Lewis Hamilton was gifted victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix after Charles Leclerc experienced some engine troubles.
In just his second race for Ferrari, Leclerc was on course to become the third-youngest winner in Formula One history following a commanding drive.
The young Monégasque started from pole position but a lighting start from Sebastian Vettel seen the German jump up to 1st just before Turn 1.
Struggling for grip he soon fell victim to Mercedes’s Valterri Bottas. However, a lock-up for the Finn allowed both Leclerc and Hamilton to overtake pushing Bottas down to 4th.
Leclerc then overtook his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel a few laps later to retake the lead and started to pull away.
Moving away from the leading pack, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. collided at Turn 4 early on, with the McLaren squeezing Verstappen onto the inside kerb, causing Sainz to clip his the front wing on Max’s rear tyre.
The Spaniard was forced into the pits for a front wing change and dropped to the back of the field before retiring with floor damage in the latter stages of the race.
After their second round of pit stops, Hamilton and Vettel were running wheel-to-wheel before the Sebastian spun his Ferrari SF90 just on the exit of Turn 4.
Seconds later, Vettel began to feel heavy vibrations from his flat-spotted tyres, ultimately ripping his front wing out from under him and out of the rear of the car.
As dramatic as it was unexpected 🔄💥
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 31, 2019
The disgruntled German was left to pick up the pieces and came back to finish fifth, behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
On course to take his maiden win it a late engine problem struck the Scuderia. Leclerc shouted Leclerc over team radio in a state of panic, as he noticed a significant loss of power.
Soon, it became apparent the problem was not able to be rectified and within two laps, Hamilton was right up the gearbox of the Ferrari, eventually passing him just before the final corner.
Valtteri Bottas was also the fortunate recipient of Leclerc’s demise to steal second place, and secure an improbable one-two for Mercedes.
“It happens. Unfortunately it was not our day,” Leclerc explained.
“Of course I’m extremely disappointed. A very hard one to take but thanks to the team. Congratulations to Lewis and Valtteri.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris put in a fantastic performance to bring home a phenomenal sixth, after capitalizing on Renault’s late misfortune as Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo retired from sixth and seventh respectively.
Renault’s double retirement resulted in a safety car which the race finished under, this in turn saved Charles Leclerc and preserved his podium place from Verstappen.
This also allowed Kimi Raikkonen to move his Alfa Romeo up to 7th ahead of the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly Pierre Gasly who managed his first points for Red Bull finishing in eighth after a difficult Australian Grand Prix two weeks’ prior.
Behind the Frenchman came Toro Rosso rookie Alexander Albon scoring his first points in Formula 1 ahead of the Racing Point F1 Team‘s Sergio Pérez who rounded out the top 10.
LAP 57/57: RACE CLASSIFICATION
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 31, 2019
Ferrari’s woes under the lights of Bahrain allowed Mercedes AMG Motorsport to a second successive 1-2 finish of the 2019 season.
Here is what both Mercedes drivers had to say after the race.
Hamilton: “It was a really, really hard race today. Charles did such a great job so it must be devastating for him. The fight with Vettel was great fun for me.”
Bottas followed: “It was a difficult race for me, the balance of the car was everywhere, I was making a lot of mistakes.”
The Finn, who won in Melbourne, retains his lead in the championship by one point over Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
It was a tough day in the office for Ferrari as they leave Sakhir with thoughts of what could have been.
All weekend long Ferrari showed they had the speed to win, having gained back the competitive pace it had lost in Melbourne.
Mercedes will be sure to savour this result as they know Ferrari will be back with vengeance in Shanghai.
We’ll see you in just two weeks time for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, host of Formula One’s 1000th GP.
Can Leclerc bounce back? How will Mercedes fair? Where are Red Bull in the pecking order? All will be revealed when the Chinese Grand Prix takes place on Sunday April 14th.