F1: Lewis Hamilton holds off Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg as humdinger Bahrain Grand Prix silences detractors

A late safety car period put Hamilton's victory into question but the 2008 champions hold off his team-mate to clinch back-to-back penalties

Bahrain

Thank the Lord that so many of Formula One’s detractors were present in Bahrain, where the 900th grand prix since the world championship was inaugurated turned out to be a humdinger that was easily the best held so far under the new regulations.

Lewis Hamilton closed the gap between himself and Mercedes team-mate and world championship leader Nico Rosberg to 11 points with the narrowest of victories.

With battles all down the field throughout the race, taxi racing it wasn’t.

Mystified by the way in which he had lost pace relative to Rosberg as the weekend progressed, Hamilton knew a good start was critical. Rosberg actually made a better one from pole position, but Hamilton hung tough on the run down to the first corner and grabbed the lead.

Within laps the two Silver Arrows had left their opposition for dead. But while Hamilton resisted further attack from Rosberg at the end of his first stint and then opted for another set of Pirelli’s soft tyres on the 19th lap, Rosberg went for medium compound tyres two laps later and planned to do a longer middle stint, then to attack again on soft tyres when it was Hamilton’s turn to run the slower mediums at the end. But by the 40th lap Hamilton had opened a lead of 9.7sec.

That was when Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber went upside down at Turn One, necessitating deployment of the safety car.

“Whoa! What was that?” the groggy Mexican asked his team over the radio. ‘That’ was Pastor Maldonado, who had driven his Lotus out of the pits and then straight into the side of the Swiss team’s car. The Venezuelan enfant terrible was given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, and a five-place grid drop for the Chinese Grand Prix; a one-race ban would have been more apposite for his latest spectacular gaffe.

The safety car threatened to ruin Hamilton’s strategy, as it seemingly played straight into Rosberg’s hands as they took their final sets of tyres on the 41st lap. Over their radios both were reminded by team technician Paddy Lowe that there were 10 laps left when the race resumed after the safety car period, and that the team wanted both cars to come home. But other than that, they were free to race mano-a-mano.

Several times Rosberg nosed ahead, only for Hamilton to salvage the situation either on the cutback or simply by hanging in there and refusing to concede defeat. Rosberg had the gap down to half a second on the 51st and 52nd laps, but all of his attacks were repelled by Hamilton’s spirited yet fair defence, and finally they crossed the line a second apart.

“That was one of my most difficult races ever,” Hamilton said, his face lit up by the euphoria of his first victory in Bahrain. “The last time was probably Indianapolis in 2007 against Fernando [Alonso]. Nico drove fantastically well, and it’s very hard to make the right decisions when you are racing a team-mate, especially when half the time you can’t see each other in the blind spot. Racing flat out against him, with his faster tyres, was really tough. That was a really exceptional race and we haven’t had one like that since our karting days. Back then he led the whole way and I overtook him on the last lap – and today I thought he was going to do that and get me back.

“It was great fun, but a huge relief when I got across the line first.”

Rosberg was in philosophical mood. “I didn’t have the best of starts, but that’s the way it went,” he said. “I was quicker today, which I’m pleased about, but when I tried to overtake at the end of the first stint I couldn’t make it stick. So we changed our tyre strategy to try and have another go at the end. We had another good battle again, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it happen. I thought I’d got him about nine times but it didn’t work out and he always got the run back on me.

“Lewis is very good at defending. But that’s what I’m here for, for racing like that.”

The pair embraced afterwards, and clearly enjoyed their duel. And because he is a very savvy young man, Rosberg couldn’t resist a swipe at all those, among them the spectating Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo who already want things changed to make the racing more exciting, when he added: “This was a great day for the sport after all the recent criticism, so that’s a very good thing.

“I strongly dislike coming second to Lewis, it’s not something I enjoy, but that was definitely the most exciting race I’ve done in my whole career. Today was a day for the sport, and we put on a massive show for Team Silver Arrows.”

Amen to that!

As Sergio Perez just fended off Daniel Ricciardo for the final podium place, after the race was peppered by exciting wheel-to-wheel skirmishes, a stricken di Montezemolo was seen slinking away midway through.

An early flight, or could he just not bear to watch? he was asked by NBCSN. “To be honest, both,” he replied glumly. His beloved Ferraris had trailed home ninth and 10th. Perhaps there were some taxis racing after all.

Final Positions after Race (57 Laps):

1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1hr 39mins 42.743secs, 2 Nico Rosberg(Ger)Mercedes GP 1:39:43.828, 3 Sergio Perez(Mex)Force India 1:40:06.810, 4 Daniel Ricciardo(Aus)Red Bull 1:40:07.232, 5 Nico Hulkenberg(Ger)Force India 1:40:11.397, 6 Sebastian Vettel(Ger)Red Bull 1:40:12.622, 7 Felipe Massa(Bra)Williams 1:40:14.008, 8 Valtteri Bottas(Fin)Williams 1:40:14.619, 9 Fernando Alonso(Spa)Ferrari 1:40:15.338, 10 Kimi Raikkonen(Fin)Ferrari 1:40:16.205, 11 Daniil Kvyat(Rus)Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:40:24.085, 12 Romain Grosjean(Fra)Lotus F1 Team 1:40:25.886, 13 Max Chilton(Gbr)Marussia 1:40:42.652, 14 Pastor Maldonado(Ven)Lotus F1 Team 1:40:45.546, 15 Kamui Kobayashi(Jpn)Caterham 1:41:10.643, 16 Jules Bianchi(Fra)Marussia at 1 Lap, 17 Jenson Button(Gbr)McLaren at 2 Laps

Not Classified: 18 Kevin Magnussen(Den)McLaren 40 Laps completed, 19 Esteban Gutierrez(Mex)Sauber-Ferrari 39 Laps completed, 20 Marcus Ericsson(Swe)Caterham 33 Laps completed, 21 Jean-Eric Vergne(Fra)Scuderia Toro Rosso 18 Laps completed, 22 Adrian Sutil(Ger) Sauber-Ferrari 17 Laps completed

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album