Lewis Hamilton robbed victory from Nico Rosberg at the Bahrain Grand Prix, after a race long game of inches between the two Mercedes drivers. Although Rosberg started from pole, Hamilton took control at the first corner and led the race until a mid-race Safety Car benefited Rosberg and left Hamilton fighting to regain control – which he eventually did after some stunning overtakes from both drivers.
It was no surprise that Mercedes led the race as their dominance was evident all weekend. The real race lay with the battle for third, which belonged to Valtteri Bottas who qualified fourth but moved up to third after Ricciardo, who qualified third, was handed a ten-place penalty for a team mistake during a pit stop in Malaysia last weekend. So it was Bottas’ to lose – which he did at the race start. While the Mercedes duo stormed ahead, Felipe Massa jumped from seventh to third before the first corner after a lightning quick start in the Williams.
The entire field made it through turn 1 unscathed but Jean-Eric Vergne eventually became the first man to suffer damage when Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado tapped his rear right tyre at turn nine and caused a puncture for the Frenchman. This prompted Vergne to label Maldonado “absolutely mental” and claimed that “this guy tried to kill me” over his team radio. Kevin Magnussen also made contact with Kimi Raikkonen into turn 5 but neither driver took damage to their cars.
Third placed Felipe Massa was left fending hard against Force India’s Sergio Perez who was sniffing at third place. Despite the speed advantage, Perez couldn’t get past the experienced Brazilian. Further down the grid, Daniel Ricciardo overshot the first corner during an overtaking attempt on Kevin Magnussen and had to take to the run-off area. He subsequently battled Daniil Kvyat in the run up to turn 4, but Kvyat wasn’t too keen to pass his sister car and Ricciardo began to increase the gap to the Russian.
Valtteri Bottas was losing places as Jenson Button moved past the Finn into turn 2, who was then followed by Nico Hulkenberg. Eventually he pitted for a fresh pair of option tyres while his team-mate continued to battle Sergio Perez for third place.
Adrian Sutil became the second man, after Vergne, to leave the race when he was t-boned by Jules Bianchi into T1. They had made contact at T4 the lap before and when Bianchi braked later into the first corner, he saw his opportunity and dived – while Sutil was caught out and turned into the corner. He pulled over immediately while Bianchi was handed a drive-through penalty. Further up the grid, Red Bull told Vettel to move over for Ricciardo – which he did.
Back at the front, away from the other drivers, the Mercedes men were battling for the lead. Rosberg braked later than Hamilton into turn 1 but Hamilton swiped back in front at turn 2. Rosberg stayed on his tail until turn 4 where they battled out of the corner and Rosberg took control of the race – for a split second – as Hamilton swept back past his team-mate into turn 6. Real racing. Mercedes, not issuing team orders, pulled Hamilton into the pits later that lap and fitted Hamilton with the option tyres. Rosberg pitted two laps later and fitted the prime tyres, leaving both drivers on different strategies.
Bottas was third behind the Mercedes’, albeit far too behind the Silver Arrows to challenge for second. He was having enough trouble keeping Massa behind him as it was, but Massa was also trying to keep the Force Indias, led by Hulkenberg, behind him. Massa tried several times to get pass the Finn but couldn’t do so, but Bottas asked if he could pit earlier than originally planned, which would free Massa. The team brought him in and Massa sped into the distance, but Hulkenberg was firmly on his tail. Then, Massa pushed Hulkenberg towards the track limits on the run up to turn 4, which allowed Perez to sneak past his German team-mate, and it wasn’t long before Perez made it past the Williams too.
Daniel Ricciardo was battling the Ferraris and was on Raikkonen’s tail into T1 – perhaps too close, however, as he was caught out in the braking zone and nearly collided with Kimi. Valtteri Bottas caught the two a few laps later and did the same thing after overtaking Ricciardo, he went off track to avoid rear-ending the Ferrari in the braking zone. He finally passed his country-man a lap later, shortly before Massa moved past both Ricciardo and Raikkonen too. Simultaneously, Marcus Ericsson pulled over at turn 14 to end his race – reporting a “loss of power”.
Pastor Maldonado pitted for a new set of boots and when he rejoined the track, he was involved in yet another incident. He inexplicably dived up the inside of Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez and the two cars touched tyres sending the Sauber upwards and flipping it twice. It was a terrifyingly fast and violent crash for the Mexican who remained silent and motionless in his cockpit for several seconds as he gathered his thoughts. Luckily, as the medical car arrived on scene, he began to climb from the cockpit. Maldonado was given a ten second stop/go penalty for the incident, and a five-place grid penalty for the next race in China – hardly a just penalty for such a dangerous move.
While the Safety Car was deployed, Kevin Magnussen ended his day prematurely. The Safety Car may have bunched up the grid, but there was no way that anyone could hold onto the Mercedes who shot away into the distance. Rosberg was in the lead, the Safety Car benefitting his strategy, but Hamilton sweeped in at turn 1 to retake the lead. Despite this, he then reported that he had “no power”, a problem which seemed to vanish as slowly increased his gap to Rosberg.
The Force India’s squabbled for third, nine seconds behind the Mercs after three laps. Rosberg swept up the inside of Hamilton into turn 4 but, again, Hamilton regained the lead almost immediately. The next time they arrived at turn 1, he once again dived up the inside but he out-braked himself and fell behind again. Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo moved up to P4 and set after Perez who was clinging onto the final podium place.
With two laps remaining, Button began slowing and the team called him into the pits – a sad way for him to end his 250th Grand Prix. Back on track, Vettel was fighting Massa on the run up to turn 4, pushing the Brazilian off track but still losing the place to Massa. Nonetheless, Vettel moved back ahead at turn 8.
At the front, Rosberg had lost steam as the tyres ‘hit the cliff’ and he crossed the line to win the Bahrain Grand Prix. Rosberg was a mere second shy of his team-mate as he followed him across the line. Sergio Perez came across the line in third to take Force India’s first podium finish since Giancarlo Fisichella took second at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix.
Provisional Race Results:
- Lewis Hamilton
- Nico Rosberg
- Sergio Perez
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Sebastian Vettel
- Felipe Massa
- Valtteri Bottas
- Fernando Alonso
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Daniil Kvyat
- Romain Grosjean
- Max Chilton
- Pastor Maldonado
- Kamui Kobayashi
- Jules Bianchi
- Jenson Button (DNF but completed more than 90% race distance)
- Jenson Button
- Kevin Magnussen
- Esteban Gutierrez
- Marcus Ericsson
- Jean-Eric Vergne
- Adrian Sutil