Mercedes snitched Ferrari’s imminent 1-2 finish
The two Ferrari cars dominated most parts of the race, with pole sitter Charles Leclerc in the lead. Unfortunately, what would have been the Monegasque’s maiden win turned in Hamilton’s favour after the Ferrari car suffered an engine issue. Sebastian Vettel also had to concede to the other Silver Arrows car when he damaged his front wing, which effectively slowed him down. It’s definitely not a very lucky day for the Prancing Horses.
Sparks went flying at the circuit in Sakhir
The 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, officially called the Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2019, was held on March 31, 2019. It marked the 15th running of the grand prix as an F1 World Championship event since 2004. It took place at the Bahrain International Circuit, a 3.363-mile permanent racing facility in Sakhit, Bahrain which would be run for 57 laps.
The circuit has two areas designated as DRS (drag reduction system) zone—along the two long straight sectors spanning from Turn 10 to Turn 11 and from Turn 15 to 1. For this round, another DRS zone was added between Turns 3 and 4, which encouraged more overtaking and pit stops.
Highlights of the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix
The first rounder of the world championship event in Australia yielded a double win by Mercedes. Excitement built up when in the second round, Ferrari started showing great pace and admirable grit. From the free practice to the qualifying rounds and on to the best part of the race, the best that the Mercedes cars could do was only P3 and P4 behind the red racers. How did the Silver Arrows turn the game around in their favour?
- The available tyres for this circuit, which had three DRS zones and, thus, more overtaking possibilities, were C1 (hard), C2 (medium), and C3 (soft). The weather was warm and windy as the drivers hit the tracks. All cars were on softs, except for Robert Kubica’s Williams which was on mediums.
- The lights went out with the young pole-sitter in the lead—but not for long. The crowd saw heated action as early as Lap 1 with Vettel snatching the lead and Bottas swiftly taking the place behind him, which demoted Leclerc to third. Leclerc, though, fought back and gained second position in Lap 2.
- A brief battle ensued as the two red cars preyed on each other in Laps 5 and 6. Leclerc had DRS and was able to breeze ahead in Lap 6, leaving Vettel adrift to contend with Hamilton.
- It was not only the podium that was being fought heatedly—the midfield was under as much fire, too. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) lost P6 to Carlos Sainz Jr. (McLaren), who nearly got past Max Verstappen (Red Bull) in P5 if it were not for a minor collision that damaged the McLaren’s front wing. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) managed a strong recovery, picking his way from P10 to P7. Magnussen, meanwhile, has dropped farther down to P10.
- The cars started pulling for regular pit stops in Lap 9, with Perez doing it first to change to mediums, and Verstappen switching to mediums in Lap 12. This prompted the other racers to pit at what seemed like an early switch for fresh tyres. Bottas later pitted in Lap 13 and was undercut by the Dutchman. Both Hamilton and Leclerc pulled to pit in Lap 14. In Lap 15, it was Vettel’s turn to pit, swapping to mediums. It gave Hamilton—who was now on softs—an opportunity to maneuver an undercut, which he did without difficulty!
- Bottas got within 1s behind Verstappen, who was on P5, and had DRS to aid him execute a clean overtake in Turn 4 of Lap 15. Ricciardo, who was still on his old tyres, led the front temporarily. He was later swept by Leclerc and Hamilton. The Aussie driver continued to lap 2s slower and soon enough, Vettel, Bottas, and Verstappen got past him.
- From Lap 20 to 23, Vettel put the pressure on Hamilton to reassert his initial lead on the grid. The German, who had the faster car and DRS to boot, overtook the reigning F1 champ without too much effort. He then poised to prey on his young teammate, who was 7.5s ahead of him. So in Lap 24, we saw the same sequence of cars as we did during the formation lap—Leclerc, Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, and Verstappen. What changed was P6, which Ricciardo wrestled from the other midfielders with his worn and drawn-out tyres. But how long could he keep his pace?
- The Top 5 continued in this fashion on to Lap 36, with the Ferraris securing their lead with each lap. That was until sparks went up on the second Ferrari car (Vettel) in Lap 37. A few laps earlier, Hamilton had pitted for fresher tyres and had been agitating the red car nonstop. Excitement built up as the Briton continued to badger the German, who responded with equal fervor to defend his position. When Hamilton finally swooped past its quarry, the Ferrari tried to get back to it but instead spun around and blazed the tracks! When all the sparks went out, it was apparent that the red car needed to pit for a new nose lift.
- All might not be lost for Vettel, though, as he made a stunning recovery drive in Lap 43 from P9 to P6, nosing over Ricciardo. Taking advantage of the DRS zone, the German made a move again on the Aussie’s teammate—Nico Hülkenberg—for P5.
- However, it didn’t sail as well for the leading Ferrari. Leclerc soon reported in Lap 46 that he was having some engine trouble. Of course, that was just what the Silver Arrows were waiting for as Hamilton whizzed by in Lap 48. The red car’s speed continued to dwindle. Though Leclerc looked optimistic to win his first podium in this round, he was not able to defend P2 against Bottas, who snatched it happily in Lap 52. Would the Ferrari team simply stand by as the raging orange thing behind the Monegasque continued to advance to P3? Their eminent one-two win seemed so real a few laps earlier!
- However, in Lap 56 away from the frontrunners, an incident occurred that had somehow saved the final podium for Leclerc. The two Renaults encountered a contact incident that caused a Safety Car to be deployed. The final lap had Hamilton and Bottas winning one and two, respectively, which is the second 1-2 finish for Mercedes this season. Leclerc held on to P3, thanks to the Safety Car, while Verstappen got P4 and Vettel P5.
Hamilton was number 1 but Leclerc was best driver
As early as Round 2, the young Ferrari driver had already shown his mettle. Leclerc could have won that race had it not been for a mechanical issue. He set the fastest lap and got the bonus, and it was not surprising that he got the vote as the Driver of the Day, too. As for Hamilton, it was a win that presented itself and not something that he’d allow to pass. He was there at the right moment, so he seized it like any racer would.
Final result of the Bahrain GP, Top 5
The names of the top 5 front runners did not change, so far, but there were juggling in all places. This round held a promise of an exciting season ahead!
Team and Number
Red Bull, #33
Championship standings before and after the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix
We could now compare how the Top 5 racers performed before and after the Bahrain GP.
Team and Number
Points before the 2019 F1 Bahrain GP
Points after the 2019 F1 Bahrain GP
Red Bull, #33
Big 3 teams led the Constructor’s category winners
It’s the same big three names on the Top 5—Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull. Would this change this season? The rest of the Top 10 finishers for this round were: Lando Norris (McLaren) for P6, Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo) for P7, Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) for P8, Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso) for P9, and Sergio Pérez (Racing Point) for P10. Would any of these teams challenge the big 3 in the future rounds? With 19 rounds more to go, it’s not a bad idea to see a McLaren or Alfa spicing things up a bit!
Get up to speed with everything that’s happened in China in the purpose-built Shanghai International Circuit, which features super-high G-force turns and has one of the longest straights for the 2019 F1 calendar. That article comes next - here at Carpart.com.au!
By Patrick Lumontod