his sixth consecutive pole despite team-mate Valtteri Bottas holding an advantage of 0.457 seconds after the first runs in Q3.

And yet Hamilton stepped up to the challenge with his second set of softs to post a one minute, 20.486 seconds to secure P1. Bottas failed to improve on his second run, meaning he ended up 0.112 seconds behind.

After showing strongly in pre-season testing, the lead Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel was a massive 0.704 seconds off pole position having never shown Mercedes-threatening pace this weekend.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen split the Ferraris on his team’s debut weekend with Honda, lapping just over a tenth slower than Vettel.

That left Ferrari debutant Charles Leclerc fifth, 0.956 seconds off the pace.

Despite lapping only 0.144 seconds slower than team-mate Verstappen, Red Bull debutant Pierre Gasly was a high-profile victim of Q1 in P17.

He was one of only five drivers not to attempt a second run in the first segment in qualifying and was shuffled down amid the late flurry of improvements, describing the strategy as “a bit optimistic”.

As anticipated, Haas led the midfield with Romain Grosjean taking sixth place ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen.

One of the stars of qualifying was debutant Lando Norris, who qualified eighth and 1.818 seconds off the pace after a strong performance in both Q2 and Q3.

This was an outstanding achievement for Lando Norris in his first F1 appearance. To out-qualify your more experienced team-mate and record P8 in his first race for McLaren is simply remarkable.

Kimi Raikkonen was ninth, just 0.010 seconds behind Norris, on his Alfa Romeo return and Sergio Perez claimed P10 for Racing Point.

The Renault were both eliminated in Q2, with Nico Hulkenberg P11 after being pushed into the dropzone by Perez, who lapped 0.030 seconds faster.

Hulkenberg had gone out for a second run, but aborted that effort due to what he reported as a boost pressure dropout. He had to rely on his first run, which was compromised by time lost in the final sector.

Daniel Ricciardo was 0.008 seconds slower than Hulkenberg after being unable to make a big enough improvement on his second run to remain in the top ten, admitting he didn’t have the confidence early in the lap after traffic compromised his out-lap.

Alex Albon was the fastest of the Toro Rosso drivers in P13, 0.138 seconds faster than F1 returnee team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who was P15 – the duo sandwiching the second Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was quickest of those eliminated in Q1. He had momentarily jumped up to eighth after being one of the first drivers to set a time on his second set of tyres before being bumped into the dropzone by late improver Ricciardo.

Stroll complained over the radio about being impeded by another car during the session, which he identified as either a Haas or a Toro Rosso.

Carlos Sainz Jr’s first qualifying session for McLaren ended in disappointment in P18, just over half a tenth behind Gasly.

Unsurprisingly, the final two places were filled by the Williams drivers, with George Russell the faster of the two after lapping 1.276 seconds slower than Sainz.

Robert Kubica, in his first F1 qualifying session since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, was last and 1.707 seconds behind Russell.

He was unable to improve on his second run after kissing the wall exiting the Turn 9/10 right/left, which gave him a right-rear puncture that manifested itself at the approach to Turn 11.

So an excellent qualifying session from the champions. Can Hamilton and Mercedes start the season with the perfect result with race victory or will Ferrari strike back? Game on in Melbourne.

Qualifying positions, Australian Grand Prix:

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m20.486s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m20.598s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m21.190s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m21.320s
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m21.442s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m21.826s
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m22.099s
8 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 1m22.304s
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m22.314s
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point-Mercedes 1m22.781s
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m22.562s
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m22.570s
13 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso-Honda 1m22.636s
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m22.714s
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Honda 1m22.774s
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 1m23.017s
17 Pierre Gasly Red Bull-Honda 1m23.020s
18 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 1m23.084s
19 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1m24.360s
20 Robert Kubica Williams-Mercedes 1m26.067s