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

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine