Hamilton fends off Rosberg for Bahrain GP victory

Hamilton fends off Rosberg for Bahrain GP victory

The Mercedes team-mates staged a thrilling tussle for supremacy in the desert, with the Briton getting the nod by just one second

Lewis Hamilton resisted a race-long challenge from Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to collect his second victory in seven days in today’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 57-lap night race around the Sakhir circuit was packed with close racing throughout the field, but the tense battle between the Mercedes pair had the crowd on its feet.

The Silver Arrows continued their domination of the 2014 season in qualifying, with Rosberg getting the better of Hamilton after the latter – who had been quickest in each of the three practice sessions – made a mistake on his last flying lap.

Come the race, however, Hamilton nipped ahead of Rosberg after they ran side-by-side in the opening corners and maintained a narrow advantage over the German, who ran wheel-to-wheel with his rival several times but couldn’t make a move stick.

Mercedes put its drivers onto divergent strategies at their first pit visits. While Hamilton remained on the faster soft tyres, Rosberg decided to run the compulsory mediums. This meant the German dropped almost ten seconds to the Briton at the head of the field.

But the fight for victory was blown wide open when the safety car was deployed to allow marshals to clear Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber, which had been pitched into a roll by a hapless Pastor Maldonado in his Lotus.

In anticipation of the safety car, Mercedes called both of its drivers into the pit lane for their final tyre changes. Hamilton now had to cope with the slower medium compound, while the chasing Rosberg had the more competitive soft tyres fitted to his car.

That should have swung the race in Rosberg’s favour, because the safety car had eradicated Hamilton’s carefully earned advantage. But when the race resumed, Hamilton was able to fend off Rosberg’s attempts, even though the latter used his drag reduction system (DRS) on the run down the start/finish straight.

Rosberg was a scant 1.085sec in arrears at the chequered flag, as a jubilant Hamilton secured the 24th grand prix win of his Formula 1 career, just seven days after his success in Malaysia.

The final ten-lap sprint after the safety car offered an ominous glimpse of the true pace of the Mercedes cars, which were able to lap almost three seconds faster than their rivals as they staged their own private battle.

Sergio Perez fended off a resurgent Daniel Ricciardo by 0.4sec to claim Force India’s first podium finish since 2009, while the Red Bull driver turned in a magnificent performance having started from 13th on the grid.

He was faster than his struggling team leader Sebastian Vettel, who complained of a down-on-power engine and wound up sixth behind the second Force India of Nico Hülkenberg.

Today’s result means Hamilton has reduced Rosberg’s advantage at the head of the points standings to 11 points, while Mercedes heads Force India in the constructors’ championship by a whopping 67 points.

Results

Bahrain GP, 6 April 2014, round 3/19 (provisional)

1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

2 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)

3 Sergio Perez (Force India)

4 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)

5 Nico Hülkenberg (Force India)

6 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)

7 Felipe Massa (Williams)

8 Valtteri Bottas (Williams)

9 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)

10 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari)

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