Lewis Hamilton has won the Bahrain Grand Prix after going wheel-to-wheel with Nico Rosberg, in another crushing display by Mercedes. The pair secured the second Mercedes 1-2 in as many races finishing over 20 seconds clear of third placed man Sergio Perez. It was a welcome return to the podium for Force India and Perez after the Mexican endured a difficult year with McLaren in 2013.
The race was dominated by inter-team battles as Force India, Williams, and Red Bull drivers fought hard with their team-mates to finish ahead. Perez battled hard with team-mate Nico Hulkenberg to finish on the podium. Hulkenberg, who had started in eleventh, finished in fifth place after losing out to a fast Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages of the race. After the team order incident in Malaysia, in which Felipe Massa was told “Valtteri is faster than you”, the Williams duo were once again running line astern throughout the race. Massa came out on top – just – finishing six tenths ahead of his team-mate. Ricciardo got the better of team-mate Sebastian Vettel. The Australian driver started in 13th, three places behind his team-mate, but by the end of the race had passed him (after a radio message was sent to Vettel saying his team-mate was faster) and was chasing down Perez for third but ran out of laps. He finished just four tenths off the Mexican. Elsewhere in the top ten Ferrari compounded a difficult weekend with ninth and tenth. Running well off the pace, Kimi Raikkonen complained at the start of the race that he had been hit by Kevin Magnussen again. The pair had a coming together in Malaysia, which Magnussen was penalised for and it ruined Raikkonen’s afternoon after he picked up a puncture. Ferrari have admitted they are just not fast enough at times and while finishing in lowly positions, they still managed to pick up points.
The same could not be said for McLaren, who suffered their first double DNF since the end of 2012. Both drivers retired with clutch problems, although Jenson Button was classified. Magnussen’s afternoon had already been underwhelming before his retirement, losing three positions at the start and never really making an impact as McLaren are another team who are struggling with outright pace. Button had been running solidly in the top ten before his problems. A safety car saw him drop down the order when the field were bunched together, and he soon retired his car in the pits. Other non finishers in the race were Marcus Ericsson (who had an oil leak), Jean-Eric Vergne (who had accident damage), and Adrian Sutil who was crashed into by Jules Bianchi (who received a penalty for it). Sutil’s team-mate had a scary departure from the race after he was T-boned by Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado. Esteban Gutierrez’s car was sent airborne and rolled. The Mexican, whose reaction was surprisingly understated (“wow, what was that?”) was taken to the medical centre and flown to hospital as a precaution, but is said to be alright. Maldonado, who went on to record his first finish of the year, received three penalty points, a five place grid drop for China and a ten second stop/go penalty during the race.
A late safety car (to retrieve Gutierrez’s car) bunched the field up and resulted in just one driver – Bianchi, who had to serve a drive through penalty during the race – being lapped. He finished behind Kamui Kobayashi, Maldonado, and Max Chilton, who finished in 13th place. Romain Grosjean got another finish for Lotus, although down in 12th, with Daniil Kvyat finishing just outside the points in 11th.
It was an exciting race with plenty of close racing. It was certainly a fitting way to celebrate the 900th Formula One race. The safety car added further to the drama as it brought Rosberg, who was faster in the closing stages, right back into contention. He tried a number of overtaking moves but just could not find a way past Hamilton that he could make stick. The next race is the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks time.