- Vettel takes lead in F1 Drivers’ Championship
- Russian GP takes place on Sunday April 30
The 2017 Formula One World Championship is shaping up to be one of the most keenly fought in recent years after Sebastian Vettel produced a commanding performance at Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Vettel took the checkered flag with ease at the Bahrain International Circuit, nearly seven seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton to claim his second win of the season and the outright lead in the F1 Drivers’ Championship.
Hamilton chased Vettel all the way to the end but was ultimately hampered by a mistake earlier in the race.
In a congested pit lane, Hamilton was deemed by race stewards to have driven “unnecessarily slowly” in front of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.
It was a misdemeanor that cost him a five-second time penalty which he served during a second pit stop to change tires on lap 41 of the 57-lap race.
Vettel had assumed the lead from pole sitter Valtteri Bottas earlier in the grand prix as the Finn struggled with over-steering on his Mercedes.
The German also profited from an early pit stop on lap 10 and a period under the Safety Car a few laps later after Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’ Lance Stroll collided at turn one.
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With clean air ahead of him, Vettel built up what proved to be an unassailable lead and the win puts clear daylight between himself and Hamilton in the title fight — 68 points plays 61 after three rounds.
“Right from the first lap I felt the car was there,” Vettel said on the podium.
“The car was a dream today … the last half of the in-lap with the fireworks & the track lit up, I just thought I love what I do,” the German added.
Hamilton, who had been so dominant in China last weekend, was gracious in defeat but vowed to fight back.
“The pit lane (incident) was really my fault so apologies to the team for losing the time there … but I gave it everything I could. We will come back fighting.”
For his Mercedes teammate there was also disappointment — the Finn unable to convert his first F1 pole into a long-overdue first win.
“It was just over-steering all through the race, that’s why the pace was slow,” Bottas lamented.
“It’s a shame: the target today was a lot, lot higher.”
Verstappen retires, Alonso vents frustration
Further down the field it was a day of frustration.
Max Verstappen, who started in sixth, was running well until his Red Bull inexplicably had a brake failure shortly after the teenager had pitted on lap 12.
Verstappen was helpless as he watched his car go straight on at turn 4 and into the barriers at low speed and out of the race.
McLaren endured another miserable race weekend with Stoffel Vandoorne unable to start the race due to engine problems and Fernando Alonso making his annoyance clear over team radio at his car’s lack of oomph.
“Three-hundred meters behind me and they overtake me on the straight,” Alonso told his team over the radio midway through the race.
“I’ve never raced with less power in my life.”
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After battling for a points finish, the Spaniard endured the agony of having to retire two laps from the end with engine trouble.
Points for Haas and Renault
Better days were had by both the Haas F1 Team — Romain Grosjean steered his way to eighth place — and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg bagged his first points finish of the season after coming home ninth.
After back-to-back races in China and Bahrain, F1 takes a short break before returning in two week’s time for the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom on April 30.
Bahrain Grand Prix: Top 10
1: Vettel (Ferrari) 25 points
2: Hamilton (Mercedes) 18
3: Bottas (Mercedes) 15
4: Raikkonen (Ferrari) 12
5: Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing) 10
6: Massa (Williams) 8
7: Perez (Force India) 6
8: Grosjean (Haas) 4
9: Hulkenberg (Renault) 2
10: Ocon (Force India) 1