With hopes set high following Charles Leclerc’s historic pole position on Saturday for the Bahrain Grand Prix, Ferrari looked poised to take their first win of the 2019 season having locked out the front row of the grid, with the SF90 looking strong all weekend.
However, it was not to be a win for Ferrari in Bahrain and the team had to settle for a third-place podium finish for Charles Leclerc and fifth for Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel got a good start, getting ahead of his pole sitting teammate at the first corner, with Leclerc slipping down to third as Valtteri Bottas also shot by. But Leclerc was able to regain the place from Bottas on the next lap and close in on his teammate. By lap 5 he managed to pass Vettel with a car that was performing better in the hot conditions.
Vettel re-joined the race behind Lewis Hamilton after his first pit stop and managed to pass his rival eight laps later. However, on lap 35, following his second pit stop, Vettel span his car after racing with Hamilton again and flat spotted his tyres which in turn caused his front wing to come off in spectacular fashion thanks to the severe vibrations from the tyre. This meant another pit stop, putting him down into ninth. It did not take Vettel long though to charge past Kimi Räikkönen, Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg to reach fifth place, where he finished the race.
With just 15 laps remaining, the gremlins took hold of Leclerc’s car which suffered a power unit problem, slowing him down considerably and allowing the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to overtake him. Then two laps from the end, the Safety Car was deployed to deal with the two Renaults which both stopped on different parts of the track on the same lap. The race ended on yellow, allowing Leclerc to limp his car home in third and his first ever podium finish but not the result expected by Ferrari in Bahrain.
Charles Leclerc summed up the race by saying, “It’s part of motorsport, we know that. Sometimes it’s not your day to win and today wasn’t ours. In the final part of the race we had an issue with the power unit and I had to slow down. It’s a shame because the race seemed to me to be under control. The team is disappointed, and I am disappointed but there are a lot of positives to take home from this weekend. They gave me an amazing car and that is very much to their credit. The car was very easy to drive and was very good. These things happen in motorsport: we took the best out of it anyway. It’s my first podium even if I’m not enjoying it as much as I wanted. It’s life, it happens, we’ll come back stronger”.
Sebastian Vettel concluded that it was “Not the race we wanted. We started first and second and we didn’t finish there. A disappointing evening. I had a good start but already halfway through the first lap I realised that the car was extremely difficult to drive. I think Charles struggled less as he had no difficulties in passing me. It was quite tough out there. Then we lost P2 at the pitstop but came back. In the second stint on the medium tyres maybe it was a bit better but overall we didn’t have the pace we should have had today. While battling with Lewis I made a mistake at turn 4, which is one of the trickiest corners on the track. I suddenly lost the car and I spun. In doing so, I damaged the tyres so much that I had quite a lot of vibrations, which eventually led to the failure of the front wing. It was Charles’ race today, he got very unlucky. I am sorry for him and for the team”.
The Chinese Grand Prix is on 14th April and will be the one thousandth Grand Prix in Formula One’s history.
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man Behind The Wheel and Our Man On The Ground Travel and Lifestyle Magazine.
Photographs courtesy of Ferrari