Vettel holds off late Hamilton charge to win Bahrain GP

Hamilton was running second between team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo on lap 13 when the safety vehicle was required for a collision between the Williams of Lance Stroll and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz.

The move was a deliberate one to prevent Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo getting the jump with a quick stop while Hamilton waited behind Bottas, already in the pits.

Pole-sitter Bottas' hopes of a maiden grand prix victory faded into the Bahrain night as he finished 20 seconds behind Vettel in third place, with compatriot Kimi Raikkonen following two seconds behind in P4 in the second Ferrari.

Brazilian Felipe Massa finished sixth for Williams, a well-received Easter Sunday birthday gift for team boss Frank Williams who is 75, with Sergio Perez taking seventh for Force India.

Vettel's 44th win lifted him to 68 points, with Hamilton second on 61. Meanwhile, Hamilton had eaten away Vettel's gap to 3.9s by lap 32. Hamilton and Ricciardo were now on softs, they did not have to stop again unlike Vettel and Bottas.

Vettel came from third on the grid in qualifying to first place in the early laps of the race, according to SB Nation.

"Overall this was my best weekend with the team but there is more to come".

They could not draw away, however, and were swiftly caught by the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Ricciardo and by lap 10 the top five were within three and half seconds of one another.

With Hamilton's lead shrinking by the lap, Mercedes opted to bite the bullet and pit the Briton at the end of Lap 41, allowing him to serve his five-second time penalty before the auto was serviced.

Also, Verstappen wasn't the only driver to retire from the race, as Stoffel Vandoorne failed to make the start with a power unit issue, Kevin Magnussen came to a stop on track due to a mechanical problem, and Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll collided in Turn 1 bringing out a safety vehicle.

It was a steady start from Hamilton, but Vettel showed greater bravery on the brakes and passed his championship rival round the outside to move into second place. To stop teams gaining an advantage in such circumstances, drivers must remain within five seconds of the vehicle in front under the Safety auto, and as Ricciardo almost went into the back of Hamilton as the entered the pit lane, Hamilton exceeded that limit and was hit with a five-second penalty. In came Bottas and Hamilton, too, but fearing he would lose time queuing behind his Mercedes team-mate, Hamilton slowed down on his approach to the Mercedes garage and effectively blocked Ricciardo.

Hamilton endured a far more rocky evening under the floodlights of the Sakhir Circuit as he battled his way to second spot. The incidents were coming fast, with 18-year-old Lance Stroll hit from the side on lap 13 by Carlos Sainz Jr. - forcing the safety vehicle to come out.

Ultimately, Vettel crossed the line six seconds clear of Hamilton but the Mercedes appeared to hold a strong pace advantage over the Ferrari in the final segment of the race.

Racing resumed on lap 16 with Hamilton immediately passing Ricciardo for third as the Red Bull driver struggled to get temperature into his soft tyres.

A lap later the Safety Car was out and the race order was shaken up as Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz crashed as the Toro Rosso driver exited the pits.

"Supposed to have a five-second gap and I think I had a four-second gap". The Ferrari was now fourth behind Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel in P1.

Vettel, to that point, had stuck his vehicle right behind Bottas and wasn't letting him create any separation. That ended the race for both drivers.

Upon restart, Bottas and Vettel went at it hard with the Ferrari barely managing to hold on to P1.

  • Santos West