In the second Formula One race of the 2019 season, Mercedes claimed a one-two off Ferrari. Charles Leclerc saw what looked like a certain win taken away from the youngster in the cruelest fashion.
In total contrast to the opening race of the 2019 season, the Grand Prix in Bahrain was wild from the start.
Charles Leclerc looked set to secure his first ever GP win just a day after securing his first ever pole, but with 11 laps to go the Ferrari driver's battery died, opening the door for Hamilton's Mercedes. Leclerc held onto a podium spot but the race was a nightmare for Ferrari, who also saw Sebastian Vettel finish fifth.
"It happens. It's part of motorsport. Of course I'm extremely disappointed, it happens in a season, and we made the best out of it," Leclerc said afterwards. Hamilton said on team radio afterwards that Leclerc had been "extremely unfortunate" and that the youngster had driven "a great race".
It had all started so well for Ferrari. Vettel took the lead after a poor start from Leclerc, but the Monegasque driver battled back and overtook his teammate to fly away at the front.
Ferrari fury begins
The pit stops began after 12 laps (of 57), with most opting to swap to mediums. Leclerc and Hamilton came in at the same time, which left Vettel always playing catch up. As the group settled, Leclerc led ahead of Hamilton and Bottas.
On softs, Hamilton was struggling. Leclerc had built up an 8.3 second lead on teammate Vettel and Hamilton was doing his best to hang on.
After 35 laps, Hamilton swapped to medium, and a lap later Vettel pitted too. The battle between the two began and although Vettel held off the first charge but on turn four on lap 38 Hamilton swept around the outside of turn four. Vettel, pushing too hard too early, damaged his front wing, spun, recovered and then drove over his front nose after it fell off.
By then, Leclerc had pitted again and was 10 seconds clear. The race appeared to be run, but with 11 laps left Leclerc's car started to lose power. Suddenly he was driving as quickly as last-placed Robert Kubica.
"What's happening?" he screamed down the radio, with the disappointment in his voice noticeable. Ferrari responded saying the turbo had failed.
Ruthlessly, Hamilton hunted him and then, despite being 27 seconds back, Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas did the same. Were it not for a late safety car, as both Renault cars died to deny Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg points, Max Verstappen looked set to haul in the struggling Leclerc. That proved to be Ferrari's only saving grace on a day to forget.
Hamilton takes his first Bahrain win since 2015, and is now second in the standings behind Bottas by just one point (44-43).
As it happened:
19:00 The national anthem of the United Kingdom plays out loudly as Hamilton smiles. He is now just one point behind his Mercedes in the standings. 44 to 43, with
18:58 More from Hamilton as the drivers chat in the green room before the podium announcement is made. "I know it sucks in this moment, but you've got a long future ahead of you," Hamilton tells Leclerc.
18:53 "The battle I had with Sebastian [Vettel] was a lot of fun," Hamilton says in the post race. "I'm sure this young man will win a race one day. He deserved to win today," Hamilton says afterwards of Leclerc.
"It's part of motorsport. I'm confident of the team. I'm hugely disappointed in what happened... Thankfully we had the safety car at the end. It's hard to take now, but thanks to the team for their work today," Leclerc says afterwards, who got a point for the fastest lap.
57/57 LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE BAHRAIN GP! "That was extremely unfortunate for Charles. He drove a great race. We've got work to do to keep them in our tails," he says over the radio. Gracious from the winner. Bottas takes second, with Leclerc in third. "I'm sorry guys," he says over the radio afterwards. The front three drive in for the podium as the fireworks fly in the sky. Hamilton runs over to Leclerc and gives him a hug and a few words of encouragement. He's been there before. He knows the feeling.
56/57 That is that! The safety car is staying out for the final lap which means Lewis Hamilton will win the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Mercedes claiming a 1-2. Charles Leclerc's nightmare ends with some joy as he holds onto third, which will infuriate Max Verstappen who was set to overtake him. Not long now...
55/57 Verstappen might be thankful that the safety car is out given the gap, but he's probably more annoyed. No overtaking! There's only 2 laps left! Sainz is OUT! Teammate Norris is into 6th. What a race for him! Looks like Leclerc will have a podium spot thanks to the safety car. Verstappen won't believe it...
54/57 BOTTAS! The Finn moves into second as Leclerc falls into third. The question is now whether Verstappen can take him? Just 4 seconds back. What's this? Hulkenberg and Ricciardo are OUT! They were both on for a points finish... What happened? The Aussie's car just gave up and turned off. Hulkenberg's just did the same. What! Technical issues. How tough is that to take? Safety car is out...
54/57 The battery is the problem in the Ferrari. Leclerc just has no PS. Bottas is just two seconds behind Leclerc. Verstappen asks on the radio, "At this pace, will we catch him?" The reply is simple: Yes. Leclerc may fall off the podium here... Wow.
51/57 A huge sigh from Leclerc. He can't believe it. "I will try," he says over the radio. You can hear how upset he is. Really tough situation. Ferrari tell him to stay calm and remind him they think they can hold onto second, but Bottas is now just 15 seconds behind him. HUGE drop. Six laps to go seems like enough time. Vettel is still 26 seconds behin 4th. Not a good weekend for Ferrari.
49/57 HAMILTON TAKES THE LEAD! Ferrari don't seem to have an answer. This is tough for the 21-year-old. The faces of the Ferrari garage are of huge shock (see Tweet below). The Monaco boy was due to win but something has happened to his engine. No power compared to earlier. Bottas is 27 seconds behind Leclerc, but let's see whether that gets smaller. Leclerc currently driving as fast as Kubica, who is 20th.
47/57 Raikkonen overtakes Ricciardo, as mentioned. What's this? Leclerc on the radio swears about an engine problem. Hamilton closing the gap... What's happening to Ferrari today? "What's happening?" Leclerc screams on the radio.
45/57 That battle didn't last long. Vettel streams past Hulkenberg but now comes the real challenge, as we mentioned. There's a 26 second gap to Verstappen. In midfield, Renault are looking good for points with Hulkenberg in 6th and Ricciardo in 8th with McLaren's Lando Norris wedged between them. Raikkonen is in 9th.
43/57 No we'll see Vettel's driving skills. He flies past Norris, who offers no challenge, and then passes Ricciardo, who seems a little busy having nearly taken out Hulkenberg. This is all well and good, Vettel is into 6th, but then it's catching Verstappen. Leclerc still leads by 9 seconds. Hulkenberg doing his best to hold off Vettel in an all-German battle!
41/57 VETTEL! Hamilton does finally overtake him, but as he does Vettel tries to push it too hard but goes to early. He spins backwards! Disaster for the German. Tire damage and as he heads to the pit he loses his nose! It shattered and then flew underneath him! That couldn't have gone worse. Vettel pits and then finds himself in 8th! He's on fresh softs though...
1. Leclerc 2. Hamilton 3. Bottas 4. Verstappen
38/57 Leclerc goes into the pits and comes out still first! The gap is gone, but Bottas but is likely to pit again (which he does). Superb drama between Hamilton and Vettel! Hamilton tries to cut inside the German on one of the corners, and it seems he has but the German holds him off. The DRS made the difference but Vettel held him off. Centimeters in it!
36/57 Hamilton heads to the pits! Now on mediums. Comes out in 4th, as Bottas takes 3rd. Verstappen returns to 5th after his box a lap earier as Norris pits. A lap later Vettel pits. It's a good stop but Bottas takes second, and Hamilton is less than a second behind him. Both are on mediums now. A proper battle now between the two world champions!
33/57 Some big gaps out there still! Hamilton is 10 seconds clear of Bottas, and the 6th placed Hulkenberg is a whopping 18 seconds clear of Norris. Stroll just overtakes Verstappen, but he's a lap behind him don't forget. If no one makes any errors here and, of course, depending on the second stop strategy, this one looks set.
30/57 Leclerc is 8.3 seconds clear of Vettel - and 26 seconds clear of Verstappen in fifth. The front five are neatly spread. Hamilton remains 3 seconds off Vettel, but is concerned about his tires. Says his rears are done. To be fair, it was always going to be that way on softs....
27/57 Yes, this race is wild!
25/57 Ricciardo finally pits, which means Hulkenberg moves up into 6th. Strong race from him. Remember, Leclerc has mediums. He is miles away at the front. Ricciardo drops down to 13th. Hefty drop, but expected. Raikkonen can't hold off Norris, who overtakes him to take 7th.
24/57 Vettel! The German overtakes Hamilton to move back into 2nd. The Briton had done well to hold him off, but once the stretch before the home straight opened up Vettel took his chance. This will be a good battle though. Hamilton still fancies it, although adds on the radio: "I'm a sitting duck out here guys."
22/57 Hulkenberg with a great move to overtake Raikkonen and take 7th. Fantastic stuff from the Renault man. Vettel is right behind Hamilton now...
20/57 Grosjean is out. There's a sentence that has been written too often for the Frenchman. Magnussen, on mediums, told to try it on 1 stop in a field playing for a 2-stop strategy. He's out of the points though. Hamilton goes wide ahead of the home straight, loses time and that might open the door for Vettel a bit. As things stand:
1. Leclerc 2. Hamilton 3. Vettel 4. Bottas 5. Verstappen 6. Ricciardo
18/57 Hamilton is closing the gap on Leclerc, but is on soft and that means he'll have to stop again. Leclerc is on the mediums, as is Vettel. Perhaps Ferrari have played this better than it looks at the moment.
16/57 Leclerc is back in first (and with a new fastest lap)! Hamilton stays ahead of Vettel after the German comes out of the box behind the Brit. And the Brit is speeding away too. Not sure why Vettel can't go as fast as he did earlier in the weekend. The car? The driver? Either way, it's a problem. He won't win here now...
14/57 Leclerc pits and Hamilton follows him in! Vettel takes top spot but hasn't pitted yet. Ricciardo now up to second but will likely move down once he goes into the pit. Verstappen delivers the fastest lap. Leclerc out of the box into 3rd. All the strategy coming into play here...
13/57 Bottas pits (as does Hulkenberg) in response to Verstappen's pit stop. Comes back out in 6ht. Advantage to the Dutchman. Ricciardo is in 4th but hasn't pitted yet.
12/57 Leclerc is opening his gap at the top. No a great day for Vettel, even if he finishes second. This is a wild race! No further action for Verstappen and Sainz incident by the way. Verstappen pits! He takes mediums. Hamilton is closing in on Vettel.
10/57 Gasly pushing Magnussen and Norris in a great midfield battle. Sainz and Verstappen are under investigation for the incident at corner 4. Maybe a time penalty? Raikkonen pits, so does Gasly. Change to medium tires I believe.
9/57 Sainz says he can't believe Verstappen's move. Not a happy man. He's right at the back of the grid, but has just delivered the fastest lap. Fair play. Big gap now between the front five and then the rest of the pack. Also, Ricciardo is up to sixth!
7/57 What a move! Leclerc overtakes Vettel! The German tries to get back into the lead but no chance. Impressive from the Monaco man!
5/57 Leclerc just 0.455 behind Vettel and says on the radio that he is faster than Vettel. What will Ferrari do here?
4/57 Sainz putting pressure on Verstappen in 5th. Leclerc +1.2 from Vettel but he has just recorded the fastest lap (1:36.383). Sainz gets past Verstappen on the straight, but the Dutchman nips back but Sainz is sparking! Verstappen clipped him and that means he needs to pit. He drops back...
2/57 Great excitement so far here! Leclerc fights back and takes back second spot. Hamilton battles back, takes Bottas. Verstappen now battling Bottas. Hulkenberg up into 11th from 17th! Blimey. Stroll and Grosjean already in the pit.
Go! Go! Go! Dream start for Vettel! He takes top spot as Leclerc falls back, struggling. Bottas slips in behind Vettel having overtaken Hamilton. Verstappen tries to get involved, but has to drop back. There were some big sparks from Grosjean I think. Yellow flag.
17:11 - Perez is told on the radio that corner 6 is the one to look out for. Lots of errors expected there. The cars are round the track, warming up their tires.
17:02 - It's nearly time... Will Leclerc win here? Vettel is the king of this course. He has four wins and three poles. Will he add to it today?
16:52 - This is a big season for Vettel. Make no mistake. More on why 2019 is so decisive for Vettel here.
16:51 - Turns 1 and 4 are the ones to watch out for today. It's dry but quite a bit of wind. Braking into the corners today will also be huge. Vettel showed in qualifying that if done correctly, it can make all the difference needed. Small margins.
16:42 - Let's have a look at that grid! Charles Leclerc starts up top, with teammate Sebastian Vettel just behind him. The two Mercedes are just behind them and then it's Max Verstappen. Always worth keeping an eye on the middle row and the battles between the Renaults and the Haas. There's no love loss there! We are 27 minutes away from lights out.
16:34 - Welcome to the Bahrain GP! After the first race of the season, one that saw Valterri Bottas claim the first win of the new year, the hope is that this race will provide a few more sparks than this. Despite all the changes made to the cars to make them faster and to add more drama, none of it appeared. Perhaps that will be different this time around!