Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton wins epic as disaster strikes for Ferrari
Hamilton takes unexpected victory as luckless Leclerc hits engine trouble and finishes third; Vettel spins while battling Hamilton; Norris a superb sixth for improving McLaren
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 01/04/19 4:53pm
Lewis Hamilton won a chaotic and incident-filled Bahrain GP after disaster struck for Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc cruelly denied a first F1 victory after engine issues while Sebastian Vettel span in a tussle with Hamilton's Mercedes.
Ferrari appeared to be heading towards a much-needed win with Leclerc and Vettel running first and second with less than 20 laps remaining, but Mercedes stole an unexpected one-two and victory off their rivals.
Vettel was the first of the Ferraris to falter after spinning and sustaining heavy damage to his car when trying to fend off Hamilton at Turn Four, while Leclerc, who had dominated the weekend, missed out on a deserved maiden F1 win after suffering late reliability problems.
Leclerc finished third behind Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, while Vettel was only fifth.
"Of course I'm extremely disappointed," said Leclerc, who had a 10s advantage in the lead before reporting his power unit issue on Lap 46. "It's a very hard one to take."
Hamilton offered his commiserations to the Ferrari youngster, adding: "That was extremely unfortunate for Charles, he drove such a great race."
But while Leclerc can take positives from an error-free performance and a first podium, Vettel will be left ruing another mistake in wheel-to-wheel combat.
"Vettel is continuing what he was doing last year, messing it up again, spinning around again in a battle," said Sky F1's Nico Rosberg.
"It's unbelievable that it keeps on happening to him."
Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished ahead of Vettel in fourth, while Lando Norris was a superb sixth for McLaren.
The British rookie, 19, brilliantly held off the experienced Kimi Raikkonen, while Alex Albon also secured his first F1 points.
Vettel's flaw, Renault disaster: How dramatic race unfolded
The second race of the F1 2019 season was an epic from start to finish.
Vettel stormed off the line to take the lead off the slow-starting Leclerc, who dropped to third behind Bottas before overtaking the Mercedes a lap later, with Hamilton also getting past the Finn.
Carlos Sainz then collided with Max Verstappen when trying to battle for fifth, which ended what was looking like an extremely strong evening for McLaren's Spaniard.
Then it was Leclerc's time to make a move. He quickly gained on Vettel after his poor start to overtake the four-time world champion for the lead on Lap 6.
Mercedes executed the undercut perfectly with their first pit-stop to bring Hamilton out in front of Vettel, but the Englishman struggled on the soft tyres and his title rival from 2018 soon got back ahead for second.
But Hamilton closed up to Vettel again on Lap 38 after a second stop brought him back out on medium tyres, and after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle through consecutive corners, the Ferrari span as the Mercedes made a move around the outside.
Vettel's tyres were ruined, and he was soon without a front wing as well when it spectacularly flew off as he tried to make it back to the pits. That eventual stop left him down in ninth and facing a mammoth recovery job.
A downbeat Vettel reflected: "It was difficult. We all struggled at various points in the race but l really struggled at the start of the race. Overall, there was not the pace l wanted. And on top, I had the mistake with the spin. Not a good evening."
That left Leclerc as Ferrari's sole remaining hope but he started to lose power with just over 10 laps to go, and was then losing well over a second-a-lap to Hamilton.
An apologetic Hamilton sailed past the ailing Ferrari, as did Bottas. Now Leclerc was facing the possibility of missing the podium altogether as Verstappen closed in.
Leclerc was eventually saved by a late Safety Car, caused by a worrying DNF for Renault as both Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, who made contact earlier in the race, suffered reliability failures on the same lap from sixth and 10th.
Bahrain was a crushing blow for Ferrari. But Mercedes are still adamant that the Scuderia are the team to beat in F1 2019 - particularly on circuits which favour straight-line speed.
Ferrari need a positive weekend in China, which takes place on April 12-14 on Sky Sports F1.
Bahrain GP race result
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes|
|2) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+2.980|
|3) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+6.131|
|4) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+6.408|
|5) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+36.068|
|6) Lando Norris||McLaren||+45.754|
|7) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+47.470|
|8) Pierre Gasly||Red Bull||+58.094|
|9) Alex Albon||Toro Rosso||+62.697|
|10) Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+63.696|
|11) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+64.599|
|12) Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+1 LAP|
|13) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+1 LAP|
|14) Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+1 LAP|
|15) George Russell||Williams||+1 LAP|
|16) Robert Kubica||Williams||+1 LAP|
|Did not finish|
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