Lewis Hamilton wins Bahrain Grand Prix thriller
Lewis Hamilton led Nico Rosberg to a dominant Mercedes one-two tonight in the most exciting and most memorable Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix ever held at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir.
The landmark 10th edition of the Kingdom’s Formula One race certainly lived up to the hype as the top flight’s greatest drivers put on a spectacular show over an eventful and hugely exciting 57 laps, held for the very first time under floodlights at "The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East".
Following the conclusion of the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, BIC Chairman Zayed R. Alzayani said: "I would first like to congratulate Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team on an outstanding victory today, in the most exciting race ever seen at the BIC, bringing a fitting end to a momentous 10th anniversary weekend at Bahrain International Circuit.
"Today, we attracted a record crowd of 31,000, our highest ever attendance for a single day and I am delighted that the crowd was suitably rewarded with a phenomenal display of racing.
"The grandstand was sold out as were our corporate boxes, underlining our belief that the spectacle and attraction of the night race has brought a new generation of fans to F1.
"It has taken a huge effort from all involved in the construction and the preparation to get the circuit ready for our first night race and I would like to thank all those who have made that happen, especially the staff at the BIC for their efforts over the last few months, as well as our partners and sponsors."
Bahrain’s first-ever night race attracted the biggest ever single day crowd at BIC, with the Main Grandstand and corporate boxes all sold out.
The 31,000 crowd for Sunday bettered the 28,000 from last year, while the total 85,000 over three days dwarfed the 73,000 total of 2013.
Hamilton crossed the finish line the winner as BIC Chief Executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa waved the chequered flag, with teammate Rosberg trailing by a mere 1.085 seconds following a heated battle for the lead over the final 10 laps.
An impressive display of fireworks then brightened up the night sky over the spectacularly lit desert circuit as Hamilton stepped out of his Mercedes W05 cheered on by the thousands of fans in attendance.
Force India’s Sergio Perez joined Hamilton and Rosberg on the podium, leading the rest of the pack who were nearly half-a-minute behind the Mercedes pair.
At the podium ceremony in front of a packed Main Grandstand, Hamilton was presented his trophy by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister.
Mercedes, being represented by Engineering Director Aldo Costa, were handed over their trophy as winning constructor by Gulf Air Acting CEO Maher Al Musallam.
Rosberg was awarded by Minister of Transportation HE Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, while Perez was presented his prize by Bahrain Motor Federation President HE Shaikh Abdulla bin Isa Al Khalifa.
"It’s great to see that we have such a great following here," Hamilton said after the podium presentation. "I am so grateful to the team for getting us up here. This is my first win in Bahrain, which is nice."
Mercedes’ dominance was never more clear than when Hamilton and Rosberg built a huge gap in front of the rest of the field after only the second safety car period ever in Bahrain. With 10 laps to go and the safety car coming in, the Mercedes pair charged ahead and created a lead that was nearly as long as BIC’s main straight in just a single lap.
The two teammates were then engaged in a breath-taking duel that could have gone either way, but in the end it was Hamilton who claimed the win.
Perez crossed the finish line a whole 24.067 seconds behind.
"It was really exciting," Hamilton described. "Nico drove fantastically well, it was hard to keep him behind me. I was on a real knife-edge at the end but just managed to take it."
Rosberg, who started from pole position but then gave up the lead to his teammate at the first turn, commented: "I strongly dislike coming second to Lewis, I have to say that, but it was definitely the most exciting race I have ever raced in my whole career.
"I think today was a day for the sport, we put on a fantastic show and I will be back to win here next season."
With today’s result, Mercedes have made it clear that they are currently in a class of their own after winning their third successive race, with Hamilton claiming a back-to-back.
The Grand Prix was nearly marred by a massive accident on lap 41, when Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez was T-boned by Lotus talent Pastor Maldonado, causing Gutierrez to spin upside down, bounce off the tarmac once and then land the right way up.
Gutierrez was clearly shaken but by the huge crash but was able to step out of the severely damaged car. Maldonado was eventually given a 10-second stop/go penalty.
Several other exciting battles were enjoyed by the fans behind the leading trio.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was able to overtake Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg late on to finish fourth overall, while teammate and two-time defending Bahrain Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel finished an impressive sixth despite a horrendous qualifying on Saturday.
The Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top eight. It was an unfortunate finish for the tandem, who had been battling for third place for much of the race before the entry of the safety car.
Ferrari’s superstar tandem of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were in ninth and 10th, respectively, coming away with the final points.
Ranked 11th through 17th on the final classification were Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Romain Grosjean of Lotus, Max Chilton of Marussia, Pastor Maldonado of Lotus, Kamui Kobayashi of Caterham, Jules Bianchi of Marussia, and Jenson Button of McLaren.
Retiring from the Grand Prix were McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Sauber’s Adrian Sutil.