Monday, 23 July, 2018

Vettel marks 200th race in style in Bahrain

Kimi Raikonnen Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen races at the Bahrain GP on Sunday. Getty Images
Charlie Simmons | 10 April, 2018, 20:18

After Bottas took pole for Mercedes a year ago, it was Sebastian Vettel who triumphed and extended his championship lead.

While Red Bull also suffered a calamitous weekend, with an early double retirement from the team, owing to Daniel Ricciardo's system failure and Max Verstappen's collision with Hamilton.

Vettel still held a five-second advantage as the race entered its final 10 laps but Bottas began closing in, and got within DRS range on the penultimate lap, setting up a grandstand finish.

Bottas did close to within a second on Vettel at the death but did not have quite enough to pass. Ferrari had taken a chance that Vettel could make the rubber work to the end and it proved to be an inspired decision and the German brought his vehicle home to claim the win.

The energy drink company's other team Toro Rosso celebrated a remarkable day, however, with fourth place for French driver Pierre Gasly.

Haas confusion: Kevin Magnussen did well to convert Haas' pace into a fifth place finish but he was sarcastically congratulating his team mid-way through the race.

Hartley, Verstappen and Force India's Sergio Perez were then eliminated from Q2, along with Fernando Alonso and his McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne.

Meanwhile, Red Bull endured a disastrous evening as Daniel Ricciardo's vehicle suffered a loss of power on the opening lap while Max Verstappen's RB14 was severely damaged after a collision with Hamilton's Mercedes.

Red Bull had an terrible race, with Ricciardo and Verstappen retiring within six laps.

Kimi Raikkonen
Francesco Cigorini suffered a double leg break. Sky Sports screenshot

This left Vettel to contend with the silver arrows on his own as both Mercedes drivers comitted to a one-stop strategy, forcing the German to run his set of soft tyres to the ragged edge. Race director Charlie Whiting red-flagged the session while the stricken Red Bull was recovered, with Verstappen climbing out of the vehicle and reporting he was unscathed.

That should theoretically allow him to go longer in the race before needing to pit, opening up strategic possibilities Mercedes might be able to exploit in the event of a safety vehicle, like Ferrari did in Australia.

From the onset, Ferrari seemed to have the superior vehicle this weekend to that of Mercedes.

Coming in for his second stop, Raikkonen's left-rear tire was slow coming off and Ferrari had yet to remove it when the vehicle was dropped from the jacks and the pit lane light went green, leading Raikkonen to pull away and hit a mechanic working on his stuck tire. The Mercedes' tyres were in a better condition in the final ten laps and Bottas quickly shaved four seconds off the Ferrari's lead between lap 49 and lap 54.

Vettel clocked 1:27.958 to take pole, with Valterri Bottas third ahead of his Mercedes team-mate and world champion Hamilton.

An error from Vettel put Raikkonen on provisional pole, but the German responded well with his final attacking lap to secure his 51st career pole and first since Mexico last season.

Raikkonen then made a second stop that threatened to inject a strategic variable into the lead fight but ended up removing him from the picture. That represented a stunning turnaround for Honda, Toro Rosso's engine partners after three nightmare years at McLaren.

Vettel's victory ensures he has maximum points from the first two races, with Hamilton - who called Verstappen a "d***head" after seeing a replay of their clash - second in the standings but already 17 points adrift. Hamilton could only manage fourth fastest in Q3, just behind his team mate Valtteri Bottas.

Marcus Ericsson scored his first points in 50 races in ninth for Sauber with Esteban Ocon completing the top 10.

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