By Gary Becker
Sebastian Vettel used a well timed appearance of the Safety Car, great pit strategy and a five second penalty for Lewis Hamilton to earn his second win of the young Formula One season at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Vettel got off to a poor start when lights went out to start the race dropping a spot from his second grid position to third. The race then began to go Vettel's way. Shortly after being called into the pits for a tire change by his Ferrari crew on lap 11 of the 57 lap race Max Verstappen found the guard rail requiring an appearance by the Safety Car.
Race leader at that point was Valtteri Bottas followed by Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Bottas pitted first with Hamilton in tow. Hamilton then slowed to allow work on Bottas' car to be completed before Hamilton arrived in the pit box. Hamilton's actions also slowed Red Bull Racing's Daniel Riccirado which earned Hamilton a five second penalty.
When the race went green again on lap 17 Vettel was in the lead but had to fend off Bottas who made a run at the point. Vettel continued to lead as Hamilton moved into second place past Bottas.
Vettel pitted for the last time on lap 34 handing the lead to Hamilton. Hamilton then pitted on lap 42 and was forced serve his five second penalty falling 14 seconds behind Vettel with 15 laps left in the race. Hamilton then began a charge for the ages as each lap he ate into Vettels lead, lap 50 ten seconds, lap 52 eight seconds, lap 54 six seconds, but Hamitlon then ran out of laps.
“A great result thanks to all the team!" said Vettel "At the start, it was important for me to get second place, and I managed. Also, we got everything right with the strategy. We decided to pit early and this tactics proved to be working. Towards, the end, I tried to manage the gap I had over Lewis. I expected him to charge through, of course I was concerned, with all the traffic ahead of me. But it the end it was all OK. The car was like a dream to drive today. I felt right from the beginning that we had the speed to win today. I had a good feeling yesterday already, and it was just confirmed today. The lap back to pits was so sweet, with all the fireworks around, and I really savored it. Tonight we enjoy the moment, but tomorrow we’ll be back at work. I haven’t changed my mind: to become world champion, you must first beat the Mercedes We’ll take it race after race.”
Hamilton's charge could not make up the five second penalty.
"It’s been a challenging weekend." said Hamilton "The start of the race was OK but Sebastian was in my blind spot so I didn’t know where he was and I lost a position there. It was really hard to follow but we generally had similar pace. Under the Safety Car, I just misjudged it myself the situation; that was my fault, so my apologies to the team. I had good pace in the second and final stints and we honestly thought we could catch Sebastian. But the five second penalty made that twice as hard. I believe it was the right choice to go with the Soft in the final stint. I think that was the best call as I still had a long way to go. Our guys have been making good calls all year so far. I tried my best to recover from the mistake but it wasn’t quite enough. We still come away with good points."
Following Vettel was Hamilton, Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Danile Ricciardo making up the top five.
2017 Bahrain Grand Prix – Race
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 57 1h33m53.374s
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 57 6.660s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 57 20.397s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 57 22.475s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 57 39.346s
6 Felipe Massa Williams 57 54.326s
7 Sergio Perez Force India 57 1m02.606s
8 Romain Grosjean Haas 57 1m14.865s
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 57 1m20.188s
10 Esteban Ocon Force India 57 1m35.711s
11 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 56 1 Lap
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 56 1 Lap
13 Jolyon Palmer Renault 56 1 Lap
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 54 3 Laps
- Marcus Ericsson Sauber 50 Ret
- Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 12 Collision
- Lance Stroll Williams 12 Collision
- Max Verstappen Red Bull 11 Brakes
- Kevin Magnussen Haas 8 Ret
- Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 0 DNS
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