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Bahrain GP Part 2: Hamilton wins on miraculous night for F1

Lewis Hamilton scored his 95th Formula 1 victory in style on Sunday night at an incident-packed 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, the Mercedes driver triumphing on a night in which the sport can count itself lucky.

First, the fiery crash that Romain Grosjean survived when he made a mistake, lost control of his car and speared the barrier, splitting the car in half before it burst into flames.

It took a horrifically, agonising dozen seconds or more for the Frenchman to hobble out into the hands of the safety crew. It was a close call and he was hospitalised for observation.

A long red flag period ensued to repair the barrier and clear the wrecked Haas. Shortly after the restart Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat came together, the Racing Point flipping on its head which prompted a safety car.

When the field was unleashed again Lewis simply powered into the lead where he remained all afternoon, barring the pitstops, while Max Verstappen chased, but again did not have the ammunition and had to settle for second.

Hamilton said of his victory, “It was physically very demanding. With the break we had at the beginning – you get into a mindset of going out and getting a good start – but with that 45-minute wait we had, it is so easy to step out of the zone.

“They (the Red Bulls) had a lot of speed today so I was flat out all the way trying to keep them at bay. It’s physical, this track has always been physical. We’ve got lots of high-speed corners so I was definitely feeling it.

“I managed to just about reply to (Max) when I needed to but I was sliding around a lot out there and I wasn’t really quite sure how it would play out at the end. So I’m massively thankful to my team. They did a great job with the strategy and what a privilege it is to get another result like this,” concluded the F1 World Champion.

Max said of his evening in the desert, “I was lacking a bit. I tried to keep close but they were ahead and we didn’t have an answer and we didn’t really go aggressive enough with the strategy, we also had a slow pit stop. It is what it is. Second isn’t too bad. Hopefully, we can find a little bit more pace and we’ll see again.”

It was heartbreak for Sergio Perez, again he made a mockery of the fact that no one wants him next year in F1 by running in third place for most of the race until, the finish in sight when the Merc engine expired in flames. A huge blow for the Pinks when so much was in grasp.

Thus the race ended behind the safety car, bringing an end to a night in which F1 can thank their lucky stars over the Manama desert.

Hence Alex Albon inherited third, a timely result for the underpressure Red Bull driver, even though the gap to his teammate was well over half a minute before the final Safety Car.

The Thai driver said, “It was obviously a bit of luck with what happened to Sergio (Perez). He had a good race, but the guys did an amazing job to get the car ready.

“A double podium for us and I’m happy. I felt the last few races getting better and better and results not showing so this is a step forward for us. All good,” said Alex.

The zero haul of points by Racing Point played handsomely for McLaren whose precocious Lando Norris came home fourth after nearly running into a marshal crossing the track during the final safety car period.

While Carlos Sainz again over-delivered to finish fifth after starting 15th, the Spaniard twice doing the tango and blitzing past his soon to be Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc. A sign of things to come at Maranello, two young guns in the barn.

The Reds doomed to another woeful afternoon in which Leclerc’s best efforts were rewarded with a solitary point for tenth. Sebastian Vettel was well out of sorts, ending the night 13th when last year he was on the podium here.

Pierre Gasly again bettered his teammate Daniil Kvyat, the Frenchman finishing a fighting fifth and the Russian out of the points in 11th.

A puncture suffered by Valtteri Bottas during the early restart rendered him to the back of the field and was then forced to play catch-up all night with a disappointing eighth-place his reward when a podium would have been a foregone conclusion before the race started.

Renault could not match the Orange customer cars, but Daniel Ricciardo did well to salvage seventh, with teammate Esteban Ocon ninth.