MANAMA, Bahrain — Ferrari suffered a nightmare at the Bahrain Grand Prix after an engine issue cost Charles Leclerc victory and Sebastian Vettel spun out of podium contention while fighting wheel-to-wheel with Lewis Hamilton.
Leclerc was leading the race when he lost power from the energy recovery system on his Ferrari power unit, which provides a 160bhp boost in electrical power to the rear wheels. The loss of performance was dramatic, costing him roughly four seconds a lap, and by lap 48, Hamilton, who was running second, took the lead of the race. He dropped to third before a late Safety Car neutralised the order when both Renault cars retired with mechanical problems on lap 55.
“It happens, it’s part of motorsport,” Leclerc said after the race. “Unfortunately, today was not our day, but I’m confident.
“The team did an amazing job recovering from the lack of pace in Australia. What to say? I’m extremely disappointed, like the whole team, but in happens in the season but we made the most out of it. We have been lucky in a very unlucky situation, because we had the Safety Car in the end, otherwise we would have finished more rearwards and, also, I don’t think we would have been OK with the fuel.
“A very hard one to take, but thanks to the team for the amazing car all weekend long and I’m sure we’ll come back stronger. I didn’t do a very good start but then we were very strong all race long, so it’s a shame to only finish third. At the end, as I said, it’s part of racing and we’ll come back stronger. As I said a lot in the past I’m never really looking at the result, I’m more looking at the potential there was, to do better. Today wasn’t our place but I’m very happy anyway, congratulations to Lewis and Valtteri and we’ll come back stronger.”
Ferrari had locked out the front row of the grid and looked in contention for a one-two victory up until lap 38. Vettel was running second, off the pace of Leclerc, when Hamilton started to put pressure on him and loomed large in his mirrors.
The Mercedes driver lined the Ferrari up on the run down to Turn 4 before launching his car around the outside. The pair avoided contact, but Vettel lost control of the rear of his Ferrari and pirouetted in the middle of the track. The incident immediately wrecked Vettel’s tyres and the vibrations resulted in the front wing breaking off and folding underneath the car. He returned to the pits for a change of tyres and new front wing, rejoining the action ninth before rallying back to fifth.
The incident with Hamilton was reminiscent of a series of spins Vettel had in 2018 as he was fighting wheel-to-wheel with other cars. Ultimately, the lost points from those mistakes cost him a shot at last year’s championship. Vettel briefly led the race after beating teammate Charles Leclerc away from the lights at the start, but lost the position again on lap six at Turn 1.
Speaking after the race, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said: “We need to look now at the engine, at the car, at the data. We do not have a fully clear indication now, it’s too early, so we’ll check everything we can later on. We finished the race somehow with a third place, points that will count, fastest lap of the race still Charles. He did a great race. Obviously disappointing, but I think we need to look at the positives of the weekend and look back at the next, and again try to be stronger.”
On the Vettel incident, he said: “[These are] thing that may happen in a race. They are fighting. It is never easy. I think it’s understandable. So no blame at all.”