Lewis Hamilton clinched an easy win at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix even as the horrific crash suffered by Romain Grosjean on the opening lap cast a long shadow on the race. Hamilton extended his winning streak to five races with the ninety-fifth win of his career and the eleventh win of the season.
Grosjean’s narrow escape with relatively minor injuries was met with relief by the paddock and the fans. He was voted “Driver OF The Day” by the fans to express their support.
Max Verstappen finished in second position and was joined by his Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team-mate Alexander Albon on the podium. Sergio Pérez ran comfortably in third position until his engine blew up with four laps to go.
The race started under cool conditions with air temperatures at 25 degrees C and track temperatures at 28 degrees C at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir under the floodlights. Hamilton was on pole position and team-mate Valtteri Bottas joined him on the first row. The drivers at the sharp end of the grid started on the medium compound tyres.
Hamilton made a good start to lead Verstappen and Pérez into Turn 1. Bottas got bogged down and fell to sixth position even as Albon and Daniel Ricciardio passed him.
But further back, his slow start caused a concertino effect with Lando Norris suffering front-wing damage. As the cars behind him entered Turn 3, they slowed down and Grosjean tried to avoid the cars in front.
The French driver hit the car of Daniil Kvyat and veered into the barriers at full speed. The car split into two with part of the car piercing through the barrier and bursting into a fireball.
The FIA medical team arrived within seconds of the crash and rescued Grosjean from the ferocious flames as he quickly extricated himself from the mangled car and jumped over the barrier. Grosjean was taken to the medical center and flown to hospital.
The session was red-flagged for over an hour as the barriers were repaired. The drivers also watched the horrific crash on screen and the narrow escape their fellow driver had.
They had to quickly reset and made a standing start from the grid when the session restarted. The order was Hamilton, Verstappen, Pérez, Bottas, Albon, Ricciardo, Norris, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Antonio Giovinazzi, Daniil Kvyat, Kimi Räikkönen, Kevin Magnussen, George Russell, and Nicholas Latifi.
On the restart, Hamilton made another good start. But Ricciardo lost places and fell to ninth position. Stroll and Kvyat tangled and the Canadian driver was extricated from his overturned car. Kvyat was given a ten-second penalty for the incident.
The Safety Car had to be deployed until lap 9. Bottas suffered a puncture after he ran over debris and pitted and rejoined in sixteenth position. Hamilton made a good getaway on the restart and slowly built his lead to over four seconds from Verstappen.
By lap 13, Leclerc had fallen to ninth position as Sainz, Ricciardo and Gasly had overtaken him. On lap 17, Ricciardo was the first of the front-runners to pit for the hard compound tyres and rejoined in eighteenth position.
On lap 20, Hamilton and Albon pitted and rejoined in third and seventh position. On the next lap, Verstappen and Pérez pitted for the hard compound tyres even as Hamilton had fitted on the medium compound tyres.
On lap 26, Gasly made his only pit stop and rejoined in ninth position. Hamilton maintained a steady gap of five seconds from Verstappen even as the Dutchman stayed comfortably ahead of Pérez.
After lap 34, the leaders made their second set of pit stops. Hamilton at this stage had a 3.5 seconds gap to Verstappen. By Lap 39, Albon had overtaken Sainz for fourth position. By lap 44, Norris had overtaken Gasly on worn out tyres to slot into fifth position.
By the end of lap 45 the order was Hamilton, Verstappen, Pérez, Albon, Norris, Gasly, Sainz, Ricciardo, Bottas, Ocon, and Leclerc. Hamilton’s lead over Verstappen was 4.5 seconds at this stage.
On lap 47, Verstappen pitted for the medium compound tyres and rejoined in second position. On the next lap, Verstappen improved on his time for the fastest lap.
On lap 51, Sainz overtook Gasly to take fifth position to seal a very good day for the McLaren F1 team. On lap 54, the unfortunate Pérez had engine issues with smoke and fire billowing out from the rear of the car.
Albon took third position even as the Mexican parked his car and the Safety Car was deployed. The race ended behind the Safety Car with Hamilton taking the chequered flag for the eleventh time this season.
Verstappen and Albon finished in second and third position to bring home the points for the Red Bull Racing team. Norris and Sainz finished in fourth and fifth position to help the McLaren F1 team move into third position in the constructors’ championship in their close fight with the Racing Point and the Renault DP World F1 Team.
Gasly continued his rich vein of form and finished in sixth position. Ricciardo and Ocon finished in seventh and ninth position to bring home a double-point finish for the Renault F1 team.
Bottas after another tough race that was compromised by his poor start and his puncture in the early laps finished in eighth position. Leclerc took the final solitary point as he finished in tenth position.
The race will always be remembered for the horrific crash of Grosjean and his fortuitous escape from the fiery fire.
The penultimate race of the season will take place at the same venue over the 3.543-kilometre Outer Track layout next weekend (4 to 6 December 2020).
2020 Bahrain Grand Prix Race Results:
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||2:59:47.515||25||57|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||+1.254s||19||57|
|3||23||Alexander Albon||THA||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||+8.005s||15||57|
|4||4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||+11.337s||12||57|
|5||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||McLaren F1 Team||+11.787s||10||57|
|6||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||+11.942s||8||57|
|7||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Renault DP World F1 Team||+19.368s||6||57|
|8||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||+19.680s||4||57|
|9||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Renault DP World F1 Team||+22.803s||2||57|
|10||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||+1 lap||1||56|
|11||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||+1 lap||0||56|
|12||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||+1 lap||0||56|
|13||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Scuderia Ferrari||+1 lap||0||56|
|14||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||+1 lap||0||56|
|15||7||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing||+1 lap||0||56|
|16||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing||+1 lap||0||56|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap||0||56|
|NC||11||Sergio Pérez||MEX||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||DNF||0||53|
|NC||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||DNF||0||2|
|NC||8||Romain Grosjean||FRA||Haas F1 Team||DNF||0||0|