The Bahrain Grand Prix ended the same way it started, under the safety car.
In the first night race of season, all eyes were on pole sitter Lewis Hamilton who looked for his 95th career win. Dominating all the practice sessions by a good margin over Valtteri Bottas and the Red Bulls, Hamilton was in prime position again to claim victory. Although Hamilton easily cruised to victory under the safety car, earning his 11th win of the season, the race was not without its drama. Two horrendous crashes in the opening handful of laps cast a shadow on what would’ve been an otherwise normal Bahrain Grand Prix.
Following behind Hamilton on the podium would be Red Bull teammates, Max Verstappen and Alex Albon. Albon logged his second podium this season after Sergio Perez suffered an engine failure on the final green flag lap, handing Albon the podium spot.
Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top five, with Pierre Gasly holding on to sixth, attempting and nailing the one-stop strategy. Daniel Ricciardo came home P7 with Bottas in eighth, after suffering a puncture early in the race. Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc completed the top ten finishers.
Racing Point suffered a very rare double DNF with Perez succumbing to a retirement, and Lance Stroll being taken out in a spectacular crash on the race restart. The double DNF meant a huge hit in the constructor’s points for the formerly third place Racing Point Team.
Along with both the Racing Points, Romain Grosjean crashed out of the race after his horrifying accident on Lap 1.
Bahrain Grand Prix Recap
As it has always looked this season, Lewis Hamilton started on the pole and rocketed out to the early lead. Second-place Bottas dropped four positions on the opening lap, getting jumped by Verstappen, Perez, Ricciardo and Albon. Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi were pushed off the track which set off a horrifying chain of events, leading to the scariest Formula One accident in recent memory.
As cars slid off the track, Stroll’s car had damage and spat debris into the racing line. Haas’ Romain Grosjean made an aggressive move to avoid the debris but clipped wheels with Daniil Kyvat. The contact sent Grosjean head-on into the guardrail at nearly full speed. The impact sent the cockpit of the car straight through the guard-rail, rupturing the gas tank and spitting the car in half in a monstrous fireball.
The race was red-flagged almost immediately, and by what can only be described as a miracle, Grosjean climbed out of the car and ran through the fire to the safety crew in less than 23 seconds. Grosjean was taken to a local hospital in Bahrain and was treated for burns as well as examined for any other internal injuries. His full medical status has yet to be released at this time.
The aftermath of the crash looked like something from a war zone. The smoldering wreckage of the Haas car was all over the track, with the engine of the car lodged into the rail. The Halo which was introduced in 2018, was credited with saving Grosjean’s life after his car punctured the guard rail.
After a lengthy red flag and investigation, the track crew repaired the wall and the race was restarted. However, a safety car soon slowed the proceedings again.
Stroll and Kyvat made contact heading into sharp turn eight, the contact sent Stroll flipping upside down. Stroll exited the car under his own power, but both Kevin Magnussen and Sebastian Vettel received damage in the crash as well.
The race resumed, but not before Bottas suffered a puncture after running over some of Stroll’s debris. The Fin’s already bad season got even worse after he exited the pits dead last.
Bottas was stuck in traffic for nearly half the race, struggling to get past the slower Williams and Ferrari cars.
Hamilton and Verstappen broke away from the rest of the field, with Verstappen closing in on Hamilton each lap. During pit stops, Verstappen’s crew blew any chance they had at a win with their final stop clocking in at over 5 seconds.
On Lap 54, the race saw its final yellow flag. Perez, who was running third at the time suffered a fiery engine failure, bringing out the safety car once again. This time, there were not enough laps to get the race restarted and Hamilton rolled to the win under yellow.
The win marked No.95 for Hamilton and his 11th of the season. Verstappen, Albon and Red Bull Racing would all go on to log their first-ever podiums at Bahrain.
Romain Grosjean was awarded the driver of the day award.
-The FIA safety team needs to be given a tremendous round of applause for their efforts today. The technological advancements of the car, as well as the quick and prompt actions by the safety team on site helped Grosjean walk away from the crash. Thinking about similar accidents over the years to the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Marcus Ericsson, the work done by the first responders continues to help keep the drivers safe in the event of these awful wrecks. The car did its job of keeping the driver safe and Grosjean is able to race another day thankfully.
-Alexander Albon knows his job is on the line and how fitting it was that he got his second career podium when his career needed it the most. Albon ran well all day and Perez’s failure was the last little push Albon needed to finally get back on that elusive podium. While Red Bull’s still looking at all their options for next year, Albon surely helped his case today.
-For a team fighting for third place in the constructor’s standings, a double DNF does not help their cause. While neither of the incidents that crippled the Racing Points cars were really their fault, Stroll and Perez both failing to finish shows just how quickly a team’s luck can change. Despite the issues, the team is still fast and will look to bounce back next week on the endurance layout at Bahrain.
-Valtteri Bottas is definitely taking his terrible season at Mercedes to new heights. The second driver at the team has had more bad luck in the past seven races, then Lewis Hamilton has had his whole career. His puncture today was just an added kick to the gut, and Bottas is now at risk of losing his second-place points spot to Verstappen. Bottas needs to get his act together or he will be out at Mercedes quick.
The next race and penultimate event on the calendar will be back at the Bahrain International Circuit. This time it will be on the endurance circuit, which features a “NASCAR-esque” near oval layout. Pundits are predicting possible sub one minute lap times, in addition to the faster speeds and higher race pace. The green flag will be December 6th.