Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel soaked up intense pressure to take a narrow victory in the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Lewis Hamilton joined them on the podium recovered from a grid penalty to join the pair on the podium. Kimi Raikkonen had been confident of a top four finish when his race ended abruptly with a team mistake during his second pit stop.
Sebastian Vettel admitted that he feared Mercedes had pulled a ‘checkmate’ move to win the Bahrain Grand Prix when it committed to a one-stop strategy early in the race. The Scuderia Ferrari German driver led the early stages in Bahrain but was focused on a two-stopper when he moved to the soft compounds at the first round of tyre changes. Behind him, Mercedes chose to put Valtteri Bottas on to the medium compounds with the aim of going for a one-stop.
With Seb not opening out enough of an advantage over his rival, the German thought that the race was lost at that time – before his team elected to gamble on him not stopping again. In the end, he held off a late charge from Bottas to win by just 0.6 seconds: “I think I came on the radio with 10 laps to go and said I had everything under control – and that was a lie,” explained Vettel – “There was nothing under control. When they told me the pace of Valtteri at that time, I said no way I can do that. I did the maths in the car and thought he was going to catch me. I tried to keep it as clean as possible. Both Mercedes at the end of the stint were very strong, especially the first one, and by going onto the prime they saw what we did. Going onto the medium tyre I thought that was checkmate as we had to come in again. That was the original plan but we diverted again and tried to make them last and nurse them as much as I could. And it worked but only just. There wasn’t much – Valtteri had a bit of a sniff but fortunately he ran out of laps so I am really happy.” – he added.
Although Kimi Raikkonen stuck to a two-stop plan, before a botched pitstop put him out of the race, Sebastian said that he had nothing to lose by trying to hold on to his tyres until the end: “It put us under a lot of stress and pressure, but we had nothing to lose trying at that point to stay out and try to win or finish third. I am really pleased, if you manage to get the win under these conditions it tastes even better.” – the Scuderia Ferrari German driver concluded, as reported by the Italian media.