Lewis Hamilton has claimed his third win of the 2015 Formula 1 season and back-to-back victories in Bahrain with victory in Sunday night’s race. The Englishman had a late scare with fading brakes, but had enough in hand to win the 57-lap race and further extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen ran a fine alternate strategy to finish in second place, taking advantage of trouble for Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel to cross the line three seconds behind Hamilton; Rosberg rounded out the podium.
The starting grid was trimmed to 19 cars after McLaren’s mechanics couldn’t get his ostensibly-fixed MP4-30 running properly; the Englishman will be forced to wait until the next Grand Prix in Spain to make his 100th start for the Woking squad.
There was further drama when the warm-up lap got underway when Felipe Massa’s Williams refused to get off the starting grid; his mechanics quickly pushed him back into the pit lane and got his car fired up, but he would have a long evening ahead.
The race started with just three minutes of daylight left and it was Hamilton who made a textbook getaway from pole position, fending off fellow front-row starter Sebastian Vettel on the run to the first corner.
Räikkönen read the jostling for Turn 1 perfectly, taking the outside line to sweep around Rosberg to claim third place.
The Ferraris’ advantage over Rosberg was brief, with Rosberg fighting back thanks to successive overtaking moves at Turn 1, which allowed him to set about chasing down Hamilton.
It was a race that would be dictated by pit strategy and, ultimately, who blinked first by pitting in the hope of making an undercut pass on fresher tyres.
Vettel was the first to peel into the pits for fresh Soft tyres, and when Rosberg pitted a lap later in response, it was enough for the Ferrari to get the jump over the Mercedes driver.
Hamilton stopped a lap later, but a slow wheel change saw his hard-fought advantage evaporate as he emerged a few metres ahead of the squabbling Vettel and Rosberg, with the latter pulling his second overtaking move at Turn 1.
Räikkönen was now in the lead, and elected to run a few laps longer before pitting an taking an alternate route of running the Medium tyres – theoretically giving him an advantage in the closing stages of the race when he would run Softs while those around him where shod with the slower (harder) tyres.
Back in the lead, Hamilton pressed on and built up his lead once again, with Rosberg unable to shake off the clutches of the chasing Vettel before the second round of pit stops, where Vettel again pitted a lap before his countryman and got the pass done in the pit stops.
Räikkönen’s middle stint on the Medium tyres – theoretically up to two seconds a lap slower than the Softs – was incredibly impressive; the Finn was lapping at the same pace as Hamilton and quicker than the Rosberg-Vettel to trim the gap and put himself in contention for a podium in his final stint.
But Ferrari left his final stop rather too late, with the Medium-shod Hamilton carving into his lead over a handful of laps before the 2007 World Champion was called in for his final stop, emerging a rather distant fourth. Finishing in second place was a possibility, but he would have to put on another charge to do it.
Do it, he did. He posted his fastest laps of the race to eat into the ongoing Rosberg-Vettel scrap, which itself ultimately came to an end when Vettel made a rare error, running wide at the exit of the final corner and damaging his front wing to allow Rosberg back into second place.
Vettel would pit for a new nose and emerged behind Valtteri Bottas’ Williams in fifth, where he would remain until the chequered flag after being unable to find his way past the FW37.
Räikkönen had caught up to Rosberg in the final half-dozen laps, and all it took was a soft brake pedal for him to slip into second on the penultimate lap as Rosberg ran wide at Turn 1. The Ferrari driver didn’t have enough time to deal with Hamilton – who himself was nursing a brake-by-wire glitch – and crossed the line in the Briton’s wake to claim his first podium finish since the 2013 Korean Grand Prix.
Daniel Ricciardo finished in sixth place, but only just managed the feat as he suffered yet another Renault power unit blow-up exiting the final corner, crossing the finish line with a cloud of smoke trailing his RB11. The Australian will almost certainly be the first driver on the grid to face an engine change penalty in the coming Grands Prix, having been dealt the brunt of the French engine-maker’s woes since the start of the season.
Romain Grosjean battled with Ricciardo for much of the race and crossed the line in seventh place to claim back-to-back points’ finishes for Lotus.
Sergio Pérez took the unfancied Force India into the points with another fine display of his tyre management skills by finishing in eighth place, ahead of Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull and Felipe Massa’s Williams.
Both Kvyat and Massa staged their own impressive charges through the field, although Massa’s task was made harder after suffering damage to his rear floor and diffuser when he was tagged by Pastor Maldonado early in the race.
Fernando Alonso ran a two-stop strategy, relying on one fewer stop than his rivals to compensate his McLaren’s lack of race pace to finish ahead of Felipe Nasr’s Sauber. Nico Hülkenberg and Marcus Ericsson finished behind, having had their own race-long scrap.
The two Manor Marussias brought up the rear, with Will Stevens finishing two laps adrift in sixteenth; teammate Roberto Merhi was a further lap behind.
Aside from Button’s failure to make the start, the race’s other retirees were the two Toro Rosso drivers; Carlos Sainz Jr reported a loose wheel shortly after pitting, and Max Verstappen suffered an apparent electrical issue.
The fifth round of the season, the Spanish Grand Prix, takes place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on the weekend of May 8-10.
|2015 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix – Final Classification (57 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||57||1:35:05.809|
|2.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||57||+ 3.380|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||57||+ 6.033|
|4.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||57||+ 42.957|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||57||+ 43.989|
|6.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||57||+ 1:01.751|
|7.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||57||+ 1:24.763|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||56||1 lap behind|
|9.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||56||1 lap behind|
|10.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||56||1 lap behind|
|11.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-30||55||1 lap behind|
|12.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||56||1 lap behind|
|13.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||56||1 lap behind|
|14.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||56||1 lap behind|
|15.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||56||1 lap behind|
|16.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||55||2 laps behind|
|17.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||54||3 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Time|
|DNF.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||34||Electrical|
|DNF.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||29||Loose Wheel|
|DNS.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||Electrical|
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and Sutton Images
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