Dominant Mercedes has a point to prove at Bahrain Grand Prix


BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - APRIL 07: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Williams Martini Racing FW41 Mercedes on track during final practice for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 7, 2018 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

Verstappen pitted and re-joined, but his race was over when, like Ricciardo, he stopped and retired.

Vettel prompted a slight drama through the semester when some of the body work fitted into his Ferrari'therefore sidepod functioned free and began flapping about, forcing the German four-time champion to pit for repairs. The iceman's chances of taking a podium were crashed, after a pitstop incident left a Ferrari mechanic hurt. A rear wheel was not fitted properly and, in his haste to get back into the race, Raikkonen's vehicle ran over and broke a mechanic's left leg.

The mechanic was taken to the circuit medical centre with a suspected broken leg.

Vettel made a clean start and Bottas swept past Raikkonen to split the Ferraris on the opening lap.

Verstappen's determined charge from 15th through the field was checked by a coming together with Hamilton on the second lap, landing the Dutchman with a puncture that ultimately led to his retirement.

At the very least it promised an exciting finish that came to fruition as Vettel's softer tyres inevitably neared the end of their life in the closing laps.

The two Ferrari men were comfortably clear by more than half a second of the two Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and his team-mate, defending champion Lewis Hamilton.

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The top three soon broke away from the rest of the pack, while there was plenty of action going with the remainder of the grid.

Verstappen complained about a lack of speed in his Red Bull on Friday. While he had the tyres changed, a differential problem had him stop shortly after ending his run.

That should theoretically allow him to go longer in the race before needing to pit, opening up strategic possibilities Mercedes might be able to exploit in the event of a safety auto, like Ferrari did in Australia.

"Not easy", said Hamilton, looking ahead to Sunday's race. With the last two laps to go, Bottas entered the DRS range and attempted to pass Vettel at Turn 1 on the final lap.

The surprise package of qualifying was Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso. Gasly had qualified sixth (started fifth due to Hamilton's grid penalty) and was running strongly in fifth before Raikkonen's retirement allowed him to score a result that few would have believed given Honda's trouble in F1's hybrid era when they became partners to McLaren.

McLaren took seventh and eighth, with Fernando Alonso ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, while Marcus Ericsson ran a one-stop strategy to claim ninth - his first points since 2015, and Sauber's first top 10 finish in nearly a year.

Marcus Ericsson scored his first points in 50 races in ninth for Sauber with Esteban Ocon completing the top 10.