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Vettel holds off Bottas in desert thriller

NEWS STORY
08/04/2018

With the weather gods powerless to have any say in the matter, today's race is going to be about the drivers and their machines.

In terms of the drivers, though we'll be looking for plenty of enthusiasm we don't want to see any silliness. As for the cars, let's just hope that in addition to reliability all are able to pit and subsequently leave with all four wheels firmly attached.

Engine modes aside, Ferrari looked pretty strong yesterday, locking-out the front row and - dare we say it - wiping the smile from Mr Hamilton's face.

However, the Italian team has had its share of issues this weekend and will need to be on top of its game this afternoon. With Kimi Raikkonen looking strong in all sessions one wonders if he might ride shotgun for his teammate, who 'celebrates' his 200th Grand Prix this weekend, this afternoon or perhaps even demonstrate that there is life in the old dog yet.

Certainly, we will want no repeats of Singapore.

With Lewis Hamilton demoted, Valtteri Bottas has a great opportunity to shine today and put the silliness of Melbourne behind him. That said, as we saw in Australia, two against one doesn't work and not only is the Finn facing the might of Ferrari but also a young Australian keen to enjoy his first shoey of the season. On Friday we witnessed the long-run pace of the Red Bull, and everything points to Ricciardo giving a good account of himself today.

Other than that touch of over-enthusiasm - or power surge as it shall be known henceforth - Max Verstappen would have been right up there with the Ferraris, however his loss is our gain as we have the prospect of watching him fight his way through the field.

Indeed, Verstappen is one of several drivers out of position this afternoon, and consequently well worth watching. The others being Hamilton, Alonso and Grosjean.

In fact, behind the Ferraris, Ricciardo and Bottas is where the fun lies this afternoon, with Pierre Gasly leading a midfield battle that is positively mouth-watering.

Sadly, we don't expect to see Williams playing much of a part in it all, the Grove outfit never looking quite a low as it does at present.

Other than the progress made (or not) by Verstappen, Hamilton, Grosjean and Alonso, not to mention Gasly's chance to make an impression, the likes of Kevin Magnussen and Brendon Hartley have an opportunity to shine.

It's taken a while but in recent years Bahrain has provided some memorable races, and after the confines of Albert Park this afternoon should witness some decent passes.

According to Pirelli, the quickest strategy is a two-stopper: one stint on supersofts of 15 laps and two stints on softs of 21 laps each. Second-quickest is either a two-stopper (two stints on supersofts of 17 laps each plus one stint on softs to the flag) or a one-stopper: one stint on supersofts of 24 laps, plus softs to the flag. These would be very long stints though. A third-quickest strategy is also a one-stopper. One stint on softs for 32 laps plus one stint on mediums to the flag.

As we saw yesterday, Hamilton will be starting on the softs, which points to a one-stop strategy.

As the pitlane opens, the air temperature is 28 degrees C and the track temperature 34 degrees. While there was a headwind in T1 yesterday, today the wind is blowing across the pit straight.

Other than a "tiny bit of pulling" on his first out lap, Vettel says there are "no issues".

Interesting exchange between the Renault crew who want to ensure the wing is set for soft tyres.

The grid kids caps signed, the national anthem played, the drivers return to their cars.

All are starting on the supersofts bar Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Verstappen, Ericsson, Sirotkin, Leclerc and Stroll.

Stroll reports that his drink system isn't working. With Williams as competitive as it currently is, maybe they should simply give him a Martini.

Vettel leads the field up to the grid, no problems encountered on the warm-up lap.

They're away, and while Vettel gets away cleanly in front Raikkonen loses out to Bottas heading into T1, almost losing out to Gasly also in the process. A strong start for Hamilton, who moves from side to side as he seeks to make progress. Coming out of T1 Hulkenberg and Magnussen are side by side, the Dane running wide after seeming to get a nudge from the Renault. As he rejoins Magnussen almost takes out Ocon as he moves across the front of the Force India. Further around the lap Grosjean appears to be force wide also. It's all happening.

In the midst of all that, Hartley has clouted Perez in T4, forcing the Mexican into a spin.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Gasly, Magnussen, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Hamilton. Verstappen is up to eleventh.

Verstappen and Hamilton side by side heading into T1 at the end of lap 1, sparks from both cars filling the air, they touch, almost sending the Mercedes into a spin, while the Red Bull runs wide having picked up a left-rear puncture in the process. Moments later more disaster for Red Bull as Ricciardo stops on track.

The VSC is deployed as Ricciardo's car is removed, the Australian shaking his head in disbelief, while Verstappen slowly limps back to the pits his tyre flailing and no doubt doing damage to the car.

Perez and Hartley both feel they have damage following the mayhem at the start, but both are given the all-clear.

Verstappen rejoins the race almost a lap down, while Leclerc pits at the end of lap 3.

At the re-start Magnussen and Gasly have a moment, the Frenchman seemingly caught asleep. Hulkenberg also appears to catch Ocon napping.

As Hulkenberg and Ocon continue to fight, Alonso and Hamilton join in the fun, the Briton makes short work of the Spaniard nailing him on the pit straight, then in one stupendous move he dives down the inside passing the battling Force India and Renault moving up to sixth in the process.

Having made his pit stop Verstappen has now stopped on track, both Red Bulls out after just 4 laps.

Hamilton, having made short work of Magnussen, is now all over Gasly.

Out front Vettel posts a new fastest lap (35.369) as he build a 2.2s lead over Bottas who is 2.6s ahead of Raikkonen.

The first lap incident involving Perez and Hartley is under investigation.

At the start of lap 8, Hamilton sweeps past Gasly, who knows that resistance is futile.

Alonso is told that Hulkenberg is struggling with his battery.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Toffeecup0, 10/04/2018 17:17

"raikkonen old dog ha ha about time he retired"

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2. Posted by -ape-, 09/04/2018 9:46

"I am happy for Mac , now they race without that terrible Honda engine they show their real strenght."

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