‘That was fun,’ says Hamilton as he extends lead after easy day at office
If there was a single moment when Lewis Hamilton might have doubted that he would win the Bahrain Grand Prix, it came as he left the pits to start his 16th lap after his first tyre stop. That was when he looked in his mirrors and saw Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg barrelling down the inside of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, right on his tail.
“I definitely was not expecting that, because I had a big gap going into the pits but must have had a bit of a slow stop, because when I came out and started to brake for the first corner, suddenly they were right there,” said Hamilton. “I saw them in my left mirror and thought, ‘Oh my God!’ But it was really good fun.”
Said Rosberg: “I just went aggressively for the inside and went to the right of Sebastian, and though I could see Lewis coming out ahead of us I hoped he would be far enough ahead.
“But for sure it was a bit hairy, though it probably looked worse from the outside…”
That alarm aside, it was just another day’s work for world champion Hamilton, who won this race for the second year in a row, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen back on the podium for the first time in two years to deny Mercedes another one-two finish under the floodlights.
The Briton’s pole-to-flag victory was his third win in four races this season and increased his lead over Rosberg in the drivers’ standings to 27 points.
Unlike last season, when he beat Rosberg from second place on the grid in a wheel-to-wheel battle, Hamilton was untroubled by the German, who finished third after fighting the Ferraris.
Rosberg was holding second place until two laps from the end, when he lost his brakes, went wide and gave Raikkonen the chance to speed past on his fresher soft tyres and pull away.
Going into the race, Hamilton admitted he expected Ferrari to be a serious threat. The respective Mercedes and Ferrari technical chiefs, Paddy Lowe and James Allison, had the same opinion: “It’s too close to call.”
Hamilton won the start as Vettel squeezed Rosberg twice to retain his second position on the grid, and the latter found himself behind Raikkonen in the second Ferrari too.
But Rosberg looked racy in the early stages, and when he overtook Raikkonen on the inside of turn one at the start of the fourth lap, and then Vettel there five laps later, the Ferrari challenge seemed to be over.
“It started on a disappointing note, losing a position to Kimi,” Rosberg said, “but immediately I felt that the car was awesome and went on full attack. It was great to get past Kimi and Seb, but then I dropped behind Seb after my first stop and had to do it all over again.”
Hamilton just kept his head down and nursed brakes that got a little hot whenever he got caught lapping the traffic, but as Raikkonen slashed the deficit, Rosberg sounded more and more stressed until he issued a curt order for his engineer to stop talking.
As the fireworks exploded in a spectacular Bahraini celebration of a gripping evening race, all Rosberg heard was the thunder in his ears as he watched Hamilton extending his points lead.
“I tried to catch Lewis but that was not possible,” he admitted. “After struggling with the brakes all race they faded two laps from the end, so that was that.”
Raikkonen managed to raise a smile at one stage, after telling Sir Jackie Stewart that second place was not what he had been looking for, and it truth it was one of his best races in a while.
Not so Vettel, who finished only fifth, trapped behind Valtteri Bottas’s Williams after an off-course moment battling to stay ahead of Rosberg obliged him to make a third stop after he damaged his Ferrari’s front wing. (©Independent News Service)
Independent News Service