Lap 41: Decent race, this. Sixteen laps to go.
1. Leclerc* 2. Hamilton 3. Bottas 4. Verstappen 5. Hulkenberg 6. Ricciardo 7. Vettel 8. Norris 9. Raikkonen 10. Albon
Lap 40: Ahead of that almighty tussle, Leclerc has set a new fastest lap and leads by eight seconds. Surely there’s not enough time for Hamilton? Vettel is back onto the track but down in eight place. Ahead of them, the two Renaults almost touch as they battle for fifth spot.
Lap 39: …Hamilton keeps the heat on Vettel as George Russell unlaps himself by passing the Ferrari. There’s contact – and Vettel loses his front wing! Hamilton goes past him and up to second, and Vettel is going into the pits, his chances of victory over.
Lap 38: Hamilton has the bit between his teeth, setting a fastest lap and going after Vettel into Turn 4! Vettel holds him off, somehow, as the pair go wheel to wheel…
Lap 37: Leclerc now leads Bottas by 24 seconds, but the leader will pit now, after complaining that he’s losing grip. He gets in and back out ahead of Bottas, who is yet to pit for a second time…
Lap 36: Vettel gets a speedy pit in, and a new set of mediums. He’s back out just ahead of Hamilton, who is setting a roaring pace on his new tyres…
Lap 35: Time for Lewis Hamilton to pit, getting the medium tyres on and emerging back onto the track in fourth…
Lap 33: Verstappen pits, and drops behind Kimi Raikkonen in sixth – not for long though, as the Dutchman squeezes past him through Turn 8! Lando Norris is up to fifth, although he’s a full 30 seconds behind Bottas.
Lap 32: Hamilton continues to lose ground on Vettel, with the gap now well over four seconds. Way down the field, a ballsy move from Lance Stroll, who unlaps himself with an overtake of fifth-placed Max Verstappen.
Lap 29: Charles Leclerc has set another fastest lap, and leads Vettel by 8.3s. He’s never finished on the podium before, but looks odds-on to win this grand prix.
Here’s the top 10 at the halfway mark: 1. Leclerc* 2. Vettel 3. Hamilton 4. Bottas 5. Verstappen 6. Hulkenberg 7. Norris 8. Raikkonen 9. Gasly 10. Perez
Lap 26: McLaren’s Lando Norris scoots up behind Raikkonen – who is 20 years older than him – and slips past him on the inside, moving up to seventh.
Lap 25: Ricciardo finally pits, while Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg is up to sixth, having started 17th.
Lap 24: Just as Vettel sets his sights on Leclerc, he locks up into Turn 1 and lets Hamilton back in! The Mercedes doesn’t have anything like the grip required to overtake there, but it’s all good news for Lecelerc, who now leads by 8.2 seconds.
Lap 23: Vettel overtakes Hamilton at Turn 4, the Mercedes team tersely telling his team “I’m a sitting duck out here”. We’re back how we started, with Leclerc ahead of Vettel in a Ferrari one-two…
Lap 22: Those pit stops have worked out far better for Ferrari than Mercedes, with Hamilton struggling for grip and saying his rear tyres are done. Vettel is now right in his rear view mirror, with Leclerc breezing clear…
Lap 20: Hamilton drifts wide at a turn again, losing ground on Leclerc and allowing Vettel to close the gap. It’s a three-way battle for the win with Bottas dropping back, but things are looking up for the Ferraris.
Lap 19: Romain Grosjean is out of the race after getting squeezed off the track and sustaining more damage. Also having a torrid time is Kevin Magnussen, the Haas driver tumbling from sixth on the grid to 13th. Behind him, Daniil Kvyat gets a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
Lap 18 – Top 10: 1. Leclerc* 2. Hamilton 3. Vettel 4. 4. Bottas 5. Verstappen 6. Ricciardo (no stops) 7. Raikkonen 8. Hulkenberg 9. Norris 10. Perez
(*denotes fastest lap)
Lap 17: Vettel gets ahead of Ricciardo, but trails Hamilton by three seconds, with the Mercedes man now 3.8s behind Leclerc, who sets a new fastest lap. Both the Ferraris are on medium tyres.
Lap 16: Christian Horner says that Gasly came in because of a slow puncture, rather than a tactical move. That triggered a dramatic series of pits, after which Leclerc is back in front, with Hamilton second and Vettel fourth behind Ricciardo, who will drop down the field when he eventually pits.
Lap 15: Vettel now leads from Danny Ricciardo, with both men yet to pit. Leclerc returns in third place, Hamilton fourth on soft compound tyres. Valtteri Bottas gets back ahead of Verstappen, and now Vettel is coming in…
Lap 14: Bottas doesn’t have the pace to hold off Verstappen, who moves up to fourth and has the fastest lap. Time for Leclerc and Hamilton to pit…
Lap 13: Bottas and Hulkenberg pit, with Bottas able to hold his advantage over Max Verstappen. Daniil Kvyat takes a spin at Turn 11, after contact from Giovinazzi.
Lap 12: No further action taken against Verstappen, while team-mate Pierre Gasly pits. Lewis Hamilton is gaining on Vettel, now within sight of the Ferrari…
Lap 11: Hamilton is the latest driver to struggle with oversteer on the hairpin Turn 10. The men at the back of the field have headed in to the pits.
Lap 9: The stewards are looking at that Verstappen/Sainz Turn 4 incident. There’s a rare old battle in midfield, everyone from Lando Norris in 9th to Antonio Giovinazzi in 14th all within touching distance of one another.
Lap 8: Kimi Raikkonen may have some damage to his Alfa Romeo after running wide on Turn 10. Leclerc locks up and runs wide himself, allowing Vettel to eat into his advantage – it’s now 1.8s, with Hamilton a further 1.2s back.
Lap 7: Sainz has pitted to fix his front wing and a puncture, and has just set the fastest lap from the back of the field. He wasn’t happy with Verstappen after that overtaking incident.
Lap 6: Leclerc has rallied from that stuttering start and now has Vettel firmly in his sights. This is a proper battle between the Ferraris, and Leclerc overtakes his team-mate down the back straight! The German almost snatches the race lead back, but Leclerc clings onto his racing line through the chicane. He’s back in front!
Lap 5: Here’s the top 10 – 1. Vettel 2. Leclerc* 3. Hamilton 4. Bottas 5. Verstappen 6. Magnussen 7. Ricciardo 8. Raikkonen 9. Hulkenberg 10. Perez
(*denotes fastest lap)
Lap 4: DRS is enabled now as Leclerc sets a new fastest lap, cutting the gap to Vettel down to 1.1s. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz gets beyond Verstappen, who tries to retaliate. There’s contact, and Sainz has serious damage to the right-hand side of his car! He’s plummeting down the field.
Lap 3 of 57: Hamilton gets beyond Bottas, who is now under pressure from Max Verstappen. Further back, both Romain Grosjean and Lance Stroll picked up damage through the opening corners and have dropped to the back of the pack.
Lap 2 of 57: Bottas locks up and lets Leclerc back in, before Hamilton surges alongside his team-mate. As the Mercedes tussle, the Ferrari duo are able to eke out a bit of breathing space.
Lap 1 of 57: Leclerc gets off to a bad start, beaten to the first turn by Vettel, and as he struggles for grip, Bottas pounces to move into second!
They’re on the formation lap, the drivers testing out their braking points with crosswinds and tailwinds all over the place. Martin Brundle wishes everyone a happy Mother’s Day. Not long now!
Five minutes until lights out, and the big concern up and down the grid is the wind, which has picked up and will test the aerodynamics of all the new cars, which are still being tweaked and fine-tuned this early in the season. Ferrari insist that Leclerc and Vettel are free to duke it out for victory – it’ll be interesting to see their tactics approaching that first corner.
Martin Brundle is wandering up and down the paddock, but is struggling to find any drivers, instead chatting to David Beckham and Guy Ritchie, who is decked out in some pretty spectacular clobber. Sebastian Vettel, who has won this race four times, is jogging out of the Ferrari garage to take his place on the grid.
Some words from the polesitter, Charles Leclerc: “It’s going to be a difficult race. There’s a lot of wind, especially at the exit of turn four, so it’s going to be very tricky. We’ll have to be careful. At the moment, I’m just thinking about the race, the start, and turn off the external thoughts, keep them out of my head.”
Dry and overcast at the circuit in Sakhir, which basically sits on the edge of a desert. There are no concerns over strong winds blowing sand onto the track – the sand around the circuit has had an adhesive applied to it. All bases covered.
David Beckham is in the paddock today, calling in with McLaren and also catching up with his fellow Spice husband, Christian Horner, in the Red Bull garage. Not sure about the jacket.
Four team principals attended the FIA’s official pre-race press conference yesterday, and only one – Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost – answered questions on protests in Bahrain, and the letter sent by 16 human rights groups to the FIA this week. His response left a lot to be desired.
“We are here for a sport event, not for a political event. I was surprised that there is still some political turmoil, which I don’t think is the reality. I think the reality is just that a few people want to create trouble and Formula One is here to make sport, to entertain the people.”
Quotes via racefans.net, and you can read the letter here.
On to the race, and Charles Leclerc will start on pole in just his second grand prix for Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel completes a Scuderia one-two, with both Mercedes on the second row. Romain Grosjean has been dropped three places to 11th after impeding Lando Norris during qualifying.
1 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
3 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 4 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
5 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 6 Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
7 Carlos Sainz (McLaren) 8 Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo)
9 Lando Norris (McLaren) 10 Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
11 Romain Grosjean (Haas) 12 Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso)
13 Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) 14 Sergio Pérez (Racing Point)
15 Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) 16 Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
17 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) 18 Lance Stroll (Racing Point)
19 George Russell (Williams) 20 Robert Kubica (Williams)
The second race of the 2019 season takes place today, under floodlights and against a backdrop of unrest. It’s become a familiar and uncomfortable sight when Formula One comes to Bahrain, ever since the protests that led to the 2011 race being cancelled. The grand prix has run every year since, but the controversy it stirs up has not gone away.
Earlier this week, the Guardian published this piece by Najah Yusuf, who is serving a three-year prison sentence in Bahrain. Yusuf claims she has been detained, interrogated, beaten, and sexually assaulted after criticising the continued presence of Formula One in Bahrain.
The Bahrain government maintains Yusuf was jailed for “promoting and encouraging people to overthrow the political and social systems” and has said “the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to peaceful assembly are protected by Bahrain’s constitution”.
There have been fresh protests in the Gulf state this weekend, while human rights pressure groups have urged Formula One to address their concerns over the treatment of Yusuf and others, in a nation Amnesty International has described as “deeply repressive”.
There’s a race to be run this evening, but it is events and potential repercussions off the track that have dominated the buildup. We will focus on the track once the lights turn green, but with Yusuf’s words in mind:
“Despite the fervour of excitement, I implore all fans of Formula One to remember my story and the suffering of thousands of Bahraini citizens”.