F1 – Bahrain GP – Race
High winds, a high level of predicted tyre degradation and three DRS zones at the Sakhir International Circuit really created a sense of anticipation and expectation that we would see a good race today. Those feelings were certainly not let down!
The super-talented Charles Leclerc lined up on pole position ahead of team mate Sebastian Vettel. The two Mercedes started on row two ahead of Max Verstappen and Kevin Magnussen.
As they got underway, Leclerc was slow off the line, and really struggled for the first half-lap. It looked like his brake and tyre temperatures were too slow as he struggled to turn in and gain traction on corner exit. This does make sense because he did a very fast formation lap, and then had to wait on the grid for longer than usual. These issues dropped the Monegasque driver down to 3rd. However, Leclerc’s raw pace on this track saw him quickly recover back into the lead; passing Valtteri Bottas and team mate Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton and Bottas also had a really good battle, with Hamilton slotting into 3rd place.
Although all the front runners followed a two-stop strategy today, Hamilton was out of sync on timing with everyone else, and this meant that he had an on-track battle with Vettel. As Lewis got past Vettel, the German driver applied too much throttle, causing too much torque to the rear wheels, and the car spun around. A mistake all of his own making. The spin flat-spotted his tyres so extensively that for the rest of the lap his car vibrations were incredibly high. As it turns out, that level of force, for that period of time, is too much for the front wing to handle – and it dramatically buckled under load causing Vettel to pit. This dropped him out of contention for the win.
As for Leclerc, he was utterly dominant at the front of the race, but it all unravelled when he lost battery power and up to 50 kph of speed on the straights. Both Mercedes drivers were able to pass with relative ease. On the plus side for Ferrari, both Renault drivers bizarrely stopped on track with their engines cutting out at an identical point on the circuit! I have never seen anything like that before. But, this incident brought out the safety car until the end of the race, which kept Leclerc on the podium. A small consolation to Ferrari who have seen a “certain” 1-2 finish slip away.
The battle in the midfield was superb today. It has become apparent that we basically have six or seven teams with very similar cars. Constant overtakes and battles made it incredibly exciting.
Mercedes took their second 1-2 finish in consecutive races, but this time with the order reversed from Australia. Charles Leclerc took his first podium in Formula One, but he will still be disappointed. Sometimes motorsport can be so, so cruel. Max Verstappen finished 4th with Vettel recovering to 5th. Lando Norris was 6th for McLaren with a very mature drive; he’s looking faster and stronger every session. Kimi Raikkonen finished 7th ahead of Pierre Gasly 8th and Alexander Albon 9th. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez scored the final point for Racing Point in 10th.
This race was hugely eventful; the Sakhir circuit is massively under rated. There were 97 overtakes today, and the majority of them (51.6%) were not even DRS assisted.
The next two weeks until the Chinese GP will be crucial for Leclerc. How does he react mentally? Does he focus on his dominant performance today and ignore the result which was out of his control – or does he let the loss of a win fester, and increase the pressure on himself? It’s going to be fascinating to find out!
Williams are the only team yet to score, and sadly for them that doesn’t look particularly likely any time soon. No doubts at the front though, Mercedes are dominant on points, but probably not on pace.
What are you expecting from China? Let us know in the comments below.