Sub-edited by Riley Taylor
Lewis Hamilton claimed his 95th Grand Prix victory as the Bahrain Grand Prix saw a horrific crash involving Romain Grosjean, which could have been so much worse.
Round 15 of the 2020 Formula 1 season saw the race red-flagged within four turns of lap one, as Grosjean hit the barriers after moving across track while vying for position, clipping Daniil Kvyat in the process, which consequently sent the Haas into the wall.
We are so thankful that Romain Grosjean was able to walk away from this. We did not need a reminder of the bravery and brilliance of our drivers, marshals, and medical teams, nor of the advances in safety in our sport, but we truly got one today#BahrainGP 🇧🇭 #F1 pic.twitter.com/z8OeTU5Nem— Formula 1 (@F1) November 29, 2020
The Frenchman’s car burst into flames upon impact but luckily the stewards and safety car were quick off the mark to help put the fire out and pull Grosjean out of the raging inferno. Many commentators have said that without the halo around the driver cockpit, Grosjean would have come off much worse.
Thanks to the massive safety improvements made in F1 over the years, drivers are now kitted out in more safety gear than ever and today gave a stark reminder of why F1 is so dangerous and why safety regulations are so important with later incidents involving Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez a further testament to that.
An update from Romain himself. Pleased to see you’re in good spirits! We hope you make a speedy recovery 🙏 pic.twitter.com/njnjjH4GBi
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) November 29, 2020
Following the resumption of the race, another incident, again involving Kvyat, saw Stroll flipped on to his roof as he turned in on the Russian at turn eight, leading to another safety car and a 10-second time penalty for Kvyat for causing a collision.
Once again, the driver emerged seemingly unscathed, with Stroll sounding surprisingly nonchalant on the team radio for someone who just had their car flipped the wrong way.Embed from Getty Images
The safety car returned to the pitlane on lap eight with the short bursts of racing which had happened leading to quite the shuffle from the starting grid. For starters, Valtteri Bottas now found himself down in P16 after a puncture forced him to pit under the safety car.
Meanwhile, in the battle for third McLaren had showed good pace, with Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz both moving up multiple positions following a less than ideal Saturday qualifying session, which saw them in P9 and P15 respectively.
At the front of the pack, Hamilton was imperious as he dominated from start to finish without ever looking like he was under any pressure from Max Verstappen who was on his tail for most of the race despite not looking like he had the raw pace to strike.Embed from Getty Images
Daniel Ricciardo was the first to pit, switching from medium to hard compound tyres on lap 17. Renault, no doubt hoping some clean air would help the Aussie driver complete an effective undercut.
Norris responded on lap 19, swapping onto another set of medium tyres and fortunately got himself back out ahead of the two Renaults of Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon.
Sainz followed suit on lap 22 after getting extra wear out of his set of soft compound tyres. Pitting from P3 and switching to mediums he emerged just behind the pair of Renaults, but with a set of fresher and faster tyres finds himself able to strike at them within a few laps.
One driver who benefited from an unorthodox strategy was Pierre Gasly, who found himself in P4 with 23 laps gone but without the distinction of having pitted. The Monza Grand Prix winner eventually pitted onto hards on lap 27, emerging in P9.
With both titles wrapped up, the main focus of the race centred around McLaren and Renault with lap 25 seeing Norris pull off a tidy divebomb on Bottas going into turn one, a move his future teammate Ricciardo would be proud of. Sainz completed his Renault overtakes with his aforementioned fresher tyres on lap 28, overtaking Ocon around the outside of turn one.
LAP 27/57— Formula 1 (@F1) November 29, 2020
Sainz has got past Ricciardo (📸) and then Ocon and moves into P6 👏
With Norris currently P5, these could be crucial points for McLaren in the battle for third in the constructors’ title race #BahrainGP 🇧🇭 #F1 pic.twitter.com/3SQhLrOKl3
Red Bull tried to put pressure on Mercedes by pitting Verstappen in the hopes of achieving an undercut, but this would have only worked if the Red Bull pit crew were on top form. Unfortunately for Verstappen, they were far from it, taking more than five seconds to complete the Dutchman’s stop, squandering any chance of achieving the undercut and taking the race lead from the seven-time world champion.
Both Renaults will have wanted to avoid a battle as they tried to complete overcuts on McLaren, unfortunately, they only ended up in a battle with one another. Ocon, the beneficiary of an undercut emerged just ahead of his teammate and managed to hold him off for one lap before the former Red Bull driver used DRS to overtake.
Over at McLaren, Norris finally caught up to Gasly on lap 45 with the AlphaTauri utilising a one-stop strategy which gave him track position at the cost of overall pace, which came into play most prominently towards the end of the Grand Prix. Sainz was also looking to overtake Gasly, with the future Ferrari driver on fresher tyres and just 7.4 seconds down the road with 11 laps to go.
With four laps to go Gasly was under threat of losing more positions as the Ricciardo came chasing after him. The Frenchman begging for more power from his pit crew to try and score as many points as possible.
However, Gasly was fortunate that a black cat had crossed the path of Racing Point this weekend as Perez, who has been running in third for the entirety of the race suddenly started spewing smoke from the back of his car, which eventually caught fire and led to yet another safety car.
With the safety car deployed with just two laps to go. The race would eventually end under the car meaning no extra overtaking would be allowed, thus elevating Alex Albon into the top three for his second ever podium in F1.
The results of the race leave McLaren as the third-placed constructor with a 17-point gap over fourth-place Racing Point and a 27-point gap over Renault with just two races to go. While Hamilton’s victory means he has now won 95 Grand Prix’s as the race marked 600 race laps led this season, a personal best for the Briton.
Special praise today should be given to the safety car drivers Alan van der Merwe and Dr Ian Roberts, and all those who have pushed relentlessly for better safety precautions in F1 and wider Motorsport, as the actions of the former two today and the latter collective in days past have helped F1 stave off disaster today.
You can check out Overtime’s driver ratings by clicking here.
Our race report from the last Grand Prix weekend can also be found here.