Hamilton wins after Grosjean escapes dramatic Bahrain GP fire
Lewis Hamilton took his 11th victory of the season in a Bahrain Grand Prix notable for a violent, fiery crash by Haas driver Romain Grosjean.
Grosjean was taken to hospital with minor burns and suspected rib fractures after his car pierced the barriers on the first lap.
The burning Haas was trapped sideways in the barrier, but Grosjean climbed out as medical crews rushed to help.
Hamilton was in control throughout to beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Grosjean’s crash was an incident the like of which has not been seen for many years.
The Franco-Swiss triggered it himself after veering dramatically across the track between Turns Three and Four and colliding with Daniil Kvyat’s Alpha Tauri.
That sent him hurtling towards the barriers, which he hit at an angle that would normally not create such a dramatic effect.
But the car speared between layers of the barrier, and the twisting force generated split it in two, the engine and gearbox coming to rest away to the side.
The fracture to the chassis exposed the fuel tank, and the car, now lodged in the barrier, burst into flames.
Grosjean was in the inferno for several seconds before he managed to extricate himself and was helped over the barrier by FIA doctor Ian Stewart, who was in the medical car that rushed to the scene.
Grosjean initially sat in the medical car before being helped into an ambulance and then flown to hospital.
Another win for Hamilton
Grosjean’s incident caused a lengthy stoppage while the wrecked metal barriers were replaced by concrete ones.
Soon after the restart, there was another incident, as Lance Stroll’s Racing Point was pitched into a roll by Kvyat and landed upside down – but the driver was unhurt.
That brought out the safety car and it was only on the ninth lap that the race finally got properly under way.
Hamilton, who had converted his pole into a lead at the first corner, made no mistake at the re-start and was able to control the race from there.
But he said it was “not as easy as it looked”, saying he struggled with tyre management and felt under pressure from Verstappen.
The Red Bull driver was critical of his team, saying that bolder calls on pit timing could have enabled him to push Hamilton harder.
“We had the tyres to put them under more pressure today but we didn’t do it,” he said. “I don’t know why we were so conservative.”
The Briton’s victory matches his own previous best tally for a season and means he can match the all-time record of 13 victories in a year, currently held by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, if he wins the final two races.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was on course for a fine third place and his second podium in two races until an apparent engine failure with three laps to go promoted Red Bull’s Alex Albon.
The Mexican’s retirement was a massive boost for Renault and McLaren in the fight for third place in the constructors’ championship, as McLaren’s Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz were promoted to fourth and fifth, and the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon to seventh and ninth, with Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly in sixth.
Perez’s failure meant the race ended under the safety car.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas made a poor start from the front row and had a desperate race thereafter.
The Finn was sixth at the red flag for Grosjean’s crash, but was promoted to fourth for the restart as a result of the point at which the officials decided to take the positions.
But Bottas suffered a slow puncture on the first lap of racing and had to pit for fresh tyres. He was able to recover only to eighth place.
Albon had been unable to challenge Perez before the Mexican’s retirement, while both McLaren drivers recovered well from difficult qualifying sessions – and Sainz, in particular, produced a fine drive after starting on the soft tyre, passing several cars.
Perez’s retirement promoted Charles Leclerc to the final point in 10th place after a dismal race for Ferrari, for whom Vettel could manage only 13th. (BBC Sport)