Lewis Hamilton claimed his fifth successive win in his incredible 2020 Formula 1 championship-winning campaign in a Bahrain Grand Prix overshadowed by a horrendous Lap One incident for Romain Grosjean.
The race, which started at 3.10 am NZT, did not reach the chequered flag until just before 6.30 am after it was suspended for an hour and a half to repair the damage to the track.
Exiting Turn 2, Grosjean careened into the outside Armco barrier at vicious speeds after clipping Daniil Kvyat moments earlier.
Upon impact, the front of Grosjean’s Haas pierced the wall which dissipated energy towards the rear of the car where the fuel cell and engine bay are located.
Despite boasting bullet-proof Kevlar material, Grosjean’s fuel cell was ripped upon, and his car burst into a giant fireball.
Race control immediately suspended the race as the army of medical and fire crews arrived on the scene of the fire just as Grosjean made a miraculous escape. He has since been transported to a nearby hospital with suspected broken ribs and burns.
The remaining 19 cars strolled back to the starting grid 90-minutes later for a full-race restart with polesitter Hamilton pushing out to an early lead over Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.
However, the race was then back behind caution as Lance Stroll made contact with Daniil Kvyat at the narrow Turn 8, flipping the Racing Point car over.
This led to the concertina effect with Sebastian Vettel slamming into the rear of Kevin Magnussen, taking the Ferrari out of the running for a points finish. Valtteri Bottas was also forced to pit after picking up a puncture.
That left just Hamilton and Verstappen to duel for the lead as the two rivals quickly pulled away from the challenging pack with the Mercedes ahead of the Red Bull.
Hamilton was whistled into the pit lane first to switch to the medium tyres. Verstappen followed suit one lap later and opted to run the hard tyre.
The margin between the two then ebbed and flowed, running as high as five seconds and as low as two seconds as both traded fastest laps of the race.
Red Bull brought in Verstappen first for his final stop in a bold attempt to undercut Hamilton. However, the wise Mercedes outfit reacted the very next tour, and despite fitting the harder tyres, Hamilton was able to maintain a healthy three-second advantage.
Running third for the almost all of the race, the ever consistent Perez looked set to secure his first back-to-back podium before his Racing Point began expelling smoke just four laps from home.
The Mexican soldiered on for another few corners before flames began to lick their signature on the engine cover of the pink machine.
The safety car was duly deployed for another time, and Mercedes deliberated whether to bring Hamilton in for another set of tyres in anticipation of a last lap dash.
Instead, they left their man out on track, and the safety car led the field home for all of the remaining laps in an anti-climatic finish.
Perez’s heart breaking retirement gifted third position to Alex Albon, who himself suffered a big crash earlier in the weekend.
A late switch to the soft tyres paid unexpected dividends for the McLaren duo of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz as the two finished fourth and fifth.
Pierre Gasly and AlphaTauri successfully executed a daring one-stop strategy as the French driver came home a commendable sixth.
Daniel Ricciardo took seventh with Renault stablemate Esteban Ocon in ninth. Either side of the two was Bottas.
Perez’s late engine failure gifted the final spot in the top-ten to Charles Leclerc as Ferrari concluded a frustrating evening.
|5||Carlos Sainz Jr.||11.787s|
|10||Charles Leclerc||1 Lap|
|11||Daniil Kvyat||1 Lap|
|12||George Russell||1 Lap|
|13||Sebastian Vettel||1 Lap|
|14||Nicholas Latifi||1 Lap|
|15||Kimi Raikkonen||1 Lap|
|16||Antonio Giovinazzi||1 Lap|
|17||Kevin Magnussen||1 Lap|
|18||Sergio Perez||Power Unit|