He may not have had any victory champagne, but Lewis Hamilton was smiling on top of the podium after claiming victory at the 2015 Bahrain Grand Prix.
In a what was mostly a duel in the desert for second place rather than the win, Hamilton took the flag first but Lewis only edged out Raikkonen by 3 seconds after both Mercedes car suffered brake failures. The win is Hamilton’s third of the season, and moves the Brit further away in the championship ahead of the European leg.
Hamilton started today’s race on pole after topping the qualifying timesheet yesterday. But the man starting alongside him on the front row was the Ferrari of Vettel after the Malaysian Grand Prix winner edged ahead of Nico Rosberg in Q3.
Jenson Button had a rotten qualifying and was not able to set a single lap time after his McLaren broke down in Q1. This was not the first time this weekend Jenson was forced to pull to the side of the track but would prove costly as Button went on to miss the race. After McLaren worked all morning on repairing his car, they fired the engine up but noticed there was still an electrical glitch in the Energy Recovery System and were not prepared to send Button out with an unexplained glitch.
This left 19 cars sat on the grid for the formation lap but Massa was left behind as the field weaved away. Williams rushed from the pit lane to move the car, before firing it back up in the pit lane for their man to make the start of the race.
But whilst he sat there and his tyres cooled down, the five red lights went out and the 2015 Bahrain Grand Prix stormed into life.
Down the pit straight, Hamilton edged away from Vettel who covered Rosberg off the line. Vettel’s defending also allowed Raikkonen to slip ahead of Nico as sparks flew into turn 1.
Further down the field, drivers swapped and switched positions as the field weaved through the winding first sector. One of which was the feisty Sergio Perez as he attacked Nasr for 11th place. Massa meanwhile latched onto the back of the Marussia’s as he began his pursuit back to the front.
As Massa continued his pursuit of a point scoring position, Rosberg picked off Raikkonen to regain third before closing down Vettel for 2nd. In order to move back into third, Nico utilised the long straight and DRS to pick off Kimi into turn one before replicating the move on Seb five laps later. But the move on Seb may have had to wait had it not been for Vettel running deep into turn 1, one lap earlier and reducing his lead over Rosberg.
Over the next few laps, Hamilton’s lead over Nico continued to remain near the 5 second mark but Rosberg did himself no favours by making a mistake on lap 11 and putting him back on the front wing of Vettel. Now the advantage fell into Ferrari’s hand as they brought Seb into the garage aiming to undercut the Mercedes in the pit stops.
Soon enough Rosberg appeared in the pit lane to switch onto his new soft tyres as he tried to cover off Vettel. But Vettel had attacked the track on his out lap and when Nico rejoined the track, he was looking at the rear end of the Ferrari. Not for long though, as Rosberg dove down the inside of Vettel at turn one once again to move ahead of the prancing horse.
Now Nico was looking at the rear of Hamilton’s car as Lewis came out of the pit lane right in front of the Vettel/Rosberg scrap. Unfortunately for Nico, he was unable to attack his team-mate fully as he needed to manage the fuel and his brakes. This kept the Sebastian’s Ferrari close behind but for lap after lap, the top four remained the same. Except Kimi found himself further down the road after switching to the medium compound tyres, rather than the softs like the top three.
Further down the track, Bottas continued to lap the Bahrain International Circuit in a world of his own in fifth, 4 seconds down on Raikkonen and 9 seconds clear of sixth placed Ricciardo. But continue going down the field and you would find Bottas’ team-mate, Massa, who had moved into the points after the first round of pit stops.
But Massa was being closely followed by his fellow Brazilian, Felipe Nasr as the Sauber clung onto the slipstream of the Williams. Then on lap 25, Nasr looked to move ahead at turn 11 but Massa defended well enough to keep the Sauber behind. But it would only be for that corner as Nasr cut back to gain the position into turn 12.
Soon enough they had Maldonado for company as the duo hit the pits for new tyres. But as the trio exited the pit lane, Maldonado found himself ahead of both Brazilians and Nasr was back behind Massa.
Shortly after the race hit mid-distance, the first car was parked on the side of the track. Carlos Sainz had just pitted in his Toro Rosso but when he rejoined the action, found himself with a car that felt strange. He believed his wheel had come off, but what was for sure was he was out of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Now more cars found themselves returning to the pit lane, including the top four. But when Kimi had the team tell him he would have soft tyres fitted to his car, the Finn barked back wanting to stay on the mediums. After all, he had been running on them for a long stint already with strong pace compared to his team mate on the softs.
Vettel incidentally had pitted for medium tyres and again completed the undercut on Rosberg for net second place. But shortly after Nico latched himself on to the gearbox of Vettel’s car into the final corner, Seb ran wide and onto the sandy, rough run off area. The slight run off at the final corner cost Vettel more than just position as the German broke the front wing and pitted soon after for a new one, leaving him in fifth place.
Meanwhile, Kimi continued to stretch out his middle stint and remained ahead of Lewis for the lead but with another pit stop to go. Unfortunately for Kimi, his progress was held up as Fernando Alonso in the McLaren looked to un-lap himself and as the McLaren was on the option tyres, it moved ahead at turn 8 leaving Lewis in sight Raikkonen.
But soon enough, Kimi was behind the Silver Arrow as Hamilton moved ahead on lap 40. An easy move for Hamilton gave the Brit back the lead of the race but Kimi would hit the pits soon after for his final stop and take on the soft tyres with 18 laps to go.
In third place, Kimi could close down the Silver Arrows but had a lot of work to do. The same was not the case for Vettel as he scrapped with Bottas for fourth place in what seemed like the Finn’s only action of the race.
By now another car had retired from the race in the form of Verstappen and Maldonado had come close to retirement. On lap 36 Verstappen pulled straight into the teams garage to retire his car, making the race a double DNF for Toro Rosso. And six laps, Pastor returned to the pit lane for a standard change of tyres. However as he sat in the box, his brakes overheated and began to smoke heavily. But Maldonado was soon on the radio reporting his engine cut out and the team managed to get him going again, albeit in 15th with only the Manor-Marussia cars behind.
With the soft tyres fitted, Raikkonen began to catch Rosberg hand over fist, taking chunks of time out of Nico’s advantage every lap. But it took Kimi until the penultimate to get ahead of Rosberg, and that only came after Nico made a mistake at turn one allowing Kimi to move ahead.
Then as Hamilton took the final lap, the team noticed a break issue had developed with both cars and that was the reason behind Nico’s mistake. If the race had lasted just one more lap Kimi would have also overtaken Lewis for the win but Hamilton held on, just about, and won the race by three seconds.
Bottas managed to hold off the threat of Vettel for lap after lap and claimed fourth place at the flag. But as the fireworks began to light up the Bahrain night sky, the pit straight filled up with smoke after a monumental blowout of Ricciardo’s Renault engine.
Surprisingly given the form of Renault this season, Ricciardo had made it onto the pit straight of the final lap before his engine gave up. The Aussie coasted to the flag to claim sixth, but what ended up as a strong result could easily have been snatched away had the blowout happened 10 or maybe even five seconds earlier.
After starting the race from the pit lane, Massa managed to claim 10th place and take a point away from Bahrain. But that point could so easily have been the first of the season for McLaren as Fernando Alonso ended the race just 4 seconds behind the Brazilian to take 11th place.