At the start of the race, Pole sitter Bottas led Vettel and Hamilton going into the first corner. Vettel had beaten Hamilton at the get-go to go second, right behind Bottas. Max Verstappen made up a couple of positions when he went sixth to fourth in matter of a few corners.
In the early going, Bottas was pursued hard by Vettel, and the two were separated by less than a second. The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen had been passed by Felipe Massa’s Williams as the Finn dropped to sixth. Raikkonen would reclaim back fifth place at turn 1 on lap 8. The race order after ten laps were Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Raikkonen and Massa.
A yellow flag was waved when Kevin Magnussen retired his Haas by the trackside. The pitlane opened as Vettel was quick to come in for a tyre change. He rejoined the race in 12th. Up front, the two Mercedes led the race; Bottas in front of Hamilton. Moments later, Verstappen would crash out at turn 4, no thanks to a brake failure.
On lap 14, Wiliams’ Lance Stroll stopped his car at the first corner after tangling with Carloz Sainz’s Toro Rosso. Both cars retired and brought forth the safety car. This gave the race leaders the opportunity to pit for new shods. Due to a pile up in the Mercedes pit, Daniel RIcciardo managed to jump Hamilton for second place when they rejoined the track. While the race leaders pitted, Vettel assumed the race lead from Bottas, Ricciardo and Hamilton.
Behind the race leaders, Massa made up fifth place when he dispatched Raikkonen during the safety car period. By lap 17, the race went green and it was back to top speeds for the race leaders. Hamilton quickly reclaimed back second from Ricciardo, who was then overtaken by Massa and Raikkonen. On lap 20, Hamilton was handed a drive-through for an impression of slowing down Riccirado in the pitlane earlier.
At the head of the order, Vettel had 3-sec lead from Bottas The second Ferrari of Raikkonen would take back fifth from the Williams of Massa on lap 24. Mercedes then made a decision to ask the drivers to swap positions, cause Hamilton was deemed quicker to challenge Vettel for the top spot.
The second stop ensued round about lap 30 with Hamilton cutting Vettel’s lead to about 5s. Vettel got in for new tyres, four laps later, and retook the track in third behind Raikkonen, Bottas and Hamilton. Vettel quickly made quick work of Raikkonen, thanks to a fastest lap of the race.
Mid-distance of the race, Bottas who pitted a few laps earlier found himself in fifth but soon dispatched Ricciardo for fourth. Vettel had climbed back into contention in second place only 12s behind Hamilton. Hamilton still had to stop for another time. When the lead Mercedes dived into the pitlane, Vettel had the race lead on lap 42. Hamilton retook the track third behind his team mate. Again Bottas would let Hamilton through as the race headed into the final stint.
Seven laps from the end, Vettel looked set for victory but Hamilton wasn’t giving up. Both drivers cleared the backmarkers rather quickly. Vettel picked up his pace considerably several laps before the flag. The chequered flag on lap 57 came out as Vettel sliced across the finish line to take the win, 6.6s from Hamilton.
The win gives Vettel the lead in the drivers standings, 7 points from Hamilton. Bottas took third, followed by Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Massa, Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg and the second Force India of Esteban Ocon.
Sebastien Vettel: A great result thanks to all the team! At the start, it was important for me to get second place, and I managed. Also, we got everything right with the strategy. We decided to pit early and this tactics proved to be working. Towards, the end, I tried to manage the gap I had over Lewis. I expected him to charge through, of course I was concerned, with all the traffic ahead of me. But it the end it was all OK. The car was like a dream to drive today. I felt right from the beginning that we had the speed to win today. I had a good feeling yesterday already. The lap back to pits was so sweet, with all the fireworks around, and I really savored it.
Lewis Hamilton: The start of the race was OK but Sebastian was in my blind spot so I didn’t know where he was and I lost a position there. It was really hard to follow but we generally had similar pace. Under the Safety Car, I just misjudged it myself the situation; that was my fault, so my apologies to the team. I had good pace in the second and final stints and we honestly thought we could catch Sebastian. But the five second penalty made that twice as hard. I believe it was the right choice to go with the Soft in the final stint. I think that was the best call as I still had a long way to go. Our guys have been making good calls all year so far. I tried my best to recover from the mistake but it wasn’t quite enough. We still come away with good points.
Valtteri Bottas: We had an issue with the tyre pressures at the start. I don’t know what it was but I could really feel it in the first stint and was sliding around as early as Lap 2. The pace wasn’ t good and Sebastian put us under real pressure. I tried to extend the first stint but I couldn’t keep up with the pace. The second stint was better but I was still struggling with oversteer and then I couldn’t get the rear-end to work in the last stint. Under the Safety Car at the first stop there was a problem and we lost some time in the stop; maybe otherwise I would have just been in front but I know that the team will investigate the issue. I had some good racing with Sebastian after the restart but unfortunately it was just for a short moment.
Kimi Raikkonen: In a way, a lot of good things happened this weekend, but the end result is still disappointing. The car was working pretty nicely and to be honest I expected that. Today I had a bad start and because of that, the first two corners were really bad; obviously after that I was catching up, I got past Massa reasonably quickly. Then I did my pit stop, but I was unlucky with the Safety Car. The overall feeling was good, I was fast but obviously the time lost at the start did not help: we put ourselves in a difficult position. I feel that we are absolutely doing the right things, and in the big picture we are pretty much where we want to be, but we still need to fine-tune a few things; it’s all about putting the lap together. We need to start more at the front and then our races will be a lot easier. I am happy for Seb and for all the team
Daniel Ricciardo: For me it was a race of two halves really. At the beginning of the race I genuinely thought we had a chance to win. That stint was looking very competitive and I could see Valtteri was struggling. I was at the tail end of the front pack and I could see everyone else in front of me. They were sliding and looked like they were struggling more. It was quite easy for me to stay there and I was looking after my tyres, so at that point I was thinking it could be on today, not only for a podium but for a win. The safety car worked for me in that we jumped up to third but it wasn’t so good for our tyres and that’s where we lost a lot of ground. Even once we settled into a pace and the chaos settled we fell back and I was struggling with grip at the front and rear. We never really got that tyre working for us.
The next race is set for Sochi in Russia, from 28 – 30 April.
2017 Formula 1 Bahrain GP results
1 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:33:53.374
2 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES +6.660s
3 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES +20.397s
4 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI +22.475s
5 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING +39.346s
6 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS +54.326s
7 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA +62.606s
8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI +74.865s
9 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT +80.188s
10 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA +95.711s
11 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER +1 lap
12 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO +1 lap
13 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT +1 lap
1 Sebastian Vettel 68
2 Lewis Hamilton 61
3 Valtteri Bottas 38
4 Kimi Räikkönen 34
5 Max Verstappen 25
6 Daniel Ricciardo 22
7 Felipe Massa 16
8 Sergio Perez 14
9 Carlos Sainz 10
10 Romain Grosjean 4
11 Kevin Magnussen 4
12 Esteban Ocon 3
13 Nico Hulkenberg 2
14 Daniil Kvyat 2
1 FERRARI 102
2 MERCEDES 99
3 RED BULL RACING 47
4 FORCE INDIA 17
5 WILLIAMS 16
6 TORO ROSSO 12
7 HAAS 8
8 RENAULT 2