Max was denied a second podium finish in a row in an incident-packed Bahrain Grand Prix when a late Safety Car prevented him from passing the slowing Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.
Leclerc had led for most of the race but with a handful of laps remaining he began to slow with a turbo problem that saw his speed drop dramatically. He was passed for the lead by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and by the Briton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
But as Max closed hard on the young Ferrari driver, both Renault cars expired behind. With Daniel Ricciardo’s car close to the track edge, the Safety Car was deployed and Max was forced to settle for fourth place.
Pierre meanwhile climbed from 13th place on the grid to eighth place and four points at the flag, with the Frenchman benefiting from the retirement of Renault’s Nico Hulkenbeg in the closing stages.
When the lights went out at the start, Sebastian Vettel got the jump on polesitting team-mate Charles Leclerc and seized the lead. Bottas, too, exploited the situation and muscled past the Monegasque driver to take P2.
Hamilton then tried to pressure Leclerc and as they tussled, Max, who had started fifth, tried to slip down the inside of both in the final corner. He couldn’t make the move stick, however, and settled into fifth place.
Further back, Pierre was on the move and he quickly bypassed Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon to take P12.
After his first lap difficulties, Leclerc quickly recovered and went on the assault. He pushed past Bottas at the start of lap two and then powered past Vettel under DRS into turn one at the start of the next lap to reclaim the lead.
Max, meanwhile, was coming under pressure from McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and when the Spaniard attacked, there was contact. The collision resulted in the McLaren driver sustaining front wing damage and he quickly dropped to P18.
The incident was put under investigation by the stewards but they swiftly returned a verdict of ‘no further action necessary’ and Max was free to race on.
Leclerc maintained his lead through the first stops, but Hamilton managed to get past Vettel to take P2. The German was now third ahead of Bottas and Max, who took on medium tyres during a superb 2.1s pit stop.
After his pit stop, for soft tyres, Pierre dropped to P17 but as rivals ahead cycled through the pit lane for their own change of tyres, the Frenchman rose to sit in P11 as the race reached the one-third mark and soon rose to P9.
At the end of lap 32, struggling on his medium tyres, Max made his second pit stop. He again took on the yellow-banded Pirellis, but it was a slow stop as the crew had trouble with the front left. He rejoined in P6 behind Lando Norris. The McLaren driver soon made his own pit stop and Max was boosted back up the order. Hamilton also pitted at this point, shedding his soft tyres for a set of medium tyres, a move that was repeated on the following tour by Vettel.
Hamilton then closed on Vettel and though one attack through Turn 4 was rebuffed the Briton lined up for another assault on the following lap. This time he made the move stick though it appeared there was brief contact between the pair. Vettel spun and recovered but soon after the German’s front wing collapsed and he was forced to pit for repairs.
That bumped Max to fourth place behind Bottas, with five seconds separating the Red Bull from the Mercedes.
Pierre also made his second stop during this phase of the race and emerged in 12th place, eventually rising to P9 as the race neared its final phase.
With a dozen laps to go the complexion of the race changed completely. Leclerc began to complain of engine issues and as his pace flagged dramatically, he was told by his team that he had “no H recovery”, signalling a turbo issue.
At the end of lap 48 Hamilton swept past to claim the lead and with third-placed Bottas lapping five seconds quicker than the Monegasque the prospect of another Mercedes one-two came into view.
By lap 51 Leclerc’s advantage over Bottas was just 15.9s with Max a further 6.6s behind. The Dutchman closed in fast, but then with just four laps remaining both works Renaults expired on the same lap. With Ricciardo’s car close to the trackside, the Safety Car was deployed and Max’s chance of a podium frustratingly evaporated and he was forced to settle for fourth place.
The retirement of Hulkenberg had one bonus, however, in the shape of a jump to eighth place for Pierre.
With Max fourth behind race winner Hamilton, Bottas and Leclerc, fifth place went to Vettel. Norris took sixth for McLaren, with Kimi Räikkönen seventh ahead of Pierre. The final points positions were taken by Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
- Lewis Hamilton
- Valterri Bottas
- Charles Leclerc
- MAX VERSTAPPEN
- Sebastian Vettel
- Lando Norris
- Kimi Räikkönen
- PIERRE GASLY
- Alex Albon
- Sergio Perez