Vettel holds off Bottas in Bahrain Grand Prix thriller

Anna Jefferson
April 10, 2018

Ferrari set the pace all weekend in Bahrain. Moments later, having left his pit, Raikkonen was told to stop, the Finn subsequently climbing from his vehicle and retiring. Drama in the pits when Raikkonen was brought in to test the strategy decided Ferrari in favour of keeping Vettel out.

"We had nothing to lose trying to stay out and trying to win", explained Vettel as he analyzed his long run on deteriorating tires. His tyres were fresher and his auto was faster, yet Vettel defended his position and kept the W09 in his mirror, and crucially, just out of DRS range right until the end.

Verstappen had a more frustrating race. Mercedes used that as the trigger to call in Hamilton for his single stop and switch to medium tyres, rejoining in fourth place behind Raikkonen.

Lewis Hamilton was back in third, though he is already 17 points behind Vettel, and he can not afford to let the four-time world champion extend that any further.

Bottas said: "We were on the harder compound and I knew there was a chance". They were forced to run the remaining 39 laps on the soft tyre (originally due to be changed) with no coverage from a teammate.

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But despite having a quick auto, Ferrari had to contend with only one vehicle finishing the race. Kimi Raikkonen had been confident of a top four finish when his race ended abruptly with a team mistake during his second pit stop. In fact, Raikkonen faced a similar pit issue in Friday's free practice.

The FIA later handed Ferrari a fine of 50,000 Euros for releasing Raikkonen's auto in an unsafe condition.

Hamilton started ninth on the grid and battled his way into contention before ultimately finishing adrift of the leading two drivers.

"It didn't feel like a respectful move, and it was a silly move for him because he didn't finish the race".

Despite seeing Bottas grow ever larger in his mirrors over the closing laps, Vettel was able to keep the Finn at bay to claim his second win of the season in his 200th race start. Perhaps the most striking of these was the fight between Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly and Haas F1's Kevin Magnussen.

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As the Dutchman idled back to the pits, his Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo slowed and stopped at the side of the track. But of course, for Red Bull Racing's Honda power dreams for 2019, the Bahrain Grand Prix result would be a positive one.

"I am sorry for Kimi who could certainly have finished on the podium", he added. His rise through the field saw the exclamation point of a triple overtake over Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon to nab sixth place spectacularly. Both Sauber and Force India scored their first points of the season under the lights in Bahrain. Sergio Perez and Brendon Hartley were slapped with a post-race penalty for a rare offence.

"The race is 57 laps and Sebastian got to the flag the quickest so they won", said Bottas. For me it's just not great.

Moments later, there were heads on hands in the Red Bull garage as Ricciardo's race came to an end.

Kimi's rear left tyre went straight into his leg, breaking it. His limping back to the pits caused irreparable damage to his RB14 and led to his eventual retirement.

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Vettel made a clean start and Bottas swept past Raikkonen to split the Ferraris on the opening lap.

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