Lewis Hamilton notched up his third win of the year by taking the chequered flag first at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
It was a nervy final 20 laps for the team as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen mounted a charge and eventually passed Nico Rosberg. Both Silver Arrows cars limped across the line with brake issues and, had the race been a few laps longer, it could have been Raikkonen on the top step of the podium.
Hamilton started the race on pole position ahead of Sebastian Vettel while Rosberg and Raikkonen lined up on the second row. Before the race McLaren confirmed that Jenson Button would not be taking part due to an ERS problem. He had already endured a difficult weekend, completing minimal laps in practice and breaking down on his out lap in qualifying. He instead took to live tweeting during the race. Felipe Massa nearly failed to make the start after stalling on the grid but the team were able to get him fired up in the pit-lane and as a result he started at the back of the pack.
Prior to the race even starting Carlos Sainz was handed a five second stop/go penalty for exceeding the time limit for his reconnaissance lap. Pastor Maldonado also picked up the same penalty for being out of position on the grid. When the lights went out Raikkonen moved up to third ahead of Rosberg. It did not take long for the Mercedes driver to move back ahead, however, and he soon set off on pursuit of Vettel. He overtook his fellow countryman but throughout the race he had to pass him twice more. Vettel pitted twice attempting to make the undercut work – which it did – but Rosberg found a way through each time. It was an uncharacteristically scruffy race for the four time world champion who locked up and ran deep a number of times. On one occasion he ran wide and picked up some damage to his front wing meaning he had to add an extra pit-stop. His advantage, however, was enough that he was able to hold on to fifth position.
While most of the front runners took on the soft tyres again – leaving a stint on the medium tyres on the end – while Raikkonen went in the opposite direction. He pitted for the final time on lap 40 and started reeling the leaders in at a rate of about two seconds a lap. He continued to put the pressure on and Rosberg ran wide at Turn 1 allowing him through. It later transpired that Rosberg had brake issues as did race leader Hamilton but Raikkonen ran out of laps to catch him. It was Raikkonen’s first visit to the podium since the latter half of 2013.
Elsewhere it was an eventful end to the race for Daniel Ricciardo whose engine gave up at the final corner. He limped across the line giving Red Bull a double points finish. In total contrast both Toro Rosso drivers failed to finish – Sainz at the side of the track and Max Verstappen retiring in the garage. Maldonado nearly became a third retirement as he suffered with engine problems during his pit-stop but he managed to keep going. Also in the points were Valterri Bottas in fourth for Williams, Romain Grosjean in seventh for Lotus, Sergio Perez eighth, Daniil Kvyat ninth and Felipe Massa in tenth. Massa’s tyres started to go off towards the end of the race and Fernando Alonso started closing the gap rapidly. When they crossed the line at the end of the race Alonso was just around four seconds behind the Williams driver while he had been 15 seconds back. Alonso had had a battle with the front runners earlier in the race – unlapping himself when they started to catch him.
The next race signals the start of the European season with the Spanish Grand Prix.