Sebastian Vettel consoles third placed finisher Charles Leclerc. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Sebastian Vettel consoles third placed finisher Charles Leclerc. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Ferrari young gun’s heartbreak

Lewis Hamilton won a chaotic and incident-filled Bahrain GP after disaster struck for Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc cruelly denied a first F1 victory after engine issues while Sebastian Vettel span in a tussle with Hamilton's Mercedes.

Ferrari appeared to be heading towards a much-needed win with Leclerc and Vettel running first and second with less than 20 laps remaining, but Mercedes stole an unexpected one-two and victory off their rivals.

Vettel was the first of the Ferraris to falter after spinning and sustaining heavy damage to his car when trying to fend off Hamilton at Turn Four, while Leclerc, who had dominated the weekend, missed out on a deserved maiden F1 win after suffering late reliability problems.

Leclerc had a 10-second advantage on lap 46 when he delivered a stunning message over his team's radio: "There is something strange with the engine. There's something strange with the engine! F***."

Leclerc finished third behind Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, while Vettel was only fifth.

"Of course I'm extremely disappointed," Leclerc added post-race. "It's a very hard one to take."

Hamilton offered his commiserations to the Ferrari youngster, adding: "That was extremely unfortunate for Charles, he drove such a great race."

But while Leclerc can take positives from an error-free performance and a first podium, Vettel will be left ruing another mistake in wheel-to-wheel combat.

"Vettel is continuing what he was doing last year, messing it up again, spinning around again in a battle," said Sky F1's Nico Rosberg. "It's unbelievable that it keeps on happening to him."

Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished ahead of Vettel in fourth, while Lando Norris was a superb sixth for McLaren.

The British rookie, 19, brilliantly held off the experienced Kimi Raikkonen, while Alex Albon also secured his first F1 points.

VETTEL'S FLAW, RENAULT DISASTER: HOW RACE UNFOLDED

The second race of the F1 2019 season was an epic from start to finish.

Vettel stormed off the line to take the lead off the slow-starting Leclerc, who dropped to third behind Bottas before overtaking the Mercedes a lap later, with Hamilton also getting past the Finn.

Carlos Sainz then collided with Max Verstappen when trying to battle for fifth, which ended what was looking like an extremely strong evening for McLaren's Spaniard.

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Then it was Leclerc's time to make a move. He quickly gained on Vettel after his poor start to overtake the four-time world champion for the lead on Lap 6.

Mercedes executed the undercut perfectly with their first pit-stop to bring Hamilton out in front of Vettel, but the Englishman struggled on the soft tyres and his title rival from 2018 soon got back ahead for second.

But Hamilton closed up to Vettel again on Lap 38 after a second stop brought him back out on medium tyres, and after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle through consecutive corners, the Ferrari span as the Mercedes made a move around the outside.

Vettel's tyres were ruined, and he was soon without a front wing as well when it spectacularly flew off as he tried to make it back to the pits. That eventual stop left him down in ninth and facing a mammoth recovery job.

A downbeat Vettel reflected: "It was difficult. We all struggled at various points in the race but l really struggled at the start of the race. Overall, there was not the pace l wanted. And on top, I had the mistake with the spin. Not a good evening."

Lewis Hamilton’s season is underway. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton’s season is underway. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

That left Leclerc as Ferrari's sole remaining hope but he started to lose power with just over 10 laps to go, and was then losing well over a second-a-lap to Hamilton.

An apologetic Hamilton sailed past the ailing Ferrari, as did Bottas. Now Leclerc was facing the possibility of missing the podium altogether as Verstappen closed in.

Leclerc was eventually saved by a late Safety Car, caused by a worrying DNF for Renault as both Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, who made contact earlier in the race, suffered reliability failures on the same lap from sixth and 10th.

Bahrain was a crushing blow for Ferrari. But Mercedes are still adamant that the Scuderia are the team to beat in F1 2019 - particularly on circuits which favour straight-line speed.

RESULTS

1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1hr 34min 21.836 sec

2. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) at 2.980

3. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 6.131

4. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) 6.408

5. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari) 36.068

6. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Renault) 45.754

7. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN/Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari) 47.470

8. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Red Bull-Honda) 58.094

9. AlexanderAlbon (THA/Toro Rosso-Honda) 1:02.697

10. Sergio Pérez (MEX/Racing Point-Mercedes) 1:03.696

11. Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/AlfaRomeo Racing-Ferrari) 1:04.599

12. Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Toro Rosso-Honda) 1 lap

13. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari) 1 lap

14. Lance Stroll (CAN/Racing Point-Mercedes) 1 lap

15. George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1 lap

16. Robert Kubica (POL/Williams-Mercedes) 2 laps

Retirements: Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas-Ferrari), Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/McLaren-Renault), Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Renault), NicoHülkenberg (GER/Renault)

STANDINGS

1. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 44 pts, 2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 43, 3. Max Verstappen (NED) 27, 4. Charles Leclerc (MON) 26, 5. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 22, 6. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN) 10, 7. Lando Norris (GBR) 8, 8. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 8, 9. Nico Hülkenberg (GER) 6, 10. Pierre Gasly (FRA) 4, 11. Lance Stroll (CAN) 2, 12. Alexander Albon (THA) 2, 13. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) 1, 14. Sergio Pérez (MEX) 1

This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission


UPDATE: Severe storm warning cancelled

UPDATE: Severe storm warning cancelled

The severe storm warning has been cancelled.

Just $5 a month for the stories that matter this summer

premium_icon Just $5 a month for the stories that matter this summer

Great deal to give you access to our best journalism and rewards

Kingaroy acquires internationally renowned statue

premium_icon Kingaroy acquires internationally renowned statue

The South Burnett was well on its way to acquiring the largest single collection of...