Vettel wins chaotic race in Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel outdrove Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps to score the victory in the desert kingdom of Bahrain.

Hamilton pitted from the lead on lap 42, ate a five-second time penalty and exited pit lane behind Vettel. He closed the gap in the closing laps, but a local yellow on lap 52 — stemming from Marcus Ericsson’s car coming to a halt off the track near Turn 4 — sealed the deal for Vettel to win his 44th career Formula 1 race.

“Yeah, really a great day. I don’t know what to day (sic),” Vettel said on the podium after the race. “The last half of the in-lap when all the fireworks were there and track was lit up, it was. I just love what I do. I didn’t find any words. It was a really great team effort today.”

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Hamilton finished second, earning his 107th career podium finish.

“Obviously a very difficult race, it didn’t start out the best, but the pit lane was my fault, so apologies to the team for losing the time there,” Hamilton said. “I tried my hardest to catch up but it was a long old way to go, it was 19 seconds. But I gave it everything I could but Ferrari did a great job today. So we’re going to push hard together, re-gather as a team and come back fighting.”

Pole sitter Valtteri Bottas rounded out the podium.

“Yeah, it was really a tricky race for me; struggling with the pace all through the race,” Bottas said. “I think in the first stint we found a bit of an issue with the tyre pressures and that explained the rear end struggle. But ever since that I was just rear limited and I was out of the tools on the steering wheel, so it was just oversteering all through the race, which is why the pace was slow, which is a real shame because for sure the target for today was a lot, lot higher.”

Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo round out the top-five.

Bottas led the field off the start and held the lead exiting Turn 1. But Vettel, starting third, powered past Hamilton to take second and challenge for the lead. The top-five kept kept within sight of the leader, rather than the leader pull away as is typical in a F1 race.

Vettel pitted from second on lap 11. Moments later, Max Verstappen suffered brake failure and his car slid into the outside wall in Turn 1.

“I hit the brake pedal. Suddenly, I lost all the rear brake pressure,” Verstappen said. “So I only had the front’s left and you can’t stop the car.”

On lap 12, Carlos Sainz, who was exiting pit road, made hard contact with Lance Stroll in Turn 1. Stroll’s car stalled past the exit of Turn 1 and brought out the safety car.

While that was happening, Bottas and Hamilton pitted on lap 12. Hamilton was held up because the Mercedes crew wasn’t ready for him to pit yet. Adding to that, he was handed a five-second penalty for “driving too slow on pit entry” (for impeding Riccardio).

Vettel cycled to the lead under the safety car period and held off Bottas on the ensuing lap 17 restart. He pitted from the lead on lap 33 and Hamilton, whom Bottas let by for second on lap 28 after reporting his rear tyres were “overheating,” assumed the lead.

Prior to his final pit stop, the talk was Hamilton was going to one-stop his race with his five-second penalty. But he put that to rest when he pitted on lap 41, served the five-second penalty and left pit lane in third, setting up the run to the finish.

Vettel leaves Bahrain with a seven-point lead over Hamilton in the drivers’ championship.

Ferrari leaves with a three-point lead over Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.

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  1. Vettel though was on song from the beginning, passing Hamilton into the opening turn as the Brit bogged down on the start and then it was a case of the German’s team making the call to pit early that gave him the lead. Mercedes were forced to stack their cars as they pitted and Hamilton blocked Ricciardo into the pit entry, earning himself a five-second penalty that would cruel his chances of taking victory despite his superior race pace.

  2. The German is 17 seconds behind Hamilton but only needs to finish within five seconds of the Brit to win the race. Indeed they are, Vettel pits for a pair of soft tyres, realeasing Hamilton into the lead, as the German comes out just in front of Ricciardo into third.

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