Lewis Hamilton hails ‘really great result’ after surprise third place in Bahrain
Ninety-eight days on from the contentious season finale in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton spent 57 laps leading the supporting cast to Charles Leclerc’s duel with world champion Max Verstappen.
But Hamilton benefitted from a dramatic double Red Bull DNF as both Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez retired in the closing laps.
Hamilton was suddenly promoted from an underwhelming fifth to the final step on the podium, as Leclerc led team-mate Carlos Sainz home to claim Ferrari’s first victory, and first one-two finish, since the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix. George Russell took fourth in the other Mercedes.
“Every point can make a difference,” said Hamilton. “I have lost world titles by one point, but, while we are not necessarily on a par with the fastest guys, it is a really, really great result.
“Of course it was fortunate, but ultimately we have done a better job because we had better reliability. So I don’t say it is luck, but hard work.
“It is such a long season and it is going to be such a hard battle, but we love a challenge, I love a challenge and it is a privilege to work with a team that is hungry and focused on a common goal. There is no better feeling when you come together and have a result like this.”
From his starting spot of fifth, Hamilton briefly moved ahead of Perez, only to be gazumped by the Red Bull driver on lap 10. Hamilton’s Mercedes team have struggled to get on top of F1’s technical revamp and do not have the speed to match Ferrari and Red Bull.
But Hamilton was handed a major boost when Verstappen was denied second in the first race of his championship defence as he hit engine trouble with three laps left, and Perez stopped with a failure at the start of the penultimate lap.
Was it karma for Abu Dhabi?
“I don’t have any response to that but to focus on our job,” replied Hamilton. “It was unfortunate for them today. I am here to look at the positives.”
Verstappen was embroiled in a spectacular three-lap ding-dong battle with Leclerc before his retirement.
“It looked like there was no fuel coming to the engine and everything just turned off,” said the Dutchman.
It was a brutal finish. What looked like a decent haul of points suddenly evaporated in the last couple of laps
“It is not what you want after a positive weekend. Second would have been a very good, but to retire at the end of the race is very disappointing.
“I always say to myself, ‘You always have to score points’. At the first corner I didn’t risk too much and the fighting with Charles was clean because I was happy with second.
“To lose so many points in the championship is disappointing where it can be very tight to the end, and these are important points.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner added: “I can’t remember the last time that happened to us, but it is obviously our worst nightmare.
“It was a brutal finish. What looked like a decent haul of points suddenly evaporated in the last couple of laps.”
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