Charles Leclerc had looked on course to convert his first pole position into a maiden win under the floodlights at the Bahrain Grand Prix 2019. That was until 10 laps before the end of the Grand Prix when an issue with his Ferrari’s engine forced him to concede the lead he’d held for most of the race to the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
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Hamilton went on to lead home Mercedes’ second one-two of the year ahead of Valtteri Bottas, while a late Safety Car brought out for the two Renaults retiring on the same lap at least limited the damage to Leclerc’s race, as he ended up third to claim his first podium in F1.
It was still a heartbreaking end to what had been a superb Bahrain Grand Prix 2019 for Leclerc, who had managed much of the race magnificently from the front and would certainly have become the 108th winner in F1 history had the issue with his engine not manifested.
There was more woe for Ferrari, too, as Sebastian Vettel – who himself had looked set to claim a podium behind Leclerc – spun while battling with Lewis Hamilton before dramatically losing his front wing down the back straight. He was left to fight back to fifth, behind the fourth-placed Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Lando Norris put in a fantastic drive to wind up sixth – benefitting from Nico Hulkenberg’s late retirement from that position, while Kimi Raikkonen was seventh ahead of the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly.
MARIO ISOLA – HEAD OF F1 AND CAR RACING
As Lewis Hamilton said, Charles Leclerc deserved to win today, and his problems were part of a truly dramatic and unpredictable Grand Prix, in which tyre strategy played a key part. Both Ferrari and Mercedes timed their stops to try and undercut each other, but Leclerc’s performance advantage meant he could make his second stop without losing the lead. There was an ample range of strategies: in fact, only two teams ran exactly the same strategies for both their drivers. Outside the immediate frontrunners, there were also some stand-out performances from drivers such as Lando Norris, who scored his first points for McLaren.