Lewis Hamilton is not getting caught up in the excitement of Formula One‘s 1,000th race as he insisted in China: “I’m here to do one job, and that’s to win.”
The scene was being set for the sport’s landmark race on Thursday, with wall-to-wall branding of the number 1,000, while cars of yesteryear were rolled into the Shanghai paddock.
But Hamilton, who will start the 232nd race of his career as he bids for a sixth world championship, said: “I’m not one for birthdays, anniversaries, and special days.
“It’s no different to any race weekend for me. I’m here to do one job, and one job only, and that’s to win.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s the 1,000th, the 2,000th or the 10,000th grand prix. It is an irrelevant figure for me.”
Hamilton, who trails his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by one point in the championship standings, knows he will face another stern test from Ferrari after the Italian team dominated in Bahrain.
The Mercedes star took advantage of Charles Leclerc’s late engine failure to take an unlikely win, but he is expecting Ferrari to hold the upper hand again this weekend.
Over at the Prancing Horse, Leclerc has emerged as a serious championship contender after upstaging his established team-mate Sebastian Vettel at the last round.
Vettel was not only slower than Leclerc, but he spun, while fighting for second place with Hamilton.
Hamilton later pointed towards Vettel’s career resume which boasts 52 wins and four championships in support of the under-fire German.
“Maybe he’s the only one that doesn’t lack a short-term memory,” said Vettel. “We have been around a long time and as much as I want to beat Lewis, he wants to beat me, too. But sometimes you never know what is going on with other drivers at other teams.
“Sometimes things might not go your way, but I also know and understand that nowadays people’s judgement doesn’t go beyond a week. It’s part of life.”
Provided by Press Association
Lewis Hamilton says Charles Leclerc will come back stronger from the late engine failure which cruelly denied him a maiden win in Bahrain.
But with 11 laps remaining of a dramatic race – one which also saw Sebastian Vettel spin out of contention – a mechanical failure struck Leclerc’s car, costing him a crucial 30mph in straight-line speed.
The young Monegasque was a sitting duck as Hamilton sailed by to go on to claim his 74th career win and the first of his championship defence.
Valterri Bottas also made his way past Leclerc to seal an unlikely Mercedes one-two and ensure he remains ahead of Hamilton in the standings by just one point.
“I’m sure this is a devastating result for Charles as he had done the job to win the race,” said Hamilton.
Sometimes, it is just not your day. Today it was not ours but I'm so proud of my team. They gave me an amazing car all week-end long and we'll come back stronger, I'm sure 👊— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) 31 March 2019
📸: @motorsportpics1 pic.twitter.com/tlNAq7BHxt
“He has been incredibly rapid and was quickest in all sessions, and truly deserved the win. He’s got a beautiful, bright future ahead of him, so this will only make him stronger.
“I’ve been in a position like that where we’ve been in the lead many times when the car has stopped and I know how it feels.
“But it’s always good to look at the glass half full because today he still got some great points even though he had that problem. He was an outlier all weekend and faster than his team-mate.”
Vettel endured a troubling weekend in the Gulf Kingdom. Three tenths of a second slower than Leclerc in qualifying, the German was unable to match his inexperienced team-mate in the race, too.
The four-time world champion took the lead off the start line, but Leclerc fought his way back past on lap six. Then, on lap 38, while duelling for second position with Hamilton, Vettel lost control of his Ferrari and spun.
His front wing also dramatically fell off his car and by the time he had stopped for repairs, he emerged in ninth. Vettel recovered to finish fifth, but the German left Bahrain under pressure following what was his fourth spin from his last 10 appearances.
“I am happy for the team but it was a disappointing race,” said Vettel.
“Starting at the front and not finishing there is not what we wanted. I didn’t have the pace I wanted, and on top of that I made the mistake with the spin so it was not a good evening.”
Lewis Hamilton was handed a dramatic victory in Bahrain after a cruel engine problem denied Charles Leclerc a maiden win.
Leclerc was on course to become the third-youngest winner in Formula One history following a commanding drive.
But with just nine laps remaining, Hamilton took advantage of the Ferrari’s lack of speed to sail past the young Monegasque and take an unlikely win.
Valtteri Bottas sealed second place, and secured an improbable one-two for Mercedes.
Here, we look at the key talking points from Bahrain.
LECLERC LOSES POWER
It was heartbreaking to see the Monaco man denied a maiden victory, especially knowing there was nothing he could do when his engine faltered.
The 21-year-old was utterly dominant all weekend and deserved to be the winner in Bahrain, but motorsport is cruel and an issue with the hybrid power unit meant he was unable to maintain pace and subsequently finished third.
Still, a podium place is better than nothing, especially considering a safety car on the final lap stopped Max Verstappen from passing him.
In the race itself, Leclerc had a bad start from pole and was beaten to the first turn by teammate Sebastian Vettel. However, he kept pushing hard, stayed composed and overtook the German on the back straight of lap six. From there, he looked on course to seal a maiden win, but an engine problem saw him struggle for pace.
HAMILTON TAKES COMMAND
The Briton capitalised on Leclerc’s engine troubles to lead a Mercedes one-two and put the Silver Arrow back in control of the championship.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the 34-year-old and his race really only came alive on lap 35 when he pitted for medium tyres. Four laps later, he showed superb race craft to overtake Vettel and clinch second place.
Once Leclerc’s car started to slow done on lap 48, Hamilton closed in and took charge for his 74th career win.
VETTEL FALTERS… AGAIN
Sitting in second, Hamilton passed him around the outside and his car spun in the battle. A few seconds later, he lost his front wing and was forced to pit for a third time.
Coming out in seventh, he was only able to make up two places and subsequently finished fifth, with his car struggling with severe damage.
It’s a shame to see the four-time world champion continuously make mistakes when he is under pressure, again posing the question about his temperament in the heat of battle.
The only way for the German to respond is to come out and win in Shanghai in two week’s times.
Leclerc undoubtedly clinched Driver of the Day for his stellar display, but Nico Hulkenberg was just as influential until he was forced to retire due to engine failure.
Starting from 17th, the German soared through the grid and was on course to finish fifth, but a mystery engine trouble saw both Hulkenberg and teammate Daniel Riccardo retire with two laps remaining.
It was a blow for the Renault team given both drivers were on the cusp of securing points. The retirement aside, Hulkenberg proved he can compete well against Ricciardo.
It will be one of the battles of the season.
While all eyes were on Hamilton and Leclerc, Lando Norris was quietly going about his business in scintillating fashion.
The 21-year-old looked confident and managed his McLaren well around the sweeping track of Sakhir to finish a stunning sixth.
It was a first place in the points for the Bristol man and adds hope to a team low on confidence after many years languishing around the low end of the midfield.