Heartbreak for Leclerc as Hamilton wins in Bahrain
Paris: Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton took a lucky Bahrain Grand Prix win for Mercedes after engine trouble in the dying stages denied Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc a first Formula One victory.
The luckless Leclerc had looked like becoming Ferrari’s youngest ever race winner, at 21, after starting on pole position and leading comfortably. Instead, the Monegasque ended up third.
Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas, lapping far faster than the stricken Ferrari, reeled him in and breezed past to secure the team’s second one-two finish in as many races and against the odds.
“That was extremely unfortunate for Charles,” said Hamilton after starting in third place and behind the Ferraris.
“He drove such a great race. We’ve got work to do to keep these guys off our tails,” added the Briton, who embraced Leclerc after they stepped out of their cars and offered commiserations.
The race finished with the field following the safety car, deployed as marshals removed Daniel Ricciardo’s stranded Renault.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium with third-placed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc
“I was not expecting that result,” added Hamilton, who had complained earlier of feeling like a sitting duck with his fading tyres.
Hamilton’s win was the 74th of his career but first this season. He is now 17 wins short of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91.
The Briton stayed second in the championship but is now just one point shy of overall leader Bottas, who won and scored the extra point for fastest lap in the season-opener in Australia two weeks ago.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said it was always a balance between performance and reliability.
“Charles was very unfortunate today,” he agreed.
“He was the quickest guy and should have won the race but then things swing in the other direction.”
Third place was still a first Formula One podium for Leclerc, and he also took an extra point for setting the fastest lap of the race, but that was scant consolation considering how much more he could have had.
“It’s a very hard one to take,” said the youngster, in only his second race for Ferrari.
“It’s a shame to only finish third, but it’s part of racing and we’ll come back stronger.”