An exciting race following the mild-tempered Australian Grand Prix, and a disappointing result for some, here is how the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix played out.
The second race of the season saw Charles Leclerc starting his second race for Ferrari in pole position, his first ever, with Ferrari veteran Sebastian Vettel sitting patiently behind in second place, and the Mercedes duo behind. For the full qualifying breakdown, you can see our Qualifying Rundown here to set the scene for the race, which was a great one.
The start saw a great start from Sebastian Vettel as always, where he took the lead from teammate Leclerc into Turn 1, with Valtteri Bottas getting the lead on teammate Hamilton, with Bottas sneaking past Leclerc into turns 2 & 3 into 2nd place. On lap 2, we saw some more battles at the front with Leclerc getting back around Bottas for 2nd and storming after Vettel and Hamilton passing Bottas for 3rd place. A collision on the first lap between Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Haas’s Romain Grosjean saw Grosjean having to pit for new tyres after a puncture, eventually retiring, with no significant damage to the pink racing point car.
Lots of action was had from lap 1 until the early teen laps as teams begun pitting from their first set of tyres, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen fighting with his old Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz, now at McLaren, for 5th place after a brilliant start from the Spaniard. Unfortunately, the battle saw a casualty at the expense of Carlos Sainz who was involved in a collision with Verstappen and suffered a heavy puncture, Verstappen getting off lucky without any damage to his RBR car Lap 6 saw Leclerc finish hunting down his teammate, taking the lead that he had qualified for from his teammate into Turn 1 of the circuit. The next few laps saw a few small midfield scraps including a spin from Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat after Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi crossed his path a little too close and clipped the driver’s wheel, sending him into the runoff area with an apologetic wave.
There was a small pause in the race which saw a bit of interest from Haas’s Kevin Magnussen and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo as they both attempted to do one-stop pit strategies, which saw Daniel Ricciardo in 1st place for a few moments in the race which was an entertaining sight for some after being used to seeing him up at the top in his Red Bull days. Up until the second round of pit stops some 15-20 laps later, there was limited action from the front with some good battles in the midfield between the likes of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen. In the high 30s on the lap count, we saw a great battle between last years Champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel duking it out for 2nd place, a combined 9 world championships racing wheel-to-wheel. Ultimately the battle was won by Lewis Hamilton, overtaking Sebastian Vettel out of turn 4, with the Ferrari driver possibly stumbling on the throttle against the high Bahrain winds and spinning his car, ruining his set of medium tyres and ending in a front wing failure from the vibrations, which led to a long pit stop where he would only be able to recover to 5th place at the end of the race.
Lap 46 saw the heartbreak of many, including myself and by the sounds of it even Lewis Hamilton, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who had led most of the race and had dominated the entire race weekend appeared to be slowing down with engine issues. He had lost the hybrid recovery system on his car, resulting in a loss of 160hp which saw him losing up to 5 seconds a lap to cars behind him. Lewis Hamilton hesitated to pass on the straight a few laps later after closing the gap to the injured prancing horse, giving a wave to Leclerc as he passes, meaning Leclerc’s chances at his first ever win in Formula One, and the youngest to ever have pole position, race win and fastest lap were over. The next few laps saw him being hunted down by Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, eventually being passed by the silver arrow of Bottas for 2nd, struggling in 3rd place with the Dutchman closing in.
A blessing from Renault occurred for Leclerc, as Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg both retired on the same corner for separate mechanical issues on the same lap, with Ricciardo’s electronics seemingly cutting out, and a gut-wrenching sound and puffs of smoke appearing from the engine of Hulkenberg’s RS19, a shame after the pair had been having a few good battles between themselves in the race. This led to a safety car to be called to clear the two cars off the track on Lap 55, with the safety car leading the grid over the finishing line on Lap 57 whilst the cars were still cleared up, saving the Monegasque driver Leclerc from the ever-closer Max Verstappen.
It was a sombre end to the race, with winner Lewis Hamilton praising Charles Leclerc for his performance all weekend, telling him that it may seem awful now but he will go on to do great things in the sport. Rookie’s Lando Norris of McLaren and Alexander Albon of Toro Rosso scored their first points in F1, Norris finishing an incredible 6th place just behind the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, and Alexander Albon picking up 2 points in 9th place ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez. It’s shaping up to be a great season, with no clear favourite yet in the first two races, so we will see you again for the next race in China in two weeks time.