For the second time in two races in this young season, a botched pit stop has been the focal point of the race weekend.
In fact, the opening grand prix in Australia had three major pit related issues – two lead to the premature retirements of both Haas cars; each receiving fines of €5,000 – and the third cost Lewis Hamilton the win.
The race in Bahrain was a tightly fought back and forth affair between the two Ferrari’s and the two Mercedes cars. Up until a pitiful pit stop where a rear wheel change caused a Ferrari mechanic to be run over by the number seven car of Kimi Raikkonen – ultimately resulting in the driver’s retirement moments later.
The smoldering Scuderi sat abandoned on pit row as the flattened mechanic was hauled off on a stretcher. But the incident would also seriously hamper the other Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, who now was forced to change strategy and dash towards the checked flag on soft tires that would be overly worn out by about the seven remaining laps.
The two Mercedes cars were in hot pursuit running in second and third places and in good position to catch the runaway German in the Ferrari. Everything pointed towards a dramatic finish
Down to the final three laps, and en route towards a dynamite finish with the silver Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas hunting the flying Ferrari – and the Mercedes of the reigning world champion, Lewis Hamilton, just out of the picture but heading for a podium place regardless. Incredible given the Englishman had started from ninth after a five place grind penalty for a gear box change. It came down to the penultimate lap and a gap of less than a half second when Bottas made a valiant attempt to pull past the crafty German; but alas it was not to be, as Vettel, in his two hundredth grand prix stayed ahead to capture the forty-ninth victory of his storied career and remain at the head of the championship battle.
While it was a great race for Ferrari and Mercedes; it was a complete nightmare for the Red Bull team who retired both their cars in the opening five laps under the waning desert sun. Daniel Ricciardo had started fourth while team mate Max Verstappen had a disastrous weekend all around – crashing in qualifying and then retiring due to engine troubles shortly after Ricciardo.
As dusk set around Bahrain, young Pierre Gasly etched his name into the record books by bringing home his Toro Rosso in fourth place in just his sixth go-around. Kevin Magnussen continued his surprise start to the season by finishing fifth in his Haas. Nico Hulkenberg finish in sixth place while Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne led the resurging McLaren team into the points in seventh and eighth respectively. Marcus Ericsson, ninth, and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top ten.