Vettel holds off late Hamilton charge to win Bahrain GP
17 April, 2017, 01:19 | Author: Alejandro Stokes
Hamilton was then handed a five seconds penalty for holding Ricciardo at the pit entry.
Hamilton, who had been so dominant in China last weekend was gracious in defeat but vowed to fight back.
Hamilton's Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas was third, after starting on pole position for the first time in his career.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth with Australian Daniel Ricciardo fifth for Red Bull and Brazilian Felipe Massa sixth for Williams on the 75th birthday of team founder Frank Williams.
By the halfway point, Vettel's lead was six seconds over Hamilton, who had just passed Bottas. In a matter of laps, the race had swung firmly in Vettel's favour.
Bottas made a clean start but Hamilton was beaten for pace by Vettel, who overtook him heading into the first corner. Hamilton and Ricciardo were now on softs, they did not have to stop again unlike Vettel and Bottas. "But the early pit stop worked", said Vettel. It was a bold move as the German returned to the track in 12th and soon came up behind a series of much slower midfield cars.
"We lost a lot of points, especially at the moment with the state the vehicle is, we should have taken a lot of points, and a bit unfortunate", the Dutchman said.
Also, Verstappen wasn't the only driver to retire from the race, as Stoffel Vandoorne failed to make the start with a power unit issue, Kevin Magnussen came to a stop on track due to a mechanical problem, and Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll collided in Turn 1 bringing out a safety auto.
And, but for his unwise decision to employ a spot of gamesmanship, he might well have been on the top step of the podium for the second race in succession.
He charged, on the freshest rubber of the leaders, and was two seconds a lap quicker than Bottas and just over a second up on Vettel, with the team telling him he had the pace to win.
"The pit lane situation was really my fault, so apologies to the team for losing time there", said Hamilton. The incidents were coming fast, with 18-year-old Lance Stroll hit from the side on lap 13 by Carlos Sainz Jr. - forcing the safety auto to come out. But with the penalty adding an additional five seconds to Hamilton's race time if he did not make another stop, even if Vettel finished behind the Mercedes on the road he only had to be within five-seconds to secure victory. On the restart, Vettel pulled away after initially defending from Bottas and then both the Finn and Ricciardo struggled, with Hamilton one of three cars - also including Raikkonen and Massa - to pass the Red Bull. Raikkonen's move was particularly impressive as he went around the outside of Turn 13 at high speed.
With Stoffel Vandoorne having failed to start due to a suspected MGU-H issue, Kevin Magnussen had already dropped out on lap 9 when Verstappen emerged from his pit stop and suffered brake failure at Turn 4. Hamilton moved into second place on Lap 27, Bottas putting up no resistance, freeing the Briton to try and make a revised strategy work in light of his penalty. The vehicle was really fantastic to drive and I could control the race in the end. After serving his five-second penalty, Hamilton rejoined in third with nothing to lose. The Ferrari was now fourth behind Hamilton, Bottas and Vettel in P1.
Vettel's win leaves him seven points clear of Hamilton at the top of the championship standings, with Bottas moving into third place, albeit 30 points off the lead.
Sakhir, Bahrain - 16/04/17 - Pit crew and mechanics surround Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel in the pit lane.
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