Vettel defeats Hamilton in Bahrain
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel grabbed 2nd place at the start then battled the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to win the Bahrain GP for the third time by 6.6s over Hamilton.
It was the 44th F1 win for the 4-time champ.
Starting third Vettel was all over leader Bottas for the first 11 laps, then pitted early and went on a different pitstop strategy than Mercedes that put him in the lead but on older tires than Hamilton who was closing over 1 second per lap but finally gave up when Vettel upped the pace the last two laps.
Kimi Raikkonen was 4th for Ferrari with Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top-5.
Felipe Massa secured sixth for Williams, from Force India’s Sergio Perez and Haas’s Romain Grosjean. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Force India’s Esteban Ocon completed the top ten.
Polesitter Bottas led from Vettel at the start, as Hamilton dropped to third, but the complexion of the race was altered on Lap 13 when Williams’ Lance Stroll and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz collided as the latter exited the pits. It ended both men’s evenings and brought out the safety car, prompting a flurry of pit stops.
Vettel and Ferrari gambled on going for the undercut with an early pit stop on lap 10, and it worked well for them. They were followed by Verstappen and Red Bull doing likewise next time around. But as Vettel recovered in 12th place, Verstappen crashed in Turn 4 on the 12th lap, due to suspected brake failure.
A lap later Carlos Sainz, leaving the pits after a stop in his Toro Rosso, collided with the side of rookie Lance Stroll’s Williams as the Canadian turned into Turn 1 - a misdemeanour which subsequently earned Sainz a three-place grid drop for the next round in Canada.
The safety car was deployed, leaving Mercedes no alternative but to pit both their drivers at the same time. That meant stacking Hamilton behind Bottas, and while trying to give the Finn’s crew time to service him, Hamilton came in so slowly that he was deemed by the stewards to have hindered the following Ricciardo, and was handed a five-second penalty that would prove very costly.
The safety car promoted a surprised Vettel to the lead, but on soft rubber as his main rivals (bar Ricciardo) had opted for more supersofts, Hamilton soon repassed the Australian’s Red Bull when the track went green on the 17th lap, and closed in on Bottas who was struggling with oversteer. He dutifully moved over to let his faster team mate go by in Turn 1 on the 29th lap, setting up another Vettel versus Hamilton encounter.
The Ferrari driver pitted again, for softs, on the 33rd lap, putting Hamilton into the lead. He held it until the 41st lap, as Vettel closed in, then pitted for another set of softs - and to take his time penalty. Once again he caught and passed team mate Bottas, and a blistering series of fastest laps cut the deficit to the Ferrari from 19 to 5.8s by the 54th lap. But thereafter Hamilton eased back, finishing 6.6s adrift after a day of valuable damage limitation.
The unhappy Bottas hung on to complete the podium, two seconds ahead of Raikkonen’s Ferrari, with Ricciardo slumping after the safety car to finish fifth, well behind the second Finn but equally a long way ahead of Massa’s Williams.
Perez drove brilliantly to take seventh for Force India, heading a happy Grosjean in his Haas and Hulkenberg, whose own feisty performance earned himself and Renault their first points of the year.
Ocon took up his usual reservation of 10th place in the second Force India, but Pascal Wehrlein might have felt as deserving of the final point after a great comeback for Sauber confirmed that he is now fully fit again. He took 11th after outfoxing Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat on the last lap. The Russian had been involved in one of the race’s best battles, with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Palmer dropped back after damaging his front wing on the Toro Rosso, while the Spaniard’s Honda-powered car again let him down in sight of the chequered flag. It was a bad day for the Woking team with yet another suspected MGU-H failure preventing team mate Stoffel Vandoorne from starting.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson joined the retirements late in the race, and besides Sainz, Stroll and Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen stopped early due to electronics issues in his Haas.
So after his 44th career victory, Vettel leads the championship table with 68 points to Hamilton’s 61, with Bottas now third on 38 from Raikkonen on 32, Verstappen on 25 and Ricciardo on 22.
Lewis Hamilton (2nd): "It's been a challenging weekend. The start of the race was OK but Sebastian was in my blind spot so I didn't know where he was and I lost a position there. It was really hard to follow but we generally had similar pace. Under the Safety Car, I just misjudged it myself the situation; that was my fault, so my apologies to the team. I had good pace in the second and final stints and we honestly thought we could catch Sebastian. But the five second penalty made that twice as hard. I believe it was the right choice to go with the Soft in the final stint. I think that was the best call as I still had a long way to go. Our guys have been making good calls all year so far. I tried my best to recover from the mistake but it wasn't quite enough. We still come away with good points."
Valtteri Bottas (3rd): "Not a good day. We had an issue with the tire pressures at the start. I don't know what it was but I could really feel it in the first stint and was sliding around as early as Lap 2. The pace wasn't good and Sebastian put us under real pressure. I tried to extend the first stint but I couldn't keep up with the pace. The second stint was better but I was still struggling with oversteer and then I couldn't get the rear-end to work in the last stint. Under the Safety Car at the first stop there was a problem and we lost some time in the stop; maybe otherwise I would have just been in front but I know that the team will investigate the issue. I had some good racing with Sebastian after the restart but unfortunately it was just for a short moment. I've not had the race results that I'd been hoping for so far, but will be targeting a strong weekend in Sochi."
James Allison, Technical Director: "It's always disappointing when you don't convert your grid positions into a result. We had a handful of small setbacks which collectively cost us. In a season where the battle is very close on race day, these errors meant that we didn't manage to convert our opportunities into the victory that we'd hoped for. But the important thing is that the pace is there in the car and now we're just looking forward to getting to the next race in Russia and the opportunity to make good on what we didn't manage to achieve tonight."
Toto Wolff: "Today's race reminded us once again that we are in a very different competitive situation this year, racing against Ferrari - and I am confident that this is a challenge we will rise to as one team. After a winter of massive regulation change, we have been in the hunt for race wins at every weekend and that is the big positive for us. But today was another reminder that we need to get everything right in order to deliver. That's a challenge we relish as sportsmen and women. Ultimately, this was a day of marginal losses which cost us the win - however, as we saw particularly with Lewis, the pace was there in the car at the times when we were able to extract it. Our first loss came on the grid when a generator failure left Valtteri with too high starting pressures; that limited his pace in the opening stint, meaning we could not open a gap to the field and, with Lewis running behind Vettel, our strategic choices were pretty limited. We were on the back foot and then Ferrari played the undercut perfectly to come out ahead. We got lucky with the Safety Car which gave us an opportunity to recover but a problem with the wheel guns meant we lost time and positions with both cars. With the cars running different tire compounds, we had to make the tough unpopular call for Valtteri to let Lewis pass; it's not something we like to do but, when the moment comes that the race win is in danger, we will always do what we need to in order to get it. After that, we offset Lewis' strategy as much as possible to give him the chance of closing down Sebastian in the final laps, but after he had served the five-second penalty, it left him with too much to do. We leave Bahrain with a lot more learning and still more work to do, in order to perform at our best and convert the car's speed into race wins."
Red Bull-Tag Heuer
Daniel Ricciardo (5th): "For me it was a race of two halves really. At the beginning of the race I genuinely thought we had a chance to win. That stint was looking very competitive and I could see Valtteri was struggling. I was at the tail end of the front pack and I could see everyone else in front of me. They were sliding and looked like they were struggling more. It was quite easy for me to stay there and I was looking after my tires, so at that point I was thinking it could be on today, not only for a podium but for a win. The safety car worked for me in that we jumped up to third but it wasn't so good for our tires and that's where we lost a lot of ground. Even once we settled into a pace and the chaos settled we fell back and I was struggling with grip at the front and rear. We never really got that tire working for us today."
Max Verstappen (DNF, Brakes): "I had a good start, Kimi struggled a bit off the line so I passed him straight away and then I went round the outside at turn one and overtook Daniel which put me in a good position. After that I could keep up with the leaders, the car was performing really well on the tires and the pace was good. I think we made the right call with the pit stop to try and undercut the two Mercedes but then the rear brakes failed on lap 12 and it was race over. These things are all a part of racing and there are definitely positives to take away from today. The car was working a lot better here than the previous two races so it's just an unfortunate ending as we could have scored some really good points."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "After an exciting opening to the race up to the first pit stops, our cars looked in good contention with Max having made a good start. He managed to move up a couple of places and we pitted reasonably early for an undercut but unfortunately shortly after a rear brake pressure issue caused his immediate retirement which brought out the safety car. We stopped Daniel under the safety car but lost some time behind Lewis as he deliberately slowed in the pit lane for which he was later penalized. Nonetheless we were still able to get out ahead of him and at that stage for the restart we were third on the road. It became very quickly apparent that Daniel struggled to warm up the soft tire compared to our competitors and dropped several places before recovering one against Massa. With the final stint on the supersoft tire unfortunately fifth place was the best that we could achieve today."
Sebastian Vettel (1st): "A great result thanks to all the team! At the start, it was important for me to get second place, and I managed. Also, we got everything right with the strategy. We decided to pit early and this tactics proved to be working. Towards, the end, I tried to manage the gap I had over Lewis. I expected him to charge through, of course I was concerned, with all the traffic ahead of me. But it the end it was all OK. The car was like a dream to drive today. I felt right from the beginning that we had the speed to win today. I had a good feeling yesterday already, and it was just confirmed today. The lap back to pits was so sweet, with all the fireworks around, and I really savored it. Tonight we enjoy the moment, but tomorrow we'll be back at work. I haven't changed my mind: to become world champion, you must first beat the Mercedes We'll take it race after race."
Kimi Raikkonen (4th): "In a way, a lot of good things happened this weekend, but the end result is still disappointing. The car was working pretty nicely and to be honest I expected that. Today I had a bad start and because of that, the first two corners were really bad; obviously after that I was catching up, I got past Massa reasonably quickly. Then I did my pit stop, but I was unlucky with the Safety Car. The overall feeling was good, I was fast but obviously the time lost at the start did not help: we put ourselves in a difficult position. I feel that we are absolutely doing the right things, and in the big picture we are pretty much where we want to be, but we still need to fine-tune a few things; it's all about putting the lap together. We need to start more at the front and then our races will be a lot easier. I am happy for Seb and for all the team."
Maurizio Arrivabene, Team Principal: "Today's victory was an important one, achieved thanks to the great efforts of all the guys at the track and back in Maranello. For the whole weekend, the team demonstrated courage, determination and a little bit of madness. This is all part of our DNA, characteristics which 70 years ago saw the birth of Ferrari. Courage and determination were needed to tackle a weekend like this, in which we expected to encounter a few difficulties in qualifying, which is why, based on good long run data on Friday, we prepared as well as possible for the race. In order to do this you also need to use some madness... Sebastian drove a really great race, demonstrating once again all his class. Kimi was caught up in traffic at the start and then he certainly wasn't helped by the arrival of the Safety Car. The SF70H proved itself to be strong also in these conditions, at a track which requires above all power and good traction. The tires worked very well, which allowed us to fully exploit our very good strategy. And now it's time to concentrate on the next round of the World Championship, the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi."
Mattia Binotto, Chief Technical Officer "It wasn't an easy weekend, because, as qualifying showed, Mercedes still has the upper hand on Saturdays and definitely more so here than in the previous two races. That means we must go through a lot of data and perhaps this will help us become stronger in the future. We are very happy about the race result: we definitely showed that today we had more speed than the Mercedes, especially on the Qualifying tires. This can be seen by the fact that we have less tire wear than our main competitors."
Sergio Perez (7th): "I'm very proud of my team today. To finish seventh after starting from P18 is an amazing recovery and we can be very happy tonight. It's also our thirteenth consecutive race in the points, which is an incredible achievement. The first lap was very important for my race because I made up five places and was up in P13 by the end of lap one. I had great tire life in the first stint; we stayed out as long as we could and the safety car played into our hands just when I needed to make a pit stop. So I think we made the most of every opportunity and the whole team – the engineers and the mechanics – played their part in executing a perfect race. We showed, once again, that we never give up on Sundays and we can come back strong after a difficult qualifying. We know there are still areas where we can improve and that there is more speed to come from this car, but for now it feels good to have both cars in the points for the third race this season."
Esteban Ocon (10th): "It's good to get another point, but the timing of the safety car didn't help me today and probably cost me three positions. It's a shame because the team did everything right, but the safety car came out just after I had made my first pit stop. So the luck was not on my side. Apart from that, it was a really fun race and I had to fight really hard. My start was very strong – I gained four places in the first few corners and that was really enjoyable. We showed again that our car is strong in race conditions – probably better than in qualifying – and that's important because you only score points on Sunday. My target coming into the season was to score points in every race so I'm pleased to have scored in all three so far, but I know we had the potential to score even more points. As a team we are doing a good job and I think there's much more to come from us in the next few races."
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal: "After a challenging qualifying session it's very satisfying to get both cars into the points today. The team made all the right calls and Sergio and Esteban didn't put a wheel out of place. Sergio was fortunate with the timing of the safety car, while Esteban lost ground, but that's just the luck of the draw with a safety car. Scoring seven points is a fantastic result and moves us up to fourth place in the championship. We are racing well, taking our opportunities and scoring important points. It's a solid start to our season and gives us a good base to build on as we improve the VJM10 over the coming races."
Felipe Massa (6th): "I would say it was a great day and I managed to have a great race with a perfect start. What a great first lap - I passed Hulkenberg and I managed to pass Kimi at corner four. I kept the tires working in the right way and then I passed Daniel after the safety car which was great. After a while, they managed to get better pace out of their tires and jump ahead of us with the car they have. But to be honest, the positon I finished today was like a victory and it's important for the whole team. Today is Frank's birthday, and although he deserves a victory, it is like one. I am sure he is happy and very proud of his team."
Lance Stroll (DNF, Accident): "I saw Sainz coming out of the pitlane, I was 50 or 60 meters in front of him in the braking zone, and was already turning in and he drove into my side. There is not much else to say, as I have just seen the video and it was ridiculous. I think the race wasn't going badly. I had a bad start and lost a couple of positions, but boxed early and had a really good beginning to the stint on the soft tires. I am just disappointed and hope my luck turns round sometime soon. I can be frustrated, but it won't get me anywhere. On the bright side there are many races to go."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: "It was a great day for Felipe, he drove extremely well. He had a good clean start, made some places and defended well. Although, ultimately, we couldn't cling on to fourth, but it was a really great drive from him to finish sixth. On Lance's side, he started 12th but fell to 14th on the opening lap. We boxed him early, which had always been our plan because we had the tires to do it, however it was initiated by a minor flat-spot. On his second stint he was actually setting a very good pace. Unfortunately, he was caught out by Sainz who was exiting the pits. It's a real shame, as the collision brought his race to a premature end. However, I'm sure he'll come back stronger in Russia. Overall it was a great job by the team, we're now up to fifth in the Constructors' Championship and we're looking forward to Russia. Finally, Happy 75th Birthday to Frank!"
Fernando Alonso (14th, Engine): "It was a frustrating race. The deficit in power and performance we had on the straights today was amazing. Sometimes I looked in the mirrors at the beginning of the straights and saw the other cars 300, 400 meters behind, so I forgot completely about that car and started changing settings on the steering wheel and doing my own things, then the next thing I see when I come on the brakes is that car alongside me. We were running close to the points but that's not enough. Today we never had the pace we had in Australia and China, and, in the end, we had a problem and we decided to retire the car. It's frustrating. When the red lights go off you're motivated and you start fighting, but you're so behind on the straights that there's no way you can defend your position. You fight in a fair way with everyone, but you don't enjoy the battle. Everyone in the team has been working very hard over this weekend, day and night, and I'm sorry for Stoffel who has had so much bad luck all weekend and then didn't even start today's race. But we'll keep working hard, and we hope to improve in due course."
Stoffel Vandoorne (DNS): "It's a real shame that we weren't even able to start the race today. The team discovered a water-pressure issue on the way to the grid. It's disappointing, obviously, that we come all the way here and can't even start the race. We knew from the beginning of the season that the situation we were in was going to be difficult. I have an extremely good relationship with the team, I believe that we'll get on top of these issues, and I'm confident that I can do a good job when everything comes together. We're going through a hard time – it's not fun for us to go through this – but this is what it is at the moment, and today shows that. It's frustrating when you do all the preparation work, put in so much effort, we drivers train a lot to keep fit to be able to go racing, and then not being able to start is a shame. It's been an extremely difficult weekend for me, having two failures on Friday in FP1 and FP2, and now in the race: it's obviously very disappointing. But I'll keep my head down, I'll work hard with the team, and I'm sure there will be some improvements at some point. When they will be, it's difficult to say, but I'm confident that they'll come. We've lost quite a bit of mileage so it's definitely not an ideal situation, and we need to make a good step forward soon. Hopefully we can show that at some point in the next few races."
Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "Well, what can I say? Fernando failed to finish, and Stoffel failed even to start. So today was a bad day for McLaren-Honda: there's no point pretending otherwise. Stoffel's weekend went from bad to worse when, on the parade lap, his power unit suffered a water-pressure issue, having already sustained MGU-H damage on Friday. As a result of today's failure, we had no choice but to abort his start. But, despite being understandably frustrated and upset by a series of problems that had ruined his weekend, none of them his fault, he joined our engineers in the garage to offer his advice and support. He's a great lad. Fernando drove his usual gutsy race, driving the wheels off his MCL32 despite its straight-line speed deficiency, until he felt something wrong on lap 55. In light of all the problems we'd already had this weekend, we then agreed to retire his car. We'll now investigate what that problem was. We're disappointed to have put up such a disappointing performance for our Bahraini hosts, whose home Grand Prix was yet again both superbly organized and excitingly dramatic. The Bahrain International Circuit has now hosted 13 Grands Prix, and over that time it's become one of the Formula 1 circus's favorite venues."
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda: "We've had yet another disappointing day today. We detected a water-pressure issue with Stoffel's PU just before the start of the race, so we took the difficult decision to not start the race. The issue is still under investigation, but we suspect that it's the same as we had on Friday. Despite difficult circumstances, Fernando had a better race, with some impressive overtaking maneuvers. Unfortunately, with just two laps to go, he felt something wrong with the car and we had to retire it. Now we have two days of testing here in Bahrain. Our aim for this will be to improve PU reliability as well as performance, and to test some updated parts. I hope we'll see steps forward during the test."
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Renault
Daniil Kvyat (12th): "After my first lap I think my race was over, unfortunately. I had very little grip on lap 1 and went off the track because of a misunderstanding with another car – I locked my wheels, went off and that made me drop to last… We will need to analyze what happened there, as I felt I had less grip than anyone else. From that point onwards it was a very busy race, but we were battling for nothing unfortunately as the points positions were too far away... At least I was able to finish the race here – it was important to complete all the laps and to know that, every time I get in the car, I know what it's doing and I feel comfortable. Today was just not our day and we can't afford situations like this as the midfield is very tight. Hopefully in the next race in Russia, my home Grand Prix, we can fight for more points, because that's what we need and we have a car that can do it."
Carlos Sainz (DNF, Accident): "It definitely hasn't been a good weekend for us. We've had reliability problems on Friday and yesterday, which meant that today we had to do a race starting from the back. It started well, and recovered from P16 to P11 during the first lap – we were definitely catching the points positions there! Unfortunately, all of a sudden after the pit-stop I was involved in an incident with Lance and that was the end of my race. The weekend ends with a DNF, but weekends like this one always happen at some point throughout the year in F1… This is racing! On the positive side, the car feels very good to drive and we can fight for points regularly, so I look forward to the next races."
Franz Tost, Team Principal: "Bahrain turned out to be quite a difficult weekend for us. The negatives started already on Friday, with a broken exhaust on Carlos' car which meant we had to change all the wiring looms and the complete environment of the exhaust system. On Saturday, during his very fast qualifying lap, he also had to stop the car on track because of a Power Unit issue. Regarding the race, Carlos' start was good and he was able to overtake a few cars. Unfortunately, he had a collision with Stroll, which meant that he could not finish the race. Regarding Daniil, he lost many positions during the first lap and dropped back. After that, he drove a solid race, taking part in some good fights, but unfortunately he couldn't finish within the points. We now have to prepare everything in the best possible way for the next race in Sochi in order to fight back and score some points."
Romain Grosjean (8th): "It was a pretty good race. I made a decent start and my first stint was pretty good, but it was tough to stay behind the Renault. Then we had the bad luck with the safety car, as we'd pitted just before. I saw (Sergio) Perez come out and I thought, 'How did he come out in front of me when he'd been 10 seconds behind?' He gained 12 seconds with the safety car and that cost a position. At the restart I struggled a little bit with the top speed. But, eventually, we made the right strategy call and pushed on the good laps with some great overtaking maneuvers. So, here we are, P8. It's good to be here scoring points."
Kevin Magnussen (DNF, Electronics): "The car stopped for some reason. I don't know what the cause is yet, but I lost power. I had to stop, unfortunately. It happened suddenly – just the power disappeared. Conditions until then were pretty good. The tire wear was a bit lower and it was easier on brakes. It would've been a good race. I just look forward now and am happy with the car. It's running in the points and qualifying in Q3. We've had three straight weekends where the car's been in points positions. I'm looking forward to this continuing."
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: "It was a bittersweet race with one driver in the points and one with a DNF (Did Not Finish). Kevin had a problem with his electronics. We don't know yet what it is. The car just switched off and he had to park it. Romain fought a good battle. We know where we are. We were not strong enough for Perez (Force India), but we were good enough to beat Hulkenberg (Renault). It's a tight battle and, again, we got four points from here."
Nico Hulkenberg (9th): It’s good to have the first points of the season on the board and I think I had a good race given the pace of the car ; I really wrestled with it a lot and two points were the best we could do on the strategy we ran. We are a lot better in qualifying, but over the 57 laps of the race we exposed some of the areas where we need to improve. Fortunately, I am testing here on Tuesday, so we have a great opportunity to make progress. We have some updates for evaluation when I’m in the car, which will hopefully improve our race pace by a big chunk for Sochi.
Jolyon Palmer (13th) It was a tough race ; I had a good fight with Alonso and Kvyat after the safety car bunched everyone up, but the couple of touches with Kvyat didn’t help things. I didn’t really have the pace to get further after that and the degradation seemed to be more for us than the cars around. It made for a difficult evening, unfortunately, where we struggled with a lack of pace.
Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director Today we scored our first points with another strong race from Nico. We may have lost one position relative to the optimum strategy, but the most important aspect for us is to understand why there is such a difference between our Saturday qualifying performance and our Sunday race pace. Jo had a more difficult Grand Prix, so we also need to understand in detail why he struggled especially after qualifying in the top ten for the first time yesterday. Fortunately, this week’s test comes at a perfect time to further our understanding on the issues that are now well identified, as well as to test first major upgrades of a season that will see a lot of progress and improvement.
Pascal Wehrlein (11th): "I am very satisfied with how the weekend went – being in P13 in qualifying and now finishing the race in P11. It was a tough race, as we decided to only make one pit stop. The result is the maximum that we could have achieved today. It is obviously a pity that we have missed this point by only one position. Nevertheless, I am already looking forward to the next Grand Prix."
Marcus Ericsson (DNF, Gearbox): "It was a disappointing race. The start was good, I was the only driver on soft tires, but I was able to follow the queue quite well. The safety car phase came at a bad time for us, so we decided to stay out. At the re-start I was in P8, however, the other cars on fresh tires were able to overtake me. After boxing for the supersoft tires, the lap times were looking good, but I was too far off to catch up with the cars in front of me. In the end, I had a gearbox failure, which forced me to stop the car on track."
Monisha Kaltenborn, Team Principal: "A reasonable result, as we knew it would have been a difficult race. We decided beforehand to choose different strategies in order to benefit from a one-stop-strategy. Marcus was the only driver starting on soft tires. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish the race due to a gearbox failure just a couple of laps before the checkered flag. Pascal was luckier – he put in a good performance finishing the race in P11."
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