- Jul 23, 2014
Lewis Hamilton won his third race of the 2015 Formula 1 season with a controlled, commanding victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix, the second win in the desert kingdom for the reigning, defending World Champion and his Mercedes-Benz AMG Petronas team.
Hamilton's thirty-sixth career victory came by a margin of 3.3 seconds, despite a compounding issue with the Mercedes W06's brake-by-wire system, and a hard charge from Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, who used an alternate tyre strategy to the rest of the leaders to his advantage and scored his seventh Bahrain podium finish - and more importantly, the first for the 2007 World Champion since his return to Ferrari in what proved to be a difficult 2014 season.
From the start of the race, it seemed as if Mercedes' Nico Rosberg would fold under the pressure again after he conceded third to Raikkonen off the starting grid. He fought valiantly past Raikkonen and his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel to move up to second place, holding off Raikkonen until, with two laps to go, the same brake-by-wire issue that hampered Hamilton on his last lap forced him to cough up second place to Raikkonen - at the first corner named in honor of Ferrari's greatest champion, and Rosberg's former Mercedes teammate, Michael Schumacher last year.
Valtteri Bottas proved to be the "best of the rest" again, finishing fourth for Williams in what was a fairly quiet, yet productive drive for the Finnish driver - he held off four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel for fifth place. Vettel seemed to have the pace to challenge for a podium finish like his Ferrari teammate Raikkonen, but two unforced errors - the last of which forced the team to replace his damaged front wing immediately after making his second scheduled pit stop - relegated the Malaysia winner to fifth overall.
Lucky to hold onto his sixth place finish was Daniel Ricciardo, whose Renault power unit exploded into fine-tuned confetti exiting the very last corner, his Red Bull RB11 crawling to a halt just after the finish line.
Romain Grosjean finished seventh for the second consecutive race this year, at the track where he scored his first career podium way back in 2012. Finishing eighth was Sergio Perez, who stood third on the podium last year for Force India. Daniil Kvyat made an excellent recovery from an appalling 17th starting spot to finish 9th for Red Bull, as did two-time Bahrain winner Felipe Massa of Williams, whose car started from the pit lane after stalling on the dummy grid - he held onto 10th despite driving most of the race with damage to his floor.
McLaren Honda supporters worldwide will be encouraged by Fernando Alonso finishing within a fingertip of the points in 11th, as the MP4-30 and the Honda power unit continue to make incremental progress as the season moves on to the European leg, but they will rue that Jenson Button was unable to start the race due to the same recurring ERS failure that prevented the 2009 Bahrain winner and World Champion from taking part in qualifying last night.
Also wishing for better fortune in the mechanical department would be Scuderia Toro Rosso, whose dynamic rookie drivers Carlos Sainz (loose wheel) and Max Verstappen (engine failure) was the dismal coup de grace during a race where their pace was ultimately compromised by a de-tuned Renault power unit that not only stripped them of their pace, but also failed to provide reliability as a fair trade in return. They were the only two retirements from tonight's race.
Amazingly not among them was Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado, whose eventful race involved a five-second penalty for accidentally lining up in Jenson Button's vacated grid spot, a collision with Massa that compromised the Brazilian's race, several off track excursions in the opening laps, and an eventful pit-lane exit right up alongside Massa and Sauber rookie Felipe Nasr. All that before climbing all the way up to seventh place on merit - and then, like clockwork, an anti-stall mechanism issue on his second stop threw that all away. The Venezuelan did, however, make it to the finish for the first time this season, albeit two laps down in 15th, only ahead of the Manor duo of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.
Formula 1 thus wraps up its first overseas excursion before returning to Europe with the Spanish Grand Prix in three weeks. Like last year, it is clear that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-Benz are going to be the favorites to take the Drivers' and Constructors' Championships, but after the last three races, it is very apparent that Scuderia Ferrari, Vettel, and Raikkonen pose a legitimate threat to their aspirations of repeating as champions. Which can only be a good thing in the long run.
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes
- Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari
- Nico Rosberg - Mercedes
- Valtteri Bottas - Williams Mercedes
- Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari
- Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull Renault
- Romain Grosjean - Lotus Mercedes
- Sergio Perez - Force India Mercedes
- Daniil Kvyat - Red Bull Renault
- Felipe Massa - Williams Mercedes
- Fernando Alonso - McLaren Honda
- Felipe Nasr - Sauber Ferrari
- Nico Hulkenberg - Force India Mercedes
- Marcus Ericsson - Sauber Ferrari
- Pastor Maldonado - Lotus Mercedes
- Will Stevens - Manor Marussia Ferrari
- Roberto Merhi - Manor Marussia Ferrari
DNS: Jenson Button