The victory trophy was all but delivered to Ferrari for this weekend in Bahrain. The only thing missing was crossing the finish line for Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix. See, Ferrari went 1-2 in all three practice sessions around the 3.363-mile Bahrain International Circuit road course as well as 1-2 in all three rounds of qualifying too.
How can you stop them?
Through the first 37 laps, it appeared to be their race to still lose.
Pole sitter Charles Leclerc was well on his way to earning his first Formula One win. He led by a wide margin in his No. 16 Ferrari and was holding his own. He even set the fastest lap of the race itself.
Sebastian Vettel was about to inherit second when Valtteri Bottas was set to pit for the second and final time of the day in his No. 77 Mercedes.
That’s when all hell broke loose for the Prancing Horses.
On Lap 39, 18 laps remaining, Vettel spun while battling Lewis Hamilton for second. He lost control of his No. 5 Ferrari all by himself. There wasn’t any contact by the two world champions, just rather Vettel pushing too hard and lost it damaging his front wing as a result.
With 17 to go, Vettel pit for repairs. He’d go from a sure podium to a fifth place run instead.
Meanwhile, Leclerc still held onto an 8+ second lead over Hamilton. With being fastest in two of the three practice sessions and fastest in all three rounds of qualifying, the second year F1 driver was destined to earn his first career win.
That all sounded great until his engine lost power with 10 laps-to-go. Hamilton, quickly made up ground and got by Leclerc for the lead one lap later. He’d cruise the rest of the way en route to his 74th career F1 win and 136th podium.
Sunday was his first win in Bahrain since 2015 and third of his career in the Middle Eastern desert.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas caught Leclerc too and got by on Lap 54. That solidified a 1-2 Mercedes finish for the second straight race to start the season as they flipped the script in Australia with Bottas winning and Hamilton finishing second.
Bottas now leads Hamilton by one point heading to China in two weeks.
Due to a lucky caution with two laps-to-go, Leclerc was able to hold off Max Verstappen for his first career podium as Verstappen brought his No. 33 Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda home fourth.
Here are the main takeaways from Sunday’s race.
Mercedes Still Owns Ferrari
Once upon a time, Ferrari had the team to beat. From 2000 through 2007, they won six championships in an eight year span. In fact, from 1998 through 2009, Mercedes and Ferrari combined to take home 11 championships in 13 years.
But, Ferrari hasn’t won a title in 12 years now and after spring training, it appeared that the drought may finally end. They were by far the best team in the testing this offseason and appeared to have something for the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Bottas.
Unfortunately, they struggled out of the gates in Australia and despite winning in each of the last two years in Melbourne, they limped home to fourth (Vettel) and fifth (Leclerc) place finishes. They played second fiddle to Mercedes all weekend.
Here we go again right?
Well, they fixed their issues for Bahrain and were the superior team all weekend. It was their race to lose. Unfortunately, they lost it.
Vettel, made a rare mistake again on his own and Leclerc’s engine cost him his first win. Instead of taking two of the three podiums positions on Sunday, they had just one.
Mercedes took the other two including a second straight 1-2 finish to start the season. It’s just another example on how Mercedes has passed Ferrari in terms of F1 supremacy.
Since 2014, Mercedes has now won an astonishing 76 races. Ferrari has only combined to win 14 times in that time frame.
Nights like the one we saw in Bahrain is the reason why this gap is so wide. I mean it’s 76-14. Mercedes has won all five championships in this time frame.
When Ferrari appears to finally have more speed, they still screw it up.
Hamilton Still Dominant
Out of Mercedes’ 76 wins since 2014, Hamilton has taken 52 of them. In fact, over the last 95 races, Hamilton has won 55-percent of them. The next best is retired (Nico Rosberg). He won 20 times in a three year span (2014-2016).
Vettel is third in that time frame with 13 wins.
That’s right, Hamilton has 39 more wins than the next best active driver in the hybrid era.
He finished second to his teammate in Australia and now beats him in Bahrain. Hamilton, has 74 career wins to go along 136 podiums. He also has 13 podium finishes in his last 14 starts, dating back to last year, to go along with 23 top five finishes in his last 24 tries.
He didn’t have the fastest car at all this weekend. He was fourth, third, and third respectively in practice. He qualified third. But, he let the Ferrari’s self destruct and who was left standing when the smoke settled?
Tough Break For Renault Hurt Verstappen Getting Honda A 2nd Straight Podium and Red Bull Their 1st Bahrain Top 3 Finish
Renault certainly would love to keep Aston Martin Red Bull Racing off a Formula One podium. After their ugly relationship ended this past offseason, you can tell some bad blood was brewing.
Former RBR driver Daniel Ricciardo joined Renault in 2019 and joined Nico Hulkenberg. Honda, didn’t have much luck in F1 over the last decade, so Renault was looking for the last laugh.
Unfortunately for them, Red Bull and Honda stormed to a podium in the season opener in Australia. Max Verstappen brought his No. 33 Honda home third for their first podium in years.
On Sunday, after Pierre Gasly struggled in qualifying, it was up to Verstappen again to get Honda back on the podium. See, Red Bull has failed to score a podium or even led a lap in Bahrain in this hybrid era.
With Leclerc’s Ferrari limping around the 3.363-mile track in the end, Verstappen was likely to pass him on the final lap for a third place finish. But, with two laps-to-go, both Renault cars went off course with a problem.
While it was a double DNF and a frustrating ending for Renault, that moment also kept Verstappen off the podium too.
Gasly With Work To Do
It’s been a frustrating start to the 2019 season for the newest Red Bull driver. Pierre Gasly failed to get out of Q1 in Australia and didn’t get past Q2 in Bahrain. After finishing 11th in the season opener, he’d start 13th in Sunday’s race.
This comes after finishing an impressive fourth with Toro Rosso in this race last year.
But, all Gasly could make it up to was an eighth place run. He finished behind a rookie McLaren driver in Landon Norris and Kimi Raikkonen’s Sauber. Plus, if the Renault’s don’t have their issues and Carlos Sainz Jr. doesn’t DNF in the end either, then he’s not scoring points for a second consecutive race.