Vettel’s One Stop Gamble Pays Off with Bahrain GP Victory


Sebastian Vettel took victory in Bahrain
Credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel just held off a charging Valtteri Bottas to score his second successive Formula 1 victory in a tense Bahrain Grand Prix. 

From pole position, in his 200th start, Vettel pitted for the only time in the fifty-seven-lap race on Lap twenty for soft tyres, a lap after Valtteri Bottas had switched to the medium compound Pirelli tyres in an attempt to complete the race on one stop.

With forty laps of the race completed at the Sakhir International Circuit, Ferrari abandoned its planned two-stop strategy for Vettel, instead keeping him out on worn rubber.

However, in the closing stages, Vettel began to struggle on his tyres, allowing Bottas to close up to the Ferrari, and despite the Mercedes putting the leader under pressure, Vettel held onto the lead, taking his forty-ninth career victory by just 0.6s.

Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes, having made his way up from ninth on the grid, and was in fourth position by Lap 10, which included a triple overtake on the squabbling Fernando Alonso, Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon. 

Hamilton briefly led the race during the pit-stop sequence, but after Vettel re-took the lead from the British driver on Lap 27, the reigning world champion dived for the pits, emerging in fourth place.

Ferrari brought Kimi Raikkonen in for a second-stop on Lap 37, but a mistake saw a mechanic injured and the Finn retire in the pit-lane, which promoted Hamilton to third place.

Mercedes believed that both cars could catch and pass Vettel, but after some tense moments on the radio for Hamilton, he settled for third.

Valtteri Bottas used a Supersoft-Medium strategy to finish second, less than a second behind Sebastian Vettel – Credit: Steve Etherington

Best result in Hybrid era for Honda Power

From a stunning fifth place on the grid, Pierre Gasly scored Honda’s best result since it returned to Formula 1, with fourth place for Red Bull Toro Rosso-Honda.   The Frenchman, like many others in the midfield aborted their planned one-stop strategy, opting to pit a second time and fit supersoft rubber.

Gasly was involved in a race-long battle with the Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen, who came home in fifth place to score his points of the season, despite the Dane having a close moment with team-mate Romain Grosjean at turn two when the Frenchman cut across his bow as he battled with one of the Force India’s.  Magnussen questioned the decision to keep Grosjean ahead of him despite the duo being on different strategies, with the Frenchman then pitting a few laps later to clear the road for his team-mate.

Renault Sport Formula One Team driver Nico Hulkenberg suffered with battery issues throughout the race, with Fernando Alonso chasing him for the majority of the evening.

However, after the duo made their second stops, the German was able to hold off the McLaren F1 Team driver and add a sixth place to the seventh place he scored last time out in Australia.

Stoffel Vandoorne made a poor start and dropped to the back of the field, but some clever strategy from McLaren brought the Belgian driver back into contention, and eighth place to make it second double-point haul for McLaren in 2018.

Marcus Ericsson finished in the points for the first time since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, with a ninth place finish, with the points also the first for the Alfa-Romeo Sauber F1 Team partnership, while Esteban Ocon rounded out the points positions for Sahara Force India F1 Team for their first point of 2018.

Pierre Gasly scored the first points of his career with fourth place. Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images

No points for Grosjean, Hartley Penalised for Perez Clash

After a disappointing qualifying, Grosjean quickly made up places, but his race was hampered by a bargeboard failure.  The Frenchman made three pit-stops and had his brief moment held up team-mate Magnussen, as he dropped back through the field to finish a lapped fifteenth.

Carlos Sainz Jr. finished just outside the points for Renault in eleventh, while Sergio Perez recovered from a first-lap spin at Turn four to finish in twelfth in the second Force India.  Brendon Hartley, the driver who spun Perez around on that first lap, received a ten-second penalty for doing so, with the second Toro Rosso driver finished thirteenth.

The other finishers were Charles Leclerc for Sauber in fourteenth, Grosjean in fiftenth, and the two Williams Martini Racing cars, Lance Stroll sixteenth ahead of Sergey Sirotkin, who finished a Grand Prix for the first time in his career, albeit not in the position he would have hoped to have done so as Williams struggled dramatically for pace and performance.

Red Bull Lose Out as Raikkonen Suffers Again in the Pit Lane

Max Verstappen made a lightning start in the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing from fifteenth, but after a second lap collision with Hamilton at Turn 1, and a subsequent left-rear tyre puncture, left him at the back of the field, before dropping out of the race moments later.

His team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was the races first retirement on Lap two, when his Red Bull’s electronics failed at the Turn eight hairpin.  He had lost out to Gasly on the first lap but had regained his fourth position behind Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen, only for his race to come to a shuddering halt.

The only other retirement was Raikkonen, who was on course for a podium finish but dropped out after the pit-stop incident that left the mechanic needing to go to the medical centre for treatment.

Max Verstappen battled wheel to wheel with Lewis Hamilton but suffered a left-rear puncture after hitting Hamilton’s front wing – Credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images