Race Report: Vettel holds off Bottas for Bahrain GP victory

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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

The Bahrain Grand Prix weekend started with a very impressive front-row qualifying effort by Ferrari and a penalized Lewis Hamilton who started the race from 9th due to a gearbox change. This set the stage for one of Hamilton’s comeback drives as well as his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, starting third, to possibly take the win.

While strategy played a big role in Ferrari’s win in Australia, strategy seemed to be reversing course and playing straight into the hands of Mercedes on Sunday as Bottas and Hamilton switched to one-stoppers on Medium tires to put Ferrari under pressure.

The Injury

The pressure worked but it manifest itself in a horrible result with Kimi Raikkonen being released too soon and a serious injury to one of his pit crew—that looked like a seriously broken leg—as well as a DNF for the Finn. Kimi exited his car and walked back to the garage and stopped prior to entering the garage to see a huddle of medical and team personnel around the injured mechanic before entering the garage.

This left the mobocracy on social media to berate the Finn for not rushing over to check on the injured man. From my perspective, it may have looked as if he didn’t care because he didn’t immediately rush to the side of the injured team member but the wider view was that the injured man had medical and team personnel all around him and was being attended to with a stretcher and with so many already attending to him, I assume there was little Kimi could do at that point. The counter argument is that he could have found more compassion and hovered over the injured man out of empathy and serious concern. Having met Kimi a few times, I am reasonably sure he is very concerned about his mechanic and is very worried about his wellbeing.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

With Kimi out and Seb all alone in his defense of the lead, plan B was initiated and this meant that Vettel had to run the balance of the race on soft tires he fitted on lap 18. That’s s39 laps on tires Pirelli said were only good for about 30 laps.

With Bottas and Hamilton closing in each lap, it came down to some very impressive tire management and driving from Sebastian to hold off the attempted pass by Bottas on the penultimate lap and securing his second win of the season and a win on his 200th grand prix start. Bottas and Hamilton completed the podium in that order.

Win

A big win for Ferrari who managed to secure a victory despite a serious crew injury and a sister car DNF’d. Sebastian’s driving was immaculate, asking more from his tires than the team ever planned on. Running slower than Bottas in the final 10 laps and still managing to keep the car underneath him, Vettel drove a master class.

A win for Mercedes who used strategy to put serious pressure on Ferrari that demanded an outrageously good drive from Vettel if Ferrari were ever going to have a chance of holding off Bottas and Hamilton. Unfortunately for Mercedes, Vettel delivered but it very easily could have gone the other way and Mercedes applied surgical pressure through strategy that made this an exciting race. Hamilton had a terrific drive back to the podium through some dodgy radio comms and traffic.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A huge win for Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly who finished 4th in his Honda-powered car in only their second race together this year. I said it last year and I’ll say it again, Honda leaving McLaren and joining Toro Rosso is the right move for the Japanese engine maker and I said that it wouldn’t surprise me to see them come on song as soon as they leave McLaren and start being competitive. This is leading to an interesting combination for Red Bull in general as the big team could move over next year to Honda and STR will have worked out a lot of the niggles for them leaving Red Bull with a bespoke engine supplier.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A win for Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen who had a scrappy race up to 5th and he kept the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg behind him in the process meaning that Haas very well could be poised to be best of the rest if they keep this up and Romain Grosjean can sharpen his game. That’s huge for Haas.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A big win for Marcus Ericsson once again proving that you don’t F with the Swede! With many crowing about the ultimate final season and demise of Marcus due to the arrival of Charles Leclerc, the Swede proved his a hard dog to keep under the porch and his race to the points is a very big achievement for Sauber that could have very serious dollars attached to it in prize money.

Fail

A fail for McLaren who suffered all weekend with a mysterious “something” that the team didn’t disclose and while Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne finished nose-to-tail in 7th and 8th respectively, it does make one wonder if they aren’t still some way off the best of the rest moniker. Toro Rosso’s 4th place also makes you wonder if there aren’t bigger issues at McLaren than just the engine.

A fail for Red Bull who managed two DNF’s with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen (who Lewis labeled as a “dick”). Dan lost power and Max had a differential issue after coming together with Hamilton in a gutsy passing move.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A fail for Force India who looked resurgent in qualifying but couldn’t muster the pace needed to keep the Haas, Renault, McLaren or Toro Rosso behind them. The race was a ragged affair for them and Perez looked to be driving on a knife-edge for 57 laps.

WTH

A WTH for Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz who all languished near the back while their teammates forged ahead and well into the points. Some compassion could be given the Romain as his car seemed to be delaminating lap-by-lap but his thwarting teammate Kevin Magnussen was completely uncalled for and ruined K-Mags race as he may have been set for a 4th place finish had Romain not held him up.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

A WTH for Williams who finished last and judging by the cars, it looked as if the drivers had ran over just about every ounce of asphalt on that track such was the skittish nature of their car. Williams have Mercedes power but it makes you wonder if this Paddy Lowe inspired car is two steps backwards.

I also have to give a WTH for the penalty to Brendon Hartley. That was a racing incident in my mind and not worthy of a penalty. I think the Toro Rosso driver may have had a shot at 10th or 11th had that not happened.

Vettel noticed the old F1 logo on Bernie’s shirt too. Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

Bahrain GP results

Pos Driver Team Car Laps
1 Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 57
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport Mercedes 57
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport Mercedes 57
4 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda Toro Rosso/Honda 57
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team Haas/Ferrari 57
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault 57
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren F1 Team McLaren/Renault 56
8 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren F1 Team McLaren/Renault 56
9 Marcus Ericsson Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Sauber/Ferrari 56
10 Esteban Ocon Sahara Force India F1 Team Force India/Mercedes 56
11 Carlos Sainz Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault 56
12 Sergio Perez Sahara Force India F1 Team Force India/Mercedes 56
13 Brendon Hartley Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda Toro Rosso/Honda 56
14 Charles Leclerc Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Sauber/Ferrari 56
15 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Haas/Ferrari 56
16 Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing Williams/Mercedes 56
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Martini Racing Williams/Mercedes 56
Kimi Raikkonen Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 35
Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Red Bull/Renault 3
Daniel Ricciardo Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Red Bull/Renault 1

Driver’s Championship

Pos Driver Points
1 Sebastian Vettel 50
2 Lewis Hamilton 33
3 Valtteri Bottas 22
4 Fernando Alonso 16
5 Kimi Raikkonen 15
6 Nico Hulkenberg 14
7 Daniel Ricciardo 12
7 Pierre Gasly 12
9 Kevin Magnussen 10
10 Max Verstappen 8
11 Stoffel Vandoorne 6
12 Marcus Ericsson 2
13 Carlos Sainz 1
14 Esteban Ocon 1
15 Sergio Perez 0
16 Charles Leclerc 0
17 Brendon Hartley 0
18 Lance Stroll 0
19 Romain Grosjean 0
20 Sergey Sirotkin 0

Constructor’s Championship

Pos Constructor Points
1 Ferrari 65
2 Mercedes 55
3 McLaren/Renault 22
4 Red Bull/Renault 20
5 Renault 15
6 Toro Rosso/Honda 12
7 Haas/Ferrari 10
8 Sauber/Ferrari 2
9 Force India/Mercedes 1
10 Williams/Mercedes 0
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall Race
An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.

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23 Comments on "Race Report: Vettel holds off Bottas for Bahrain GP victory"

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Andrea
Guest
Andrea

Was a good race, very entertaining.

Member

I reckon it was worth more than 4 stars in comparison to the races that were judged 3.5 last year. What do you reckon Andrea?

Member
Ok. Sure I have a man-crush on Alonso, but he gained 6 places, that’s amazing if you are driving around with the wrong tires. He started with softs and had to race against others with super-softs, and didn’t maximize them because they pitted him early. Then they put Mediums and he had to race with others around who were on soft or super-soft. They’re supposed to go to the end of the race to save the pit stop. Then they pit him again to put on Super-softs. And he still finished 7th. The strategy was a mess. He could have… Read more »
Member

And all the criticism of McLaren from everyone is unfair. They had the biggest gain on lap time of any team compared to last year – 1.8 sec. is tremendous. And in Australia they had the 2nd biggest gain of any team, and that was on a completely different type of track. Sure they didn’t show great in qualifying, but the data shows they are very good.

Williams are 1.3 seconds slower in Bahrain than in 2017

subcritical71
Member
subcritical71
I would agree with you that the criticism appears to be misplaced. You’d think Toro Rosso were beating them in the drivers and constructors championships (they are not, 22 vs 12 in the constructors, 4th and 11th vs 8th and 17th in the drivers). If thats putting a whooping on McLaren, I’ll take a few more servings please! To boot, McLaren scored a total of 30 points last year for a 9th place finish in the constructors, they are only 8 points from last years total points haul. Seems to me the stats are showing a huge improvement already over… Read more »
subcritical71
Member
subcritical71

That was a very good race. Too bad for Kimi, I would like to see him stay in the hunt for the WDC this year. As bad of a year as McLaren are having Alonso is ahead of Kimi!

I’d give a partial win to ESPN for a full 180 on their F1 coverage. I’d give a full win if we could see the post race drivers press conference. I’m also hoping ESPN keep up the commercial free F1 for the rest of the year.

Fred
Guest
Fred

The only issue I have with ESPN/Sky is Paul di Resta english is difficult for my older ears to understand, especially when in pit road. That maybe true of most commentators, but it seemed that the voice volume was a bit low. Still a great race. Hope Kimi’s mechanic is doing well.

Member

Di Resta speaks with a Scottish accent. That’s what English sounds like when spoken properly ;-)

The Captain
Member

Here’s to hoping the mechanic can make a quick recovery.

Pretty good race. Favorite moment was defiantly Vettel’s look towards the camera when Hamilton called max the name.

Huge props to ESPN too! Now that’s how you show a race. Really hope this is permanent and not something Liberty had to pay them to do for a few races.

Member

Up vote for your positive hopes for the mechanic.
100% agree on that, I don’t want anyone getting hurt for ‘entertainment’.

sunny stivala
Guest
sunny stivala
Number 7 was actually given the green light to drive off on his pit stop. Number 44 was actually lucky to inherit third place. The two Mercedes cars went to the starting grid with split strategy intended, one stopper for 44 and a two stopper for 77. So according to NC the only driver on the grid to have been labeled a “dick-head” labels an other driver a “dick”. a dick-head for sure knows a dick when it sees one. I don’t know what happened to the claim by McLaren when still mchonda of having the best chassis on the… Read more »
Andrea
Guest
Andrea

here a dick, there a dick, everywhere a dick dick….

sunny stivala
Guest
sunny stivala

FERRARI have been handed a Euro 50k bill for their Kimi pit stop FU.

subcritical71
Member
subcritical71

Glad it wasn’t the standard 5 or 10k fines that have been handed out but it still seems like chump change to almost all F1 teams when you have a 100M+ budget, or in the case of Ferrari 500M. Same as last race weekend with wheel nuts netting 10K fine.
It would be sort of like giving me a $1 speeding ticket and telling me to slow down….

daarsk
Member
daarsk

I’d like to know why Kimi wasn’t quicker on the soft tyres than Bottas was on medium. I don’t see the point in having different compound tyres when there’s no difference in lap time. And before anyone suggests that he was looking after them, that would defeat the purpose because I’m sure the plan at that time was to pit again so he should have been making the most of the “quicker” tyre.

sunny stivala
Guest
sunny stivala

Both #7 and @5 were quicker than @77 and @44 all weekend and be assured that senza @7 pitstop FU @ 7 would have been on the podium.

Tim C
Guest
Tim C

A “win” for ESPN for showing the entire race commercial free. I kept waiting for the commercials to come and they never did. The only problem I have is trying to understand the commentary team for Sky. I guess I just got too used for the voices of Hobbs, Matchett, and Diffey.

Chuck C
Guest
Chuck C

Two things:

1) As stated elsewhere, props to ESPN for going commercial-free. Thankfully, I watch a ton of rugby and other British shows, so the accents are no issue for me.

2) Not that it had a huge effect on this race, but I have the solution to grid penalties. It’s so obvious, I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. Instead of saying that Lewis got a 5-place grid penalty, the drivers below him got a 5-place grid bonus. I mean, everyone loves a bonus, right?

longshot
Guest
longshot
One of the most interesting F1 races I’ve seen in years. Different tyre strategies in play, plenty of overtaking & wheel to wheel action, Mercedes once again foxing Ferrari onto a sub-optimal strategy, but Vettel somehow making it work when it looked certain he’d be caught and passed. Gasly performing way beyond expectations, Magnussen putting in another delightfully punchy performance, and Ericsson actually involved in the race rather than trailing the field! Only negatives were the Red Bulls exiting (I nearly switched off at that point, so glad I didn’t) and of course the Ferrari pit incident. With all the… Read more »