Bahrain: Hamilton leads Mercedes to victory in sensational Bahrain Gulf Air Grand Prix
BIC, Sakhir – Lewis Hamilton led Nico Rosberg to a dominant Mercedes one-two tonight in the most exciting and most memorable Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix ever held at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir. Lewis Hamilton took victory by the narrowest of marginsafter an enthralling race-long battle with team-mate Nico Rosberg. A second consecutive one-two finish for the Silver Arrows saw the team extend its lead at the top of the Constructors’ Championship.
The landmark 10th edition of the Kingdom’s Formula One race certainly lived up to the hype as the top flight’s greatest drivers put on a spectacular show over an eventful and hugely exciting 57 laps, held for the very first time under floodlights at “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East”.
Lewis Hamilton -“What an incredible day. That was a really tough race tonight and I am absolutely delighted to have come home with the win. It’s a long time since I had a race like that! My weekend started off well but I didn’t really have great pace for qualifying and the race. I knew that I needed a good start and to go into the first corner in the lead was crucial to my race this evening. From there, it was such a battle. Nico drove fantastically well and, in all honesty, he had the pace on me today but I managed to hold on. I knew when the safety car came out that Nico would be on the option tyres and that he would be quick. To try and stay ahead of him was so hard and when I came across the line I was just so relieved. When you’re racing your team-mate, the pressure is really intense and we both knew that we had to bring the cars home for the team and for the championship. All credit to the team for allowing us to race and I hope the fans loved the show that we were able to put on tonight. A big thank you to the team, especially to my engineers for all the information they were giving me during the race, and to everyone here and back at the factories for all their hard work. Another one-two is just fantastic for us. I’m also very proud to have joined Fangio with 24 Grand Prix wins today, he’s one of the great racers of all time so that’s a real honour. ”
Nico Rosberg -“It was a great battle out there this evening with Lewis and this kind of race is exactly why I am in Formula One; I love to race like today. Of course, it’s very disappointing to have finished second in the end but I gave it everything and it just didn’t quite come off for me. Lewis did a great job defending his position and, so often when I did manage to get past, I then couldn’t see him in the blind spot in my mirrors. Our strategy was good and to change it after the first stint was a decision that I made with the team. It was a slightly slower strategy but it gave me the best chance of catching Lewis at the end on the option tyres. The difference between the prime and the option was not as big as we expected however and that’s why I didn’t quite manage to get by. The positive must be that this was a great day for Formula One. The race was a fantastic show and hopefully it proves that the critics of our new technology are wrong. I can’t wait for China now and I want to end up on the top step there. ”
SergioPerez Force India: “This podium is an amazing achievement and one of the most special results in my whole career. This is a massive confidence boost, especially after the very hard season I had last year, and it was the hardest-fought podium I ever had. It was an amazing feeling to cross the line because the last few laps were very difficult. I had to keep up the pace and I knew the Red Bulls were coming. In the end we managed to stay ahead and score this very special result in only my third race with the team. I also had a great fight with my teammate during the whole race. When he got ahead of me after the first stop, I tried to keep my head down to get back ahead. I managed to do that when we were fighting with the Williams and that was the crucial moment.”
Following the conclusion of the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, BIC Chairman Zayed R. Alzayani said: “I would first like to congratulate Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team on an outstanding victory today, in the most exciting race ever seen at the BIC, bringing a fitting end to a momentous 10th anniversary weekend at Bahrain International Circuit. “Today, we attracted a record crowd of 31,000, our highest ever attendance for a single day and I am delighted that the crowd was suitably rewarded with a phenomenal display of racing. “The grandstand was sold out as were our corporate boxes, underlining our belief that the spectacle and attraction of the night race has brought a new generation of fans to F1.
“It has taken a huge effort from all involved in the construction and the preparation to get the circuit ready for our first night race and I would like to thank all those who have made that happen, especially the staff at the BIC for their efforts over the last few months, as well as our partners and sponsors.”
Bahrain’s first-ever night race attracted the biggest ever single day crowd at BIC, with the Main Grandstand and corporate boxes all sold out. The 31,000 crowd for Sunday bettered the 28,000 from last year, while the total 85,000 over three days dwarfed the 73,000 total of 2013.
Hamilton crossed the finish line the winner as BIC Chief Executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa waved the chequered flag, with teammate Rosberg trailing by a mere 1.085 seconds following a heated battle for the lead over the final 10 laps.
An impressive display of fireworks then brightened up the night sky over the spectacularly lit desert circuit as Hamilton stepped out of his Mercedes W05 cheered on by the thousands of fans in attendance. Force India’s Sergio Perez joined Hamilton and Rosberg on the podium, leading the rest of the pack who were nearly half-a-minute behind the Mercedes pair.
At the podium ceremony in front of a packed Main Grandstand, Hamilton was presented his trophy by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister. Mercedes, being represented by Engineering Director Aldo Costa, were handed over their trophy as winning constructor by Gulf Air Acting CEO Maher Al Musallam.
Rosberg was awarded by Minister of Transportation HE Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, while Perez was presented his prize by Bahrain Motor Federation President HE Shaikh Abdulla bin Isa Al Khalifa. “It’s great to see that we have such a great following here,” Hamilton said after the podium presentation. “I am so grateful to the team for getting us up here.
This is my first win in Bahrain, which is nice.” Mercedes’ dominance was never more clear than when Hamilton and Rosberg built a huge gap in front of the rest of the field after only the second safety car period ever in Bahrain. With 10 laps to go and the safety car coming in, the Mercedes pair charged ahead and created a lead that was nearly as long as BIC’s main straight in just a single lap. The two teammates were then engaged in a breath-taking duel that could have gone either way, but in the end it was Hamilton who claimed the win. Perez crossed the finish line a whole 24.067 seconds behind. “It was really exciting,”
Hamilton described. “Nico drove fantastically well, it was hard to keep him behind me. I was on a real knife-edge at the end but just managed to take it.” Rosberg, who started from pole position but then gave up the lead to his teammate at the first turn, commented: “I strongly dislike coming second to Lewis, I have to say that, but it was definitely the most exciting race I have ever raced in my whole career. “I think today was a day for the sport, we put on a fantastic show and I will be back to win here next season.”
With today’s result, Mercedes have made it clear that they are currently in a class of their own after winning their third successive race, with Hamilton claiming a back-to-back. The Grand Prix was nearly marred by a massive accident on lap 41, when Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez was T-boned by Lotus talent Pastor Maldonado, causing Gutierrez to spin upside down, bounce off the tarmac once and then land the right way up. Gutierrez was clearly shaken but by the huge crash but was able to step out of the severely damaged car. Maldonado was eventually given a 10-second stop/go penalty.
Several other exciting battles were enjoyed by the fans behind the leading trio. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was able to overtake Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg late on to finish fourth overall, while teammate and two-time defending Bahrain Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel finished an impressive sixth despite a horrendous qualifying on Saturday. The Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top eight.
It was an unfortunate finish for the tandem, who had been battling for third place for much of the race before the entry of the safety car. Ferrari’s superstar tandem of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were in ninth and 10th, respectively, coming away with the final points. Ranked 11th through 17th on the final classification were Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Romain Grosjean of Lotus, Max Chilton of Marussia, Pastor Maldonado of Lotus, Kamui Kobayashi of Caterham, Jules Bianchi of Marussia, and Jenson Button of McLaren. Retiring from the Grand Prix were McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Sauber’s Adrian Sutil.
BIC ALL SET FOR IN-SEASON TESTING THIS WEEK While the 2014 Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix wrapped up in grand fashion this evening, Formula One action continues this week at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir. BIC, “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East”, will be hosting two days of official in-season testing on Tuesday and Wednesday.
All 11 Formula One teams will be present for the tests, which are making a return in this year’s FIA Formula One World Championship following a few years’ absence. Bahrain marks the first of four in-season tests this year. The others are to be held in Spain, Great Britain and finally in Abu Dhabi, right after each venue’s Grand Prix.
According to an agreement made by all the Formula One teams, each side must allocate one of their in-season test days exclusively to tyre development work with Pirellil. In Bahrain, Caterham will be working with the top flight’s tyre suppliers on Tuesday before Mercedes and Williams take over their duties on Wednesday. The upcoming in-season tests will be third session of its kind to take place in BIC this year. In February and March, Sakhir was the venue for a pair of four-day pre-season tests that proved crucial to the teams’ preparations for the 2014 season. Bahrain first hosted Formula One testing in the 2006 pre-season when the kingdom was also selected as the host venue for the season’s opening Grand Prix. Since then, BIC has long been a favourite destination for the Formula One teams to test, especially during the winter months. The Kingdom’s warm climate, long hours of daylight and minimal interruptions allow the teams to maximise their track time and gain as much valuable information about their respective cars.