F1: Vettel powers Ferrari to sensational victory as drama in pit lane halts Raikkonen
Sebastian Vettel powered Ferrari to a sensational victory on Sunday night in a drama-filled Formula 1 2018 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, held under the bright lights of BIC.
Vettel overcame a threatening challenge from Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes who tried to chase him down and steal the chequered flag late on. But Vettel was able to hold on to the slightest of advantages despite a slower car over the race’s last few laps.
The German eventually won by just 0.699 seconds. He completed the 57-lap sprint after starting from pole in a total race time of 1 hour 32 minutes 01.940 seconds, taking the chequered flag as a brilliant display of fireworks lit up the desert sky.
“I was not in control, I thought Valtteri would catch me,” Vettel said afterwards. “I nursed the tyres and it worked, but only just!”
The win was a record fourth in Sakhir in Vettel’s illustrious career, and also his 49th overall in 200 grand prix starts. The result was also his second triumph in a row to start the 2018 season after also winning the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last month.
Vettel and Bottas were joined on the podium by reigning World champion Lewis Hamilton, who also had an exceptional drive after starting from ninth. Hamilton was classified 6.512 seconds behind first place.
Presenting the top three their respective trophies in the podium ceremony were His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister. Also on hand were Youth and Sports Affairs Minister Hisham Al Jowder, Bahrain Motor Federation President Shaikh Abdulla bin Isa Al Khalifa, and Gulf Air CEO Kresimir Kucko.
Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso had a fantastic race on his Bahrain debut in a Formula 1 car. He finished fourth but was a massive 1 minute 02.234 seconds behind first place.
Kevin Magnussen of Haas was an impressive fifth 1:15.046 back, and Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth in his Renault 1:39.024s behind. The McLaren pair of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne followed, while Marcus Ericsson of Sauber and Esteban Ocon of Force India rounded out the top 10 and the final points takers – each of whom were a lap off pace.
Despite Vettel’s win, it wasn’t all smiles for Ferrari as Kimi Raikkonen had a shock exit 35 laps in. The Finn had knocked down a mechanic during his second pit-stop and didn’t continue from there.
Red Bull Racing, meanwhile, had a disastrous night with both star drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen ending their campaigns in the race’s opening stages.
Ricciardo suddenly stopped out on track and hopped out of his Red Bull after just two laps. Little was known right after his retirement as to what had happened to his car, but Red Bull later revealed it was due to a suspected electrical engine issue. Verstappen had a collision with Hamilton on lap one, which resulted in a damaged left-rear tyre. He pitted for a change but the damage proved to be too much.
Completing the overall classification from 11th to 17th, respectively, were Carlos Sainz of Renault, Sergio Perez of Force India, Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso, Charles Leclerc of Sauber, Romain Grosjean of Haas, and Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin of Williams.
The FIA Formula 1 World Championship resumes next weekend with the Chinese Grand Prix.
It was not an easy race, but one that I feel quite happy with now that I’ve cooled down. Today was all about damage limitation and I think to get in the top three is a really great result for the team and for myself. We would prefer we didn’t have the gearbox issue that we had this weekend, but I was really happy with my race pace. I had a really good start but I didn’t capitalize on it. I got past a couple of cars off the line and then I went opposite to go on the inside. But the car ahead decided to dice to the right so I had to bail out and had cars pass me on the left, so I fell back on the opening lap. In my mind I knew that I had to get past that group of cars very early on. But by the time I did get past them the guys were 15 seconds ahead, so really the race was lost in those opening laps. Ferrari have shown over the last two races that they have the edge at the moment, but it is close and we definitely have to do a better job. Shanghai has always been a good hunting ground for me, so I really hope that we can go there with some strength.
Sebastian Vettel: “Obviously, this is a great way to start the season and it wasn’t expected. Obviously Australia was a different race and if you compare these two races, here we had the pace and won on our own. So, I think it’s been much better, but it was a very tough race. It took a while for the adrenaline to go, but for the next week we are not sure where we are going to be. It is difficult to predict with everything changing so much. In China it will be a different track and a different challenge, but we have to improve our car and work on it. We still need to improve the balance. However, if we should have a similar feeling like here, then I think we should be in a good shape. We were losing a little bit at the end and Bottas was getting closer. We couldn’t wait and see what he was doing. So, in response to that we had to come in first to protect the track as much as I could. We had targeted two stops and that’s why we had chosen Soft tires. But then we had to change strategy; the tires were already wearing out, but then it seemed everything was ok. But after 10 or 12 laps, the tires got worse and the last five laps were very tricky. It feels better winning here than in Australia, because here we had the pace. So, I am very happy, even though it’s sad to see one of our guys getting injured. I wish him to get well soon, I know he’s in very good hands now.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “What happened to our guy Francesco today at the pit-stop is very unfortunate. I feel sorry for him and hope he’s going to be OK soon. It’s always a bad thing when someone gets injured but I am sure he has the best people taking good care of him and I wish him a speedy recovery. As for the accident itself, all I know is that I moved when I saw the green light go on. I couldn’t have possibly realized that there was an issue with the rear left wheel, then I saw someone had got hurt and, immediately, I was told to stop by the team. Unfortunately something must have gone wrong and we’ll need to find out what. The car had good speed today but I had some wheelspin at the start. Anyway, there’s not much I can do now but wait for the next race, where we’ll try to do our best.”
Following the conclusion of the Formula 1 2018 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, Arif Rahimi, Chairman of Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), said:
“I congratulate Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari on a superb victory in yet another enthralling night race at BIC.
“The BIC continues to attract fans from across the region and beyond for our biggest event of the year, with 33,000 in attendance for today’s race. We have been particularly encouraged by the popularity of the Paddock Club, with sales up 15% this year.
“This weekend also saw Liberty announce its blueprint for the future of F1. We are hugely supportive of the aim to put the fan experience at the centre of the sport and we have already seen the first signs of that coming to fruition this weekend. In particular, we are proud that Bahrain was chosen as the venue for the global launch of Pirelli Hot Laps, which was an incredible experience for those lucky fans. We believe that this is just the start of a new and exciting era for F1, with the fans right at the forefront of the sport.
“I offer my sincerest gratitude to those who have contributed to the success of the weekend. In particular, I thank the participating teams across all the race series, the team here at the BIC, our colleagues at the FIA and Formula One Management, and of course the fans.”
Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, Chief Executive of Bahrain International Circuit, added:
“I congratulate all those who have contributed to such a spectacular race weekend, with a fitting nail-biting conclusion.
“In a weekend which has seen much talk on the future of F1, I also believe in the importance of recognising and appreciating its history. 50 years ago this weekend, we lost the legendary Jim Clark. The two-time World Champion will always be remembered as a true great of the sport and without doubt inspired future generations to take up motorsport.
“Following another breath-taking weekend of racing and entertainment, I thank all those involved for making it such a success. As ever, this would not have been possible with the support of the many Government ministries involved, so I thank them for all their efforts. I also thank my team here at the BIC for working so tirelessly over the last few months to put this great event together. Lastly, I also acknowledge the tremendous support of our partners and sponsors.”