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Sebastian Vettel wins breathless F1 Bahrain Grand Prix as both Red Bulls take early bath

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Sebastian Vettel wins breathless F1 Bahrain Grand Prix as both Red Bulls take early bath
Apr 8, 2018, 5:49 PM

Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix in a breathless finish, with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas closing up in the final laps.

Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix in a breathless finish, with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas closing up in the final laps.

It was a magnificently judged drive by Vettel, who managed to get the soft tyres to last 39 laps. Bottas had the chance to win it, but lacked the killer instinct when presented with an opportunity to pass on the final lap.

It was Vettel's fourth win in Bahrain and the 49th of his career, now standing just two wins behind Alain Prost who is third in the all time winners' list.

"I came on the radio and said, I have it under control, I was lying," joked Vettel

"I thought it was check mate when they went to the medium tyres, but we made the tyres last and fortunately he ran out of laps."

Hamilton was third, struggling with radio issues and consequently unclear as to what the team wanted him to do. He finished ahead of Pierre Gasly who put in a superb weekend's work to finish fourth for Toro Rosso, giving Honda their best finish since they came back.

Magnussen made up for the disappointment of Australia in fifth. Hulkenberg and Alonso followed. Marcus Ericsson did a superb job also to score two points for Sauber in ninth, after also making the one stop strategy work on mediums.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen retired from the race in bizarre circumstances, running over one of his Ferrari mechanics as he left his pit box with one soft tyre and three supersofts on at his second stop.

The last time Ferrari won the first two races of the season was 2004. Vettel leads Hamilton by 17 points after two rounds.

It was a strategic race, a chess match, with Mercedes using the medium tyre to one stop, while Ferrari were caught in a bind after starting on a supersoft/soft initial strategy. The choice was to stay out and try to make the softs last against the more robust medium tyre on the Mercedes or pit again for supersoft tyres. Ferrari managed to keep Mercedes guessing and although Bottas eventually attacked, he wasn't able to swing the result.

Hamilton and Verstappen started on the soft tyres, along with Perez, Alonso, Ericsson, Leclerc and Stroll.

At the start Bottas from the clean side of the jumped Raikkonen for second place. There was contact between Perez and Hartley which spun the Force India. Hulkenerg hit Magnussen but both continued, with Magnussen up to fifth by lap two.

On the second lap Verstappen put a bold move on Hamilton into Turn 1 and got ahead, but making contact with his front wing, got a puncture which dropped him down the order and ultimately into retirement.

"I had a good run onto the straight. I got ahead in the corner, of course you try to squeeze each other but he gave ma a puncture and destroyed the differential," said Verstappen. The stewards saw nothing wrong with it.

At the same moment Daniel Ricciardo pulled off the race track. Both Red Bulls taking an early bath.

So the order behind the Virtual Safety Car was Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Gasly, Magnussen, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Hamilton and Hartley the top ten. Hartley was given a time penalty for the collision with Perez.

Magnussen tried to pass Gasly at the restart on lap four, but ran wide.

On Lap five Hamilton passed three cars into Turn 1 to go sixth. He passed Magnussen easily for fifth a lap later, but was 12 seconds behind Vettel at this point.

Vettel took the opportunity to push hard and build a gap, setting fastest laps over three tenths quicker than Bottas. By lap 8 he was almost three seconds ahead, while Hamilton was 14 seconds behind the Ferrari driver.

After eight laps the drivers on supersoft tyres who were in traffic were starting to complain about the tyres losing grip. Bahrain is a track that punishes the rear tyres with all the acceleration events out of slow corners.

Mercedes struggled with overheating the rear supersoft tyres last year and they were carrying that problem into this year's race.

Stroll had front wing damage and pitted for a new nose and a set of supersoft tyres.

By lap 13 Vettel had a 3.5 second gap to Bottas, so was out of undercut range, while Bottas had a similar margin to Raikkonen.

Magnussen pitted, earlier than ideal because of the damage to the tyres in the opening lap skirmish. But it dropped him out behind the Williams cars.

Alonso pitted a lap later from eighth onto medium tyres, having seen that Leclerc was setting competitive lap times on that tyre and with 45 laps to go was looking to reach the finish.

Gasly pitted on Lap 16 as did Hulkenberg and Ocon. Gasly rejoined in lots of clear air while Hulkenberg was behind Magnussen and ahead of Alonso. The Frenchman drove a great race, pitting again for supersofts and running in fourth place.

At the front Hamilton brought the gap to the leader down to 13.8 seconds, while Bottas also closed in on Vettel.

Hulkenberg and Alonso both easily passed Sirotkin, who had not stopped, for 10th place.

Bottas closed in, looking to get into undercut range.

On Lap 19 Vettel pitted from the lead, to over off the possible undercut. Bottas stayed out and Hamilton also swept past. Hamilton was told they were sticking to Plan A.

Vettel in clear air on new soft tyres was very fast.

On Lap 20 Ferrari pitted Raikkonen to challenge Bottas, who stayed out on track. Vettel was 18 seconds behind Bottas, within range for a pit stop.

Mercedes reacted with Bottas and put him onto the medium tyre meaning a one stop strategy. At the front Vettel was over a second a lap faster than the leader Hamilton.

Ericsson who had started on the soft tyre was up to sixth place at this stage, hoping for a Virtual safety car or Safety car to get a cheap pit stop.

Both Ferraris were very fast on the soft tyre, Raikkonen closing on Bottas on Lap 22.

Meanwhile the two Williams were an astonishing 75 and 87 seconds respectively off the lead after 24 laps, on one of the most uncompetitive weekends in their history.

Vettel caught Hamilton on Lap 25 and lined up a pass down the back straight. Vettel tried again at the start of the next lap and passed Hamilton for the lead. Hamilton made little defence of the position.

Raikkonen was told that Bottas was going to the end and that he should try to overtake him.

Mercedes pitted Hamilton on Lap 27 and rejoined into a huge amount of clear air in fourth place ahead of Gasly who was maintaining excellent pace in the Honda engined Toro Rosso.

Raikkonen pitted on Lap 36 and ran over a mechanic as the left rear tyre was left on the car with three supersofts fitted. He retired on the spot.

Vettel began to push on lap 39, opening the gap to Bottas and shaping up to make a late stop for supersofts. But the laps kept ticking down without a stop. Bottas upped his pace, Ferrari considering the gap to Hamilton the title rival as much as to Bottas for the race win.

Bottas stepped it up for the win with five laps to go, taking seven tenths of a second a lap out of Vettel's lead, a win in his sights.

What did you think of the race? Who was your Driver of the Day? Leave your comment in the section below

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Series Formula 1