Monday 24 April 2017

Hamilton pays the penalty for sly go-slow as Vettel forges clear

Hamilton, who had started the floodlit race level on points with the German, took second place for Mercedes after staging a late chase following the five-second penalty for driving deliberately slowly into the pits. Photo: Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed
Hamilton, who had started the floodlit race level on points with the German, took second place for Mercedes after staging a late chase following the five-second penalty for driving deliberately slowly into the pits. Photo: Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed

Alan Baldwin

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel forged seven points clear at the top of the Formula One standings after winning a Bahrain Grand Prix thriller that saw Lewis Hamilton penalised for underhand tactics.

Hamilton, who had started the floodlit race level on points with the German, took second place for Mercedes after staging a late chase following the five-second penalty for driving deliberately slowly into the pits.

Hamilton's Finnish team-mate Valtteri Bottas was third after leading from his first pole position, struggling with his tyres and twice respecting team orders to allow the faster Briton through.

The victory was Vettel's second of the season after winning in Australia, with Hamilton, who won in China last weekend, crossing the finish line 6.6 seconds behind.

Vettel's 44th career win lifted him to 68 points, with Hamilton second on 61 and the championship looking ever more likely to be an evenly matched battle between the two, with Ferrari and Mercedes a cut above the rest.

Compromised

Hamilton's race, already compromised by Vettel passing him off the start for second place, unravelled further when he drove "unnecessarily slowly" as he came in for his first pit stop.

The move was a deliberate one to prevent Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo getting the jump with a quick stop while Hamilton waited behind Bottas, already in the pits.

The Briton served the penalty at his second stop, frustration evident from his shaking helmet, before charging back and taking more than a second a lap out of Vettel's advantage.

But the task of making up 20 seconds in 16 laps was ultimately too great a task.

"The pitlane was my fault and apologies to the team. I tried my hardest to catch up," said Hamilton, who thanked Bottas for his help.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said the Finn's hopes of a first win had been hit even before the start when a problem with a generator on the grid left him with the wrong tyre pressures.

"From then on we were on the back foot," he said.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth with Ricciardo fifth for Red Bull and Felipe Massa sixth.

Sergio Perez finished seventh for Force India, his 13th successive points finish, with Romain Grosjean eighth for US-owned Haas. Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Renault, and Esteban Ocon bagged the final point for Force India.

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