Sebastian Vettel pipped Lewis Hamilton to win a tactical battle in Bahrain, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas slipping from pole to finish third
The 2017 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix was a thriller from the green light in the desert dusk to when the chequered flag fell in darkness under the spotlights – and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was greeted by the
fireworks that marked his second victory of this season.
Reigning Formula 1 World Champion, Nico Rosberg, may have been absent after his retirement over the winter, but his Mercedes AMG replacement Valtteri Bottas displayed why he was chosen by snatching his first pole position. Despite handling issues that would affect his pace, the Finn led the early stages. He led a train of cars headed by Vettel’s Ferrari, team-mate Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bull Racing cars of teenager Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen’s race was over just after his first tyre stop, when his car’s brakes failed, pitching him into the barrier. By then, Ferrari and Vettel had already played a smart tactical move with an early stop that would see him take command.
Bottas and Hamilton pitted together asthe Safety Car was deployed. Hamilton hung back in an attempt to ease the time damage his pit-stop would cause – and was awarded a five-second time penalty for hindering Ricciardo in the pit lane. This set up an amazing charge for the British driver as he tried to make amends, slicing into Vettel’s lead, having been 19 seconds behind at one point.
Hamilton ran out of laps, and had to settle for second place a handful of seconds behind, while Vettel’s 44th Grand Prix victory took him into the championship lead. “It was a great day,” said the German four-time World Champion after the podium ceremony. “It was a bit of a surprise how good my Ferrari was, but I love what I do, and I really enjoyed the fireworks as I finished. It is a beautiful trophy here in Bahrain too, one of the best of the season, and I’m so happy that I have won it.”
Hamilton was disappointed for his devoted fans. “We could have won without my mistake in the pits,” he admitted. “I tried my hardest to catch up, and it’s painful not to win. I have lots of amazing fans here in Bahrain and I always get a good reception. It’s an amazing race to come to for families. You get a good event, and you are by the water. It’s a great place for a race.”
Mercedes team-mate Bottas could not hide the disappointment of not making much of his first pole position, finishing in third place. “It was a shame to be so slow,” he said. “My target was higher. It has been the best weekend for me so far…. But there is more to come.”
By: Andy Hallbery