Sebastian Vettel powered Ferrari to a sensational victory on Sunday night in a drama-filled Formula 1 2018 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, held under the bright lights of Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir.
Vettel overcame a threatening challenge from Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes who tried to chase him down and steal the chequered flag late on. But Vettel was able to hold on to the slightest of advantages despite a slower car over the race’s last few laps.
The German eventually won by just 0.699 seconds. He completed the 57-lap sprint after starting from pole in a total race time of 1 hour 32 minutes 01.940 seconds, taking the chequered flag as a brilliant display of fireworks lit up the desert sky.
“I was not in control, I thought Valtteri would catch me,” Vettel said afterwards. “I nursed the tyres and it worked, but only just!”
The win was a record fourth in Sakhir in Vettel’s illustrious career, and also his 49th overall in 200 grand prix starts. The result was also his second triumph in a row to start the 2018 season after also winning the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last month.
Vettel and Bottas were joined on the podium by reigning World champion Lewis Hamilton, who also had an exceptional drive after starting from ninth. Hamilton was classified 6.512 seconds behind first place.
Presenting the top three their respective trophies in the podium ceremony were His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister. Also on hand were Youth and Sports Affairs Minister Hisham Al Jowder, Bahrain Motor Federation President Shaikh Abdulla bin Isa Al Khalifa, and Gulf Air CEO Kresimir Kucko.
Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso had a fantastic race on his Bahrain debut in a Formula 1 car. He finished fourth but was a massive 1 minute 02.234 seconds behind first place.
Kevin Magnussen of Haas was an impressive fifth 1:15.046 back, and Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth in his Renault 1:39.024s behind. The McLaren pair of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne followed, while Marcus Ericsson of Sauber and Esteban Ocon of Force India rounded out the top 10 and the final points takers – each of whom were a lap off pace.
Despite Vettel’s win, it wasn’t all smiles for Ferrari as Kimi Raikkonen had a shock exit 35 laps in. The Finn had knocked down a mechanic during his second pit-stop and didn’t continue from there.
Red Bull Racing, meanwhile, had a disastrous night with both star drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen ending their campaigns in the race’s opening stages.
Ricciardo suddenly stopped out on track and hopped out of his Red Bull after just two laps. Little was known right after his retirement as to what had happened to his car, but Red Bull later revealed it was due to a suspected electrical engine issue. Verstappen had a collision with Hamilton on lap one, which resulted in a damaged left-rear tyre. He pitted for a change but the damage proved to be too much.
Completing the overall classification from 11th to 17th, respectively, were Carlos Sainz of Renault, Sergio Perez of Force India, Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso, Charles Leclerc of Sauber, Romain Grosjean of Haas, and Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin of Williams.
The FIA Formula 1 World Championship resumes next weekend with the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai International Circuit.