Vettel holds on to win Bahrain GPposted in F108 | 04 | 2018

    FERRARI’S SEBASTIAN VETTEL held off a late-race challenge from the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas to win an intriguing Bahrain Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton finished third, having started his Mercedes from ninth on the grid. (Related: Jim Clark — The Legend Lives On)

    With wins in the opening two grands prix, Vettel heads to China in seven days with 50 points and  leading Hamilton by 17 points, with Bottas a further 11 points adrift. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso is fourth in the drivers’ championship with 16 points. (Related: Vettel sneaks Aussie win)

    Vettel was forced to nurse his fading soft compound tyres to the end of the 57-lape race, having fitted them on lap 18, after Ferrari was forced to switch its strategy.

    The Italian team had to change its plans after a pitstop incident involving Kimi Raikkonen in which a Ferrari mechanic suffered a broken leg. The incident also forced Raikkonen into retirement

    Vettel led from pole position, while Bottas, who started third on the grid, eased himself ahead of second-placed Raikkonen on the dash to the first right-had corner. Over the opening stint, Vettel established a lead of more than three-seconds. (Related: Di Resta to make Le Mans debut)

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    But as the drivers headed towards their first scheduled pitstop, Bottas had closed the gap to just two-seconds. Vettel pitted first, followed by Raikkonen a lap later.

    Bottas, meanwhile, stayed out for another two laps before pitting for medium-compound Pirellis. When the Finn rejoined, Vettel had increased his lead to eight-seconds, and Raikkonen had closed the gap to the second-placed Mercedes.

    The leading three drivers held station before Ferrari opted to pit Raikkonen in an effort to  inject a strategic variable into the lead fight.

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    But bizarrely, the Finn received the ‘green light’ to leave his pit box, despite the crew not having replaced the rear-left tyre. As he accelerated away, mechanic Francesco Cigarini, who was working on the rear-left wheel, was hit. The impact broke his shinbone and fibula. The team immediately told Raikkonen to stop in the pitlane, his race over.

    Cigarini was taken to the medical centre at the track before being transferred to Bahrain’s BDF hospital where he was operated on. Hours later he took to Instagram to say: “The operation went well.”

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    It was clear Ferrari had also been planing to pit Vettel for a two-stop strategy. But following the delay caused by the injury to Raikkonen’s mechanic, allied to the fact Bottas was failing to make inroads into the Ferrari driver’s lead, the team opted to leave the German out on a one-stop strategy.

    As the race headed into the final 10 laps, Vettel’s advantage slipped below five-seconds as Bottas increased the pace and the Ferrari began struggling with its tyres. With two laps to go, Bottas entered DRS range, but the Finn’s half-hearted bid to overtake at Turn 1 on the final lap was as close as he got.

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    Hamilton meanwhile, who appeared to struggle with poor radio communication with his team throughout the race, eventually crossed the line 8.5s adrift of the lead duo in third.

    The defending four-time champ had earlier survived an early-race coming together with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull (below), as the Milton Keynes team endured a race to forget.

    The young Dutchman, who started from 15th on the grid, squeezed Hamilton too hard exiting Turn 1 after passing him at the start of the second lap. The contact damaged his left-rear wheel, causing a puncture.

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    And though he managed to coax his damaged car back to the pits and had the tyres changed, he was forced to park up shortly afterwards with a differential problem. Red Bull’s troubles then increased when, shortly afterwards, team-mate Daniel Ricciardo's car shut down exiting the Turn 8 hairpin.

    There was, however, a sliver of delight for Red Bull when its junior team, Toro Rosso, celebrated its rookie F1 driver Pierre Gasly finish an incredible fourth, on what was only he team’s second start with its new Honda-powered engine.

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    Gassy somehow avoided the squabbling Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, who clashed through Turn 2 over sixth on the opening lap, and then proceeded to drive a flawless race to bank his first points in F1

    Magnussen, meanwhile, survived a near-miss with Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean, who was out of sync on old tyres, at Turn 2 in the second half of the race to finish fifth, ahead of the sixth-placed Renault os Hulkenberg.

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    Fernando Alonso leapt from 13th to ninth on the opening lap and drove a strong race after McLaren's "astonishing" poor performance in qualifying, brought his Renault-powered car home in seventh, immediately ahead of team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne.

    Swede Marcus Ericsson finished ninth to bank his first points for Sauber since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, with the Force India of Esteban Ocon completed the points finishers in 10th.

    F1 — Bahrain Grand Prix,  Bahrain International Circuit (Result):

    1. Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari 57 laps

    2. Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport +0.699s

    3. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport +6.512s

    4. Pierre Gasly FRA Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda +1m 2.234s

    5. Kevin Magnussen DEN Haas F1 Team +1m 15.046s.

    6. Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault Sport Formula One Team +1m 39.024s

    7. Fernando Alonso ESP McLaren F1 Team +1 lap

    8. Stoffel Vandoorne BEL McLaren F1 Team +1 lap

    9. Marcus Ericsson SWE Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team +1 lap

    10. Esteban Ocon FRA Sahara Force India F1 Team +1 lap

    11. Carlos Sainz Jr. ESP Renault Sport Formula One Team +1 lap

    12. Charles Leclerc MON Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team +1 lap

    13. Romain Grosjean FRA Haas F1 Team +1 lap

    14. Lance Stroll CAN Williams Martini Racing +1 lap

    15. Sergey Sirotkin RUS Williams Martini Racing +1 lap

    16. Sergio Perez MEX Sahara Force India F1 Team +1 lap*

    17. Brendon Hartley NZL Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda +1 lap**

    Retired:

    Kimi Raikkonen FIN Scuderia Ferrari 35 laps

    Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 3 laps

    Daniel Ricciardo AUS Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 1 lap

    *post-race penalty

    **post-race penalty

    Related: Shedden fired-up for world bid with Audi

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    Jim McGill

     

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