What happened at the Bahrain Grand Prix?

Who did what and how as F1 shone bright under the desert lights of Sakhir.


Lewis Hamilton: qualified 2nd, finished 2nd. Valtteri Bottas: qualified 1st, finished 3rd.

Bahrain ended up a case of ‘what if?’ for Mercedes, after Hamilton lost the race by 6.660 seconds to Vettel – and after he had to serve a five-second penalty at his second pit stop on lap 41 after being found to have been “driving unnecessarily slowly in the pit entry” in front of Ricciardo during his first stop on lap 13 under safety car conditions. Hamilton had the pace to beat Vettel, but didn’t have the judgement or, on this day, the sharpness from the pit wall to help him out, Ferrari winning the strategy game by pitting Vettel early on lap 11 after he’d jumped Hamilton off the start and was tucked in behind pole-sitter Bottas. For the Finn, who took his first pole in his 80th race weekend 24 hours previously, Sunday was a reality check after over-pressured tyres and oversteer saw him fall to 13 seconds behind his teammate at the flag, and after suffering the ignominy of being asked to move aside by the pit wall to allow his teammate to continue his futile chase of the new championship leader.

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo: qualified 4th, finished 5th. Max Verstappen: qualified 6th, did not finish.

A race to largely forget for Red Bull. Verstappen’s qualifying was compromised by a slowing Massa on Saturday, but he made an amazing start on Sunday to zap Ricciardo into the first corner and was right up behind third-placed Hamilton until his pit stop on lap 11. He didn’t last much longer, brake failure seeing him lightly nudge the Turn 4 barriers on the next lap and prompting a long, hot and annoyed walk back to the pits. Ricciardo jumped Hamilton in the pit stops under the safety car on lap 13, but was a sitting duck on cold soft-compound tyres as the race resumed, with his only hope being that he could get to the end on the more durable rubber. When he couldn’t, a lonely fifth place and an afternoon where he rarely seemed to be on the front foot was the result.

Sebastian Vettel: qualified 3rd, finished 1st. Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 4th.

Vettel’s third win in Bahrain was superbly taken, and it recalled his Red Bull days of yore in that once he got to the front, he was never going to beat himself or hand a win to Mercedes with a mistake or drop-off of pace. Tensions rose on the Ferrari pit wall as Hamilton stalked him late, team principal Maurizio Arrivabene seemingly unable to sit down in one spot for 10 seconds at a time, but a second win for the year and a seven-point championship lead was no less than the four-time world champion deserved. Raikkonen was knocked off the second row of the grid by a brilliant Ricciardo lap on Saturday, and then dropped another two spots off the start in the race to never really figure in the podium fight once again, finishing 22 seconds behind his race-winning teammate and being surpassed only by Alonso in the surly radio message stakes.

Force India
Sergio Perez: qualified 18th, finished 7th. Esteban Ocon: qualified 14th, finished 10th.

A superb rescue job by Force India to get both cars in the points again after a horrible qualifying, Perez starting way back on row nine after his lap was compromised by Sainz’s stricken Toro Rosso, and Ocon battling DRS issues en route to just 14th. Perez made a decisive start to set up his strong seventh place by passing five rivals on lap one, while Ocon made it a hat-trick of 10th-place finishes as he continues to impress in his first full season.

Felipe Massa: qualified 8th, finished 6th. Lance Stroll: qualified 12th, did not finish.

Massa matched the sixth place he took in the Australian season-opener and banished the bad memories of China a week ago with a solid result on Sir Frank Williams’ 75th birthday, but the team continues to exist in a class of its own, well behind the Ferrari-Mercedes-Red Bull front-runners, and well ahead of everyone else. While Massa continues to show well after his brief ‘retirement’, Stroll is still looking for his first points, the young Canadian hit by Sainz as the latter was returning to the track after his pit stop at Turn 1 on lap 13, both cars eliminated on the spot. Stroll’s view? “I got completely destroyed … it’s ridiculous,” he fumed.

Fernando Alonso: qualified 15th, did not finish. Stoffel Vandoorne: qualified 17th, did not start.

“I have never raced with less power in all of my life,” was the pick of Alonso’s caustic radio messages in Bahrain, which came at the end of a week where he dominated the news cycle after the stunning revelation that he’ll skip next month’s Monaco GP for a crack at the Indianapolis 500. Alonso missed Q2 on Saturday after a MGU-H failure in his Honda engine, and fought like crazy in the race before another failure saw him limp into the pits and retire for the third time in three races with a handful of laps left. At least he got to race; Vandoorne, at the circuit where he made his F1 debut last year to deputise for an injured Alonso, didn’t even start on Sunday after a third MGU-H failure in as many days as he left the garage for the grid.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat: qualified 11th, finished 12th. Carlos Sainz: qualified 16th, did not finish.

Sainz fumed when the contact with Stroll ended his race, but closer examination showed he was at least half at fault – if not more – for the full stop on a miserable weekend where his car ground to a halt on track with no power in qualifying. Kvyat was well wide at the final corner in qualifying, well wide at the penultimate corner on lap one as he narrowly avoided whacking his teammate, and punchy in the extreme as he looked to battle back into the points after dropping to second-last on the first tour. You’d go a long way to find a more entertaining drive that was, given he finished 12th, pointless.

Romain Grosjean: qualified 9th, finished 8th. Kevin Magnussen: qualified 20th, did not finish.

Grosjean got his 2017 point-scoring tally off the mark in Bahrain, where he finished fifth for the American newbies last year, and at a layout where he’s always been strong. He couldn’t hang with Perez in the latter stages, but four points after a difficult Saturday that included a brush with the Turn 4 barriers was a strong result. Magnussen’s weekend was rather more compromised, qualifying last and lasting just nine laps before crawling to a halt with a mechanical problem.

Jolyon Palmer: qualified 10th, finished 13th. Nico Hulkenberg: qualified 7th, finished 9th.

Renault had both cars into Q3 for the first time since the 2011 Japanese Grand Prix, but their Saturday joy didn’t extend to Sunday, with just two points to show for their Bahrain weekend. Hulkenberg’s qualifying lap for seventh will surely go down as one of the best of the year given the machinery at his disposal, and he thought it was as good as his sole pole position in the sport, for Williams in Brazil way back in 2010. While he scored his first points of the year, the German would have expected better. Palmer made the top 10 in qualifying for the first time, but went backwards in the race, getting part of his front wing knocked off by an ambitious Kvyat lunge on lap 25 and finishing a lapped last.

Marcus Ericsson: qualified 19th, did not finish. Pascal Wehrlein: qualified 13th, finished 11th.

Wehrlein finally made his delayed 2017 debut, and the German impressed by making Q2 and finishing one place outside the points, albeit 24 seconds behind the top 10. Perhaps more importantly, he managed to get through 56 laps after struggling for fitness after his big shunt in the off-season Race of Champions event in Miami. Ericsson had nothing to lose starting so far back and was the only runner to start on soft-compound rubber, but never made much headway before pulling over into retirement five laps from home.



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