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Vettel wins in Bahrain

NEWS STORY
16/04/2017

Well if this evening's race is even half as good as the F2 Sprint Race earlier we could be in for a thriller.

Brave tyre strategy combined with even braver driving saw Ferrari Academy Driver Charles Leclerc take a superb win, passing two cars on the final lap.

Whether the prominent Ferrari shields on the Frenchman's winning Prema car was a portent of what we might expect this evening remains to be seen, but at least the youngster's performance will have given Kimi Raikkonen something to think about.

Earlier in the weekend, having dominated the first two practice session, Sebastian Vettel looked to be hot favourite for the win here, but then Mercedes appeared to dig deep down the back of the sofa and pull out a whopping half-a-second advantage.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Ferrari was holding something back in qualifying, but then again why would it?

On the other hand, looking back to Friday, Raikkonen was very, very impressive on his long run pace. So you never know.

Having missed out to Vettel by 0.001s in China, and been piped at the post a couple of times here, Valtteri Bottas finally nailed it all together in his final run in Q3 to take a well-deserve pole, the first of his entire F1 career.

Among the first to pay tribute to the Finn was Hamilton, and at a time Vettel and the Briton incessantly tell of their mutual respect, one cannot help feel that as the stakes are raised the so the relationship will become more fractious, just as it will between the Mercedes duo. All are fighting for a common prize and there can only be one winner.

The big surprise of qualifying was Daniel Ricciardo who split the Ferraris with a storming final effort.

As is so often the case, the old adage about swallows and summer was thrown out the window with some suggesting that Red Bull was now ready to join in the fun.

Fact is however, the true pace of the Red Bull is still around half-a-second off the Ferrari which is just shy of the Mercedes. While Red Bull could well surprise today it will not be competitive on a regular basis for a few more races.

The midfield is once again threatening to provide the true drama today, especially with Renault getting both of its drivers into Q3.

Despite his numerous issues Romain Grosjean was able to get his car sorted enough that he could qualify ninth, thereby ensuring that at least one Haas will be mixing it with the other midfield combatants.

Force India will have its work cut out, especially Sergio Perez who qualified a lowly 18th, while Carlos Sainz is also surprisingly out of place who suffered a power unit failure.

On the other hand, what a remarkable return for Pascal Wehrlein, who put his Sauber 13th on the grid. A remarkable performance from the youngster and one which will give his critics cause to think again.

And then there's McLaren.

We're not sure what other events are on this evening that might tempt Fernando and Stoffel away from Bahrain, but if nothing else they could open a beer and watch The Great Escape on the telly.

Having suffered three MGU-H failures that have in turn destroyed their power units, Honda admits to being baffled as to why this is happening, needless to say the Japanese manufacturer admit the problem could be repeated today.

But never mind... let's not worry about the fact that the legendary team founded by Bruce McLaren and then moulded into one of sport's true greats by Ron Dennis is falling apart at the seams... Fernando is driving a McLaren-branded Dallara Honda at Indianapolis... so all is well. Woo-hoo!

Though the weather god are not likely to interfere in terms of rain, the wind that caused problems yesterday has picked up today, which, if nothing else, will cause handling problems.

Then there's the start. Last year Bottas and Hamilton collided at the start in T1, this year, being that they are in the same team, a repeat is unthinkable. That said, speaking at the press conference yesterday, Vettel actively encouraged them to repeat the move.

If nothing else, with the Finn starting from pole, today will give us the first inkling as to whether he is prepared to stand his ground in terms of his teammate. Fact is, the honeymoon is over, now is the time to establish some ground rules.

As ever, tyres and degradation, both with the soft and supersoft, are going to be a key factor, meaning that while we are expecting most to opt for a one-stop strategy we could in fact see driers switch to two-stops.

Ten minutes before the pitlane opens and Bottas is already sitting in his car, the Finn clearly eager to get on with it.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out, overnight both Sainz and countryman Alonso have had new power units fitted.

It's like the good old days, Bernie Ecclestone is on the grid, the 'former' supremo very much making his presence felt this weekend, his first appearance of the year.

Despite being in his car for so long, Bottas' Mercedes arrives on the grid on its trolley, the driver nowhere in sight.

Sadly, a repeat of the MGU-H issue ahead of the start means that Vandoorne will not be taking part in the race. But hey, Fernando's going to Indy!!!

As the field prepares to head off on the warm-up lap, the air temperature is 24 degrees C, and the track temperature is 30 degrees. As expected, there is a stiff breeze.

All are starting on the supersofts bar Ericsson who is on the softs.

They head off on the warm-up lap, Bottas leading the field away for the first time, a big moment for the Finn. Hamilton is warned of a headwind in T1.

They're away. Good start s from both Mercedes while further back Stroll is battling with Palmer. As they turn into T1 Vettel is ahead of Hamilton while Raikkonen is passed by Verstappen who made a great start.

Lots of locking up in the first couple of corners as Bottas leads Vettel with Hamilton under pressure from the two Red Bulls who are side-by-side. Palmer makes a bold move on Ocon but the Frenchman is having none of it.

Kvyat tries to go around the outside of Sainz but overdoes it and runs wide, losing a heap of positions in the process.

At the end of la p1, it's: Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Massa, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Ocon. Perez is up to 13th and Wehrlein down to 17th. Alonso is 15th.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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