Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Hamilton Wins Bahrain Grand Prix Marred by Major Opening Lap Crash

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

The 2020 Formula 1 season is drawing closer to an end as three races remain in the 17-race schedule hastily compiled as a result to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Bahrain International Circuit is hosting two of the final three events for the year with the first being the annual Bahrain Grand Prix on a 15, turn 5.412-kilometer course. 

Recently locking up enough points in the season-long drivers’ title, Lewis Hamilton arrived in Sakhir as only the second seven-time Formula 1 World Champion. A three-time winner of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton continuing offensive for victories running to the conclusion of the 2020 calendar has him attempting to score a win in the 57-lap night race from the pole.

The start of the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix would be routine through the first corners of the first lap as the field diced for positions early but would quickly involve a most frightening scene. During a Formula 1 season that involved a number of red flag incidents, the start of the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix featured one of the most alarming moments on track this year.

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Out of turn three, the #8 car of Romain Grosjean maneuvered right in reaction to the calamity ahead of him but was seemingly unaware of the placement of the AlphaTauri race car driven by Daniil Kvyat. Crossing ahead of Kvyat, Grosjean’s right rear tire brushed the front left tire of the AlphaTauri. The contact caused the Haas racing machine to veer right into a violent, fiery crash with the track wall. The impact with the steel barrier caused the #8 Haas VF-20 race car to split in half with the safety cell portion protecting the driver separated from the rear portion containing the power unit. As the rear of the car coasted several meters away before coming to a rest, the front of the vehicle containing the French driver had become tangled into the track’s steel barrier. With the safety cell of his race car in flames, the FIA safety team and nearby track workers rushed to the driver. Fortunately, Romain Grosjean was alert and able to escape quickly from the burning remains of his race car with the aid of members of the safety crew. Grosjean would be treated in a hospital for burns suffered to both hands and remained in the medical care overnight as a precaution.  

A red flag period lasting more nearly an hour and a half was needed to recover the components of the crashed Haas Formula 1 car and for track workers to replace the section of track barrier. When the race restarted from a standing start for lap three with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen leading the field, the quest for a full green lap in the Bahrain Grand Prix would have to wait as a result of a turn eight accident. 

Battling from a 13th place starting spot, Canadian driver Lance Stroll would have his race literally turned upside down. Entering the eighth corner in 12th place, Stroll was under attack from the AlphaTauri of Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat made a late move on the #18 Racing Point into lower portion of the turn. The sudden, poorly-timed passing attempt surprised Stroll as the AlphaTauri race car’s left front tire brushed the Racing Point RP20's right rear launching him into a half roll. Upside down, Stroll was able to promptly climb from his vehicle unhurt as a safety car would be called so track marshals could retrieve race car. Daniil Kvyat would receive a 10-second penalty after being judged at-fault for the incident and would finish the Bahrain Grand Prix in 11th place. Kevin Magnussen would also incur minor damage catching debris from the flipped Racing Point car but would continue. 

Photo Credit: Charles Coates/ LAT Images/Pirelli

During the safety car period, the Mercedes-AMG race car of Valtteri Bottas pitted after suffering a tire puncture. Starting the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix alongside teammate Lewis Hamilton, Bottas, had a disastrous launch from his grid position falling to as low as sixth place in the first several corners before the red flag. The Finnish driver resumed the race in the fourth spot for lap three but the unscheduled tire stop on lap four dropped him deep into the running order. After fighting his way into the points, Valtteri Bottas completed the 57-lap race in 8th place. 

When the safety car returned to the pit lane, Lewis Hamilton charged away to a comfortable yet not massive lead. Through much of the event, Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing vehicle was several seconds behind the #44 Mercedes-AMG race car but managed a very strong pace throughout the event. Verstappen was roughly five seconds behind Hamilton on lap 46 just before the Red Bull driver pitted for medium compound Pirelli tires in order to post the fastest lap of the race. 

Photo Credit: Andy Hone/LAT Images/Pirelli

Heading into the final four laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the top three runners appeared to have established a steady gap and pace to carry them through to the finish. Running approximately 18 seconds behind the Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance race car of Lewis Hamilton in the running order was Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing RB16 who maintaining a sizable interval over Sergio Perez. The sole Racing Point runner through much of the race, Perez was on the verge of celebrating his second consecutive Formula 1 podium. Though the Mexican drove a fantastic grand prix, his Racing Point’s Mercedes-Benz power unit picked the most inopportune time to fail this season. Puffs of smoke from the back of the pink #11 race car would intensify and was soon accompanied by flames. The Racing Point came to a full stop on track with three laps remaining ending Perez’s strong outing and the pursuit for valuable constructors’ points as the team is locked in a tight battle for third in the season’s standings. After the race, Racing Point revealed the cost of the podium finish was specifically attributed to an MKU-K issue.

With the final laps taking place behind the safety car, Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team took the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix. Claiming his 95th Formula 1 victory, Hamilton described the victory as a hand-fought affair despite leading from flag-to-flag. “Max pushed me all the way and he had a lot of speed today. I was struggling a little bit with the car sliding around, but I just had enough to be able to respond to Max’s quick laps when it mattered.” said Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes-AMG team’s post-race press release. The seven-time Formula 1 World Champion was also thoughtful of the incident at the start of the grand prix grateful that Romain Grosjean left the serious crash without serious or life-threatening injuries crediting the FIA medical team as well as the Halo bar installed on all Formula 1 cars since 2018. 

Photo Credit: Andy Hone/LAT Images/Pirelli

While Sergio Perez and Racing Point lost their place on the podium with the late retirement at the Bahrain International Circuit, the Red Bull Racing celebrated the accomplishment of their first double podium finish since the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix. Finishing second, Max Verstappen successfully scored the point for setting the fastest lap in the grand prix with a 1-minute, 32.014-second lap time. Finishing third, Alexander Albon ran a consistent race en route to his second Formula 1 podium result. 

After team benefiting from the Racing Point’s scoreless outing was the McLaren Racing squad. Both McLaren drivers enjoyed a productive 57 laps at the Bahrain International Circuit improving from their grid positions to register just outside of the podium. Starting ninth, Lando Norris crossed the finish line in fourth place while Carlos Sainz Jr. climbed from a 15th grid position to finish fifth. The effort for the McLaren team resulted in 22 points towards the constructors’ championship giving themselves a 17-point lead for third-place in the team standings. 

Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Image/Pirelli

Finishing sixth in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, Pierre Gasly would last pit on lap 25 and made his AlphaTauri’s medium compound tires last through the final 32 laps. Behind Gasly, the Renault team cars sandwiched Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes-AMG race machine. Daniel Ricciardo crossed the line in seventh place while his French teammate Esteban Ocon finished ninth. The final point-paying spot in the Bahrain Grand Prix was captured by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. 

The penultimate round of the 2020 Formula 1 season will feature a second race in Bahrain taking place in the same motorsport complex on a 3.543-kilometer layout called the Outer Circuit. The Sakhir Grand Prix will set for December 6th.

2020 Formula 1
Bahrain Grand Prix
Race Results

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