BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - APRIL 08: Race winner Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrates on the podium during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 8, 2018 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Sebastian Vettel scored his second consecutive victory in the second race of the new Formula 1 season at the Bahrain GP. The German clinched the 49th win of his career in his 200th race start. Valtteri Bottas ran him close in the final laps to finish a creditable second. Lewis Hamilton had to be satisfied with third place after he started ninth on the grid. Pierre Gasly in his young career astonished the paddock with a strong fourth in his Toro Rosso-Honda. Kevin Magnussen finally brought home the points for the Haas F1 team as he completed the top 5 places.

Sebastian Vettel Wins Again

The race started in dry conditions at the Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir under the bright floodlights. The temperatures dropped as twilight fell with air temperatures at 28 degrees C and track temperatures at 34 degrees C. A Ferrari front row lockout saw Vettel on pole and Raikkonen just behind him.

Lewis Hamilton (P9) and Max Verstappen (P15) started out of position. Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo started on the second row. Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso was in fifth position, unfamiliar territory for the young Frenchman after a great qualification. Hamilton started on the soft compound tyres, with the other drivers in the top 10 on the supersoft compound tyres.

The Chaotic Start

Vettel made a clean start to lead into Turn 1. Bottas jumped Raikkonen to get into P2. Verstappen made a great start from 15th position and was behind Hamilton. As the two jostled for position, they touched and the Dutchman suffered a puncture. In a double blow for Red Bull, Ricciardo also pulled to the side of the track as his Renault engine shutdown.

After this torrid first lap action, the order was Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Gasly, Ocon, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Hamilton and Hartley. The Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed. On the restart, Hamilton gained two places and was in P5 as he overtook Magnussen also. Double retirement for the Red Bull Racing team as Verstappen was asked to retire the car.

Vettel Leads The Pack

Vettel meanwhile was leading the race with a comfortable 2.5 second lead over Bottas who had the same kind of lead over Raikkonen. On Lap 8, Hamilton got past Gasly and was now a full 14.4 seconds behind the race leader in P4. But the Briton on a different strategy from the race leaders on the soft compound tyres was now within sniffing distance of a podium finish. Sergio Perez triggered the first round of pitstops, as he switched to the medium compound tyres.

Kevin Magnussen pitted on Lap 14 and to the huge relief of the Haas F1 team exited the pits without any issues. The Dane was followed by Gasly into the pits and the Frenchman stayed ahead of Magnussen. Brendon Hartley was given a ten-second stop go penalty for a collision with Sergio Perez on the first lap.

Mercedes Roll The Dice

Vettel was the first among the leaders to pit as Bottas took over the lead. Raikkonen then pitted followed by Bottas. Mercedes put on the medium tyres on a contra-strategy to the Ferrari drivers on soft compound tyres. Hamilton was now leading the race. Mercedes were clearly trying to do a one stop race with Bottas. Was this going to work?

On Lap 23, the order was Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Gasly, Ericsson, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Vandoorne. Hamilton and Ericsson were yet to make a pitstop. On lap 27, Hamilton finally pitted for the medium compound tyres and was behind Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen. Hamilton was a full 23+ seconds behind the race leader Vettel after his first pitstop.

Magnussen made his second pitstop for a set of new soft compound tyres and found himself behind teammate Romain Grosjean. As the two Haas drivers sliced and diced, the Haas team looked on anxiously not wanting another Melbourne-like disaster. The question at this point was with Mercedes gambling on a one pitstop race, could Vettel and Raikkonen on the soft tyres also do a one stop race?

Pitstop Disaster Strikes Ferrari and Raikkonen

On lap 37, Raikkonen made his second pitstop. An unsafe release forced Raikkonen to stop the car. A Ferrari mechanic was also injured in the bargain. Now Ferrari had to keep Vettel on a very long stint on the soft compound tyres as a pit stop would have seen him emerge behind the two Mercedes cars.

As the cars got into the final ten laps, Bottas started closing the 7+ seconds gap in dramatic fashion. Vettel struggled on the worn out tyres and by the last two laps Bottas was within DRS range. But the four-time world champion managed to keep the Finn at bay. Vettel took the chequered flag, just 0.6 seconds ahead of Bottas. Hamilton completed the podium places.

The German had the second consecutive win of the season in the bag on his 200th start. Gasly and Honda finished fourth for their best finish ever. Magnussen finally brought home the points for Haas F1 team with a creditable fifth. Hulkenberg, Alonso, Vandoorne, Ericsson and Ocon completed the top 10 positions.

Vettel and Ferrari On a High

The Italian team and Vettel have two wins in the first two races. Vettel leads the drivers’ championship by a handy 17 points now. Ferrari also leads the constructors’ championship from Mercedes by 10 points. Clearly the Prancing Horse has outdone the Silver Arrows in the first two exchanges. On we go to the cooler climes of Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix. What an exciting start to the season!!

Race Results:

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired Pts
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 57 1:32:01.940 25
2 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 57 +0.699s 18
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 57 +6.512s 15
4 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 57 +62.234s 12
5 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 57 +75.046s 10
6 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 57 +99.024s 8
7 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 56 +1 lap 6
8 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 56 +1 lap 4
9 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 56 +1 lap 2
10 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 56 +1 lap 1
11 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 56 +1 lap 0
12 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 56 +1 lap 0
13 28 Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 56 +1 lap 0
14 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 56 +1 lap 0
15 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 56 +1 lap 0
16 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 56 +1 lap 0
17 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 56 +1 lap 0
NC 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 35 DNF 0
NC 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 3 DNF 0
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1 DNF 0

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