Brian Joss –
Lewis wins third race in a row.
The spectacular Bahrain Grand Prix, held under lights in the evening with falling track and ambient temperatures, provided a high-speed tactical battle, during which drivers chose an assortment of two-stop and three-stop strategies.
Two stops were expected for most of the drivers (even though a three-stopper was theoretically faster) due to the problem of passing cars in traffic. But the pace of the medium tyre, which worked extremely well in the falling track temperatures, allowed more drivers to make use of the faster strategy and opened up several options.
The top four finishers still chose a two-stop strategy, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen making use of a strong middle stint on the medium tyre to claim second place from Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg on the penultimate lap and close in on the lead during the final lap. Raikkonen’s pace on the P Zero White medium tyre was such that he felt more comfortable on it than the P Zero Yellow soft tyre, but the Finn used the softer compound to set the fastest lap of the race in the closing stages. This was the 41st fastest lap of Raikkonen’s career, which means that he has now equalled Alain Prost to lie second overall in the all-time fastest lap rankings, behind Michael Schumacher.
The race was won by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, claiming his third victory of the season and the 36th of his career, with a soft-soft-medium strategy that was also adopted by his team mate Rosberg in third and Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, who finished fourth.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was the highest-placed driver to visit the pits three times, ending up in fifth despite his final unscheduled stop to replace a nosecone. Further behind him, there was a mixture of two and three stop strategies all the way down the rest of the field.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It was a very competitive race with plenty of overtaking and good pace from both compounds. There was a big mixture of strategies, featuring both two and three stop options, with a highlight being the alternative two-stop strategy chosen by Kimi Raikkonen, using the medium tyre during the middle stint. This opened up the question of which tyre he should use for the final stint, with some people thinking that the medium tyre would be better suited to the falling temperatures. However, the way he drove his final stint, and the fastest lap that he set on the soft compound, fully justifies the decision and contributed to a very exciting finish.”