The Bahrain Grand Prix gave us the best race of the season so far, without the need for a damp track to spice things up. Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel claimed their second win of the season, some may say due to safety cars and penalties for their rivals, but I think that Ferrari had it under control on this day.
Vettel was immediately on the attack, driving around the outside of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to move up to 2nd place while Valtteri Bottas led into the first corner. Max Verstappen made his customary launch to move up two places to 4th place, leapfrogging Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen.
Nothing much happened for the next 11 laps until Ferrari pitted Vettel for fresh rubber on lap 11, which triggered Red Bull to pit Verstappen. Unfortunately for young Max, he had a brake failure on his out lap and ended up in the kitty litter. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso’ Carlos Sainz and Williams’ Lance Stroll had a catastrophic crash, Stroll turned in the turn 1 as Sainz was exiting the pits, which triggered a safety car.
Both Mercedes drivers stopped for tires under the safety car as did Ricciardo. Mercedes needed to stack their drivers given as they were running 1 – 2 on track, Hamilton attempted to slow Ricciardo on pit entry to create a gap to Bottas and paid the price, later receiving a 5-second penalty for unnecessarily slowing in the pitlane, which I believe to be justified, I’m sure the hoards of LH fans will vehemently disagree.
It all kicked off on the lap 17 restart; Hamilton immediately pounced on Ricciardo for 3rd place into turn 1 while Vettel moved into the lead at turn 4, displacing Bottas. Red Bull’s Ricciardo slipped back to 6th place, losing out to Massa and Raikkonen due to not being able to warm his tires behind the safety car.
Hamilton chased down and passed team-mate Bottas within 10 laps to begin chasing down Vettel in earnest. After the second pitstop shake up, Hamilton found himself back behind Bottas again due to his 5-second time penalty which he served in his stop. Vettel also found himself behind his team-mate after his stop, however, both Vettel and Hamilton passed their respective team-mates within half dozen laps.
Hamilton closed the gap to Vettel by 1 – 1.5 seconds a lap but ran out of puff in the closing few laps allowing Vettel to extend the gap a little to take the chequered flag 6.6 seconds ahead of the Briton.
I have to admit that after qualifying I was not hopeful of a real race with Mercedes being almost 1/2 second faster in qualifying trim. Thankfully, Ferrari had much better race pace to take the challenge to Mercedes and in this case, beat the silver arrows. We can only hope that this continues throughout the season, I’d love to see Red Bull interject themselves into the mix as well, Daniel and Max are good enough drivers to challenge for victories if their machinery is a match for Ferrari and Mercedes.
Bahrain Grand Prix 2017 Results
1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:33:53.373
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +6.660
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +20.397
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +22.475
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +39.346
6. Felipe Massa (Williams) +54.326
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +62.606
8. Romain Grosjean (Haas) +74.865
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +80.188
10. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +95.711