Following the young Formula One season’s pattern of exciting race, boring race – Bahrain proved to be a thriller for the second year in a row with Lewis Hamilton holding off a hard charging Kimi Raikkonen by only 3 seconds claim his third victory in four races so far this year.
The challenge Ferrari posed to Mercedes was apparent on Saturday as Sebastian Vettel snagged second on the grid, but after the initial laps Mercedes looked to have another race in the bag.
Ferrari, noticed Pastor Maldonado set fastest lap, so Ferrari put Vettel on softs allowing him to take Nico Rosberg. Rosberg responded and passed him back. Trying to eek out any chink in Mercedes armor they then put Raikkonen on to mediums for his second stint.
The gamble nearly paid off as the 2007 F1 World Champion led most of early part of the race, but Hamilton eventually caught back up and passed him on lap 40. Raikkonen took to the pits for a final stint on the softs which he initially questioned after a strong run on the mediums. At the time Hamilton led, followed by Rosberg with Raikkonen in third.
The softs proved enough for the Finn to overhaul Rosberg who was nursing his brakes with one lap to go. Raikkonen put the hammer down but was unable to catch Lewis for the victory and crossed the line a scant three seconds behind the Mercedes.
Behind the top three, Valtteri Bottas scored a fine fourth for Williams, holding off Vettel who had a clumsy day for the Scuderia. Felipe Massa suffered an electrical issue pre race and started from pit lane but charged up to 10th confirming the strength of the William’s chassis and its clear place as best of the rest behind Mercedes and Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo gave Red Bull a little something to smile about with 6th and Romain Grosjean put in another fine drive for Lotus to take 7th.
Sergio Perez and Danill Kvyat were the first runners a lap down coming in 8th and 9th just in front of the hard charging Massa and Fernando Alonso who nearly dragged his McLaren to the points.
The Saubers had a rough day sandwiching Hulkenberg’s Force India and Pastor Maldonado had another rough outing for 15th place.
Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi were the last of the runners but enjoyed yet another double finish for Manor, something McLaren couldn’t even celebrate as Button’s engine recovery glitch sidelined the Briton in what would have been his 100th start for the team from Woking.
Neither Toro Rosso made it to the end with both cars out by the 20th lap.
More than ever it appears Ferrari can now challenge Mercedes but Williams will continue to pick up the scraps the top two teams leave behind.
Grand Prix of Bahrain Results
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
- Valtteri Bottas, Williams
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
- Daniel Riccoardo, Red Bull
- Romain Grosjean, Lotus
- Sergio Perez, Force India
- Danill Kvyat, Red Bull
- Felipe Massa, Williams
- Fernando Alonso, McLaren
- Felipe Nasr, Sauber
- Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
- Marcus Ericcson, Sauber
- Pastor Maldonado, Lotus
- Will Stevens, Manor
- Roberto Merhi, Manor
- Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, DNF (electronics)
- Carlos Sainz Jr., Toro Rosso, DNF (handling)
- Jenson Button, McLaren, DNS