Heartbreak for Leclerc as Hamilton winsposted in F131 | 03 | 2019

    LEWIS HAMILTON MAY have crossed the line first and taken the chequered flag, but without question the true winner of the Bahrain Grand Prix was Ferrari new boy, Charles Leclerc. (Related: Exclusive interview with F1 boss Ross Brawn)

    The 21-year-old polesitter had dominated the race, at one stage opening up an eight-second lead over the Mercedes of five-time world champ Hamilton. But there was heartbreak when, with 10 of the 57 laps round the Sakhir International Circuit, his car suffered a cylinder issue.

    Undaunted, Leclerc battled to keep his car competitive, despite dropping 40km/h, and though both Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas eased ahead, the Monaco driver held on to claim third … aided by a late Safety Car.

    And Hamilton was quick to console Leclerc and pay tribute to the Ferrari youngster, who outpaced his team-mate, four-time world champ Sebastian Vettel. The German compounded his misery by spinning when being overtaken by Hamilton.


    “We were very, very lucky to get this 1-2,” Hamilton, who claimed the 74th career grand prix victory, his first of the 2019 season and third in Bahrain, said afterwards. “Charles was the quickest guy out there and should’ve won the race.

    “Ferrari outperformed us all weekend. Ultimately you want to have a real fight and want to pass someone because you’re quicker, so it feels a bit weird and you can’t quite believe your luck in these scenarios.

    “I have been in similar situations and I know how it feels, but Charles did a great job all weekend long and has a beautiful, bright future ahead of him.”


    Behind the top three, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished fourth, unable to capitalise on Leclerc’s woes as the Safety Car eased the drivers over the finish line.

    Despite dropping behind Vettel at the start, Leclerc soon regained the lead and delivered an imperious, mature drive ahead of the field, controlling his pace and the gap to the chasing pack.


    Victory seemed assured until the technical gremlins reared their ugly heads deep in his Ferrari engine. But as the chasing pack reeled him in, with Verstappen on course to take the final podium position, Leclerc was handed a lifeline.

    With three laps remaining, and with both Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Riccrairdo on course to finish sixth and seventh respectively, disaster struck with three laps remaining.


    Unbelievably, at the same corner, both cars suffered terminal engine failure. And with marshals unable to move the stricken cars, the Safety Car was deployed, thus ensuring Leclerc finished on the podium.

    With Vettel recovering from his spin to finish fifth, Lando Norris finished a career-best sixth in only his second grand prix for McLaren. Team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr's race had earlier been ruined after contact with Verstappen while trying to pass the Red Bull around the outside at Turn 4 early on.


    The top 10 was completed by the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen, ahead of the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly, with Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon claiming his first points finish with ninth. The final championship point went to Sergio Perez in his Racing Point.

    Australian GP winner Bottas heads to China in a fortnight leading the title race by one point ahead of Hamilton, who in turn is 16 points ahead of third-placed Verstappen. Vettel is currently fifth, five points further adrift, and four behind his new team-mate Leclerc.


    Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir International Circuit —  Result:

    1. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport 57 laps

    2. Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport + 2.980s

    3. Charles Leclerc MON Scuderia Ferrari + 6.131s

    4. Max Verstappen NED Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda + 6.408s

    5. Sebastian Vettel GER Scuderia Ferrari + 36.068s

6. Lando Norris GBR McLaren F1 Team + 45.754s

    7. Kimi Raikkonen ITA Alfa Romeo Racing + 47.470s

    8. Pierre Gasly FRA Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda + 58.094s

    9. Alexander Albon THA Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda + 62.697s

    10. Sergio Perez MEX SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team + 63.696s

    11. Antonio Giovinazzi ITA Alfa Romeo Racing + 64.599s

    12. Daniil Kvyat RUS Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda + 1 lap

    13. Kevin Magnussen DEN Rich Energy Haas F1 Team + 1 lap

    14. Lance Stroll CAN SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team + 1 lap

    15. George Russell GBR Williams Racing + 1 lap

    16. Robert Kubica POL Williams Racing + 2 laps

    Did Not Finish:

    Daniel Ricciardo AUS Renault F1 Team

    Nico Hulkenberg GER Renault F1 Team

Carlos Sainz ESP McLaren F1 Team

Romain Grosjean FRA Rich Energy Haas F1 Team

    Related: Hamilton cruises to Abu Dhabi win

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    Jim McGill

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