The first Bahrain Grand Prix took place in 2004, and was won by Michael Schumacher on his way to his seventh and final world championship. Since 2014 the race has been run at night time, despite rumours that it is past Max Verstappen’s bed time and should be brought forward. Fernando Alonso holds the record for most wins in Bahrain with 3, Vettel, Hamilton and Massa all taking two wins apiece, and Button claiming victory in 2009 and Rosberg last season.
Following a stunning final lap in qualifying, Valtteri Bottas took a sensational pole which was the first of his career, from team mate Lewis Hamilton in yet another Mercedes 1-2. Pascal Wehrlein made his season debut returning from injury, and hopefully lowering the costs of repairing the car for the unfortunate Sauber team.
Vandoorne failed to make the start after his McLaren Honda decided to take the evening off after another power unit failure.
Hamilton started from the dirty side of the grid and made a poor geta way, falling to third behind Sebastian Vettel. No one has told Jolyon Palmer that you can’t win the race on lap one, but there is a really easy way to lose it, as he attempts to drive Esteban Ocon off the track in their battle over 15th place.
The field all make it to lap 4 without any overtaking.
All aboard the Bottas train CHOO CHOO!!!
This race was so interesting that they started showing 50 replays of the start, including one from the tower, filming the fans filming the start.
Nothing changed for the next four laps, apart from my bowl of Doritos running out and my coffee magically refilling itself. Then, finally just as I am drifting off to sleep we had an overtake! Kimi Raikkonen threw himself up the inside of Felipe Massa.
Bottas was complaining about tyre pressures as he backed the pack up behind him, forcing Ferrari to change their strategy and gamble on the undercut working, as they bring Vettel in to the pits for another set of super soft tyres. Verstappen also wanted to try a different strategy as he felt he he was being badly held up by the Mercedes cars in front of him.
Verstappen pitted, then immediately retired with brake problems – I’m guessing that’s not what he meant by different strategy!
Lance Stroll kept up his 100% non-finishing streak in 2017 after he was hit by Carlos Sainz, once again the innocent victim of someone else’s driving, but it is getting better for the rookie – he has at least made it past lap one this time.
The double retirement left debris all over turn one and brought out the safety car. Mercedes tried to double stack their cars, bringing Hamilton and Bottas in at the same time. Hamilton tried to get himself a gap, and keep Ricciardo behind him by driving unnecessarily slowly back to the pits, knowing Ricciardo can’t overtake. Knowing it is against the rules, and after Bottas’ slow stop gained him no advantage at all, as he didn’t keep Ricciardo behind him, and is now under investigation.
Ricciardo lost 3 places on the restart, falling to 6th and Hamilton was issued a 5 second penalty for attempted cheating- which didn’t work – but he got the penalty anyway, as he deserved.
Mercedes ordered Bottas to let Hamilton through, employing team orders so early in the season won’t be a popular decision with the fans. Ferrari told Kimi Raikkonen the Mercedes in front of him is now Bottas who was not as quick and should be catchable.
At the half way stage Sebastian Vettel was leading from Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen and Massa.
The teams were starting to think about making second pitstops, with Bottas pitting first and coming back out in 7th place. Meanwhile, Hamilton was starting to close in on Vettel.
Lance Stroll was furious with Carlos Sainz, telling Sky Sports Italy that he should be given a penalty for the crash. All we could do was wait and see if the stewards agreed as they planned to investigate the incident after the race had finished.
Kimi Raikkonen was complaining to Ferrari about their potential strategy where he just waits for his tyres to finish falling apart before he is finally allowed to pit. I like to call it the “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, spock” strategy. Ferrari appeared to listen to him for once as he pitted at the end of lap 37.
Everyone had now pitted apart from Lewis Hamilton, who finally went in at the end of lap 41, coming back out into 3rd – 9 seconds behind Bottas and 18 behind Vettel with 16 laps to go.
Once again Mercedes ordered Bottas to move over, proving that they have no confidence in him to sustain a championship challenge, making him into the number two driver just three races into the season.
Hamilton was told that Vettel was going to hit traffic and that this race win is his for the taking – he just has to catch him. Joylon Palmer helped, by holding up Vettel costing him 2 seconds in one lap and allowing the gap to close to 9.4 seconds on the end of lap 51.
Vettel and Martin Brundles tortoise both got past Alonso, leaving three cars between him and Hamilton and a gap of 7 seconds and 4 laps to go.
Hamilton was trying, but it was too little too late and he was forced to concede and settle for second place.
Fernando Alonsos McLaren made it to lap 56 before it too decided as it’s a bank holiday, working is optional!
The gap between Hamilton and Vettel started to grow, allowing Vettel a comfortable 44th career win – his second of the season, and his third in Bahrain. Hamilton finished second, with Bottas third followed closely by Kimi Raikkonen.
1. Sebastian Vettel GER Ferrari – Ferrari 57 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes – Mercedes +6.660ss
3. Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes – Mercedes +20.397s
4. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Ferrari – Ferrari +22.475s
5. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Red Bull – TAG +39.346s
6. Felipe Massa BRA Williams – Mercedes +54.326s
7. Sergio Perez MEX Force India-Mercedes +1m 02.606s
8. Romain Grosjean FRA Haas-Ferrari +1m 14.865s
9. Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault – Renault +1m 20.188s
10. Esteban Ocon FRA Force India-Mercedes +1m 22.252s
11. Pascal Wehrlein GER Sauber – Ferrari +1 lap
12. Daniil Kvyat RUS Toro Rosso-Renault +1 lap
13. Jolyon Palmer GBR Renault – Renault +1 lap
14. Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren-Honda +3 laps
Did not finish
15. Marcus Ericsson SWE Sauber – Ferrari 50 laps completed
16. Carlos Sainz ESP Toro Rosso-Renault 12 laps completed
17. Lance Stroll CAN Williams – Mercedes 12 laps completed
18. Max Verstappen NED Red Bull – TAG 11 laps completed
19. Kevin Magnussen DEN Haas-Ferrari 8 laps completed
20. Stoffel Vandoorne BEL McLaren-Honda 0 laps completed
Conclusions from round 2.
Mercedes have no faith in Bottas, and see him as a number 2 driver. They are ruthlessly employing team orders already. Max Verstappen still has a lot of growing up to do, and his choice comments about Brazilians after qualifying were not well received by anyone. Other drivers need to stop taking out Lance Stroll, and I wish Romain Grosjean a very happy birthday for tomorrow. A much better race than China.
Drive of the day Fan Vote: Sebastian Vettel.
Drive of the day: Fionas vote: Valtteri Bottas, he didn’t deserve to be forced out of Hamilton’s way once, let alone twice!! His performance in qualifying was world class, and he will be winning races by the end of the year.
I am off to watch the Robot Wars final, see you all in two weeks for Russia!
Edit: It has recently been announced that Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) received a three place grid penalty for taking out Lance Stroll (Williams).
(photo: taken from http://www.dnaindia.com, photographer unknown).