Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was thrilled to bag an unexpected podium at the Bahrain Grand Prix, claiming there “was no better feeling”.
Mercedes has been way off the pace since pre-season testing. Even in the season-opener held in Bahrain, the Silver Arrows were never really challenging for the top position.
However, a stroke of luck allowed Hamilton an invaluable opportunity to notch yet another podium finish. New recruit George Russell put in a solid display to finish the race in fourth position after both Red Bull cars failed to finish.
The race will be most memorable for Charles Leclerc, who stormed to his third Grand Prix win. He was ably supported by his teammate Carlos Sainz, who came in behind him in second position.
An engine malfunction meant both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were unable to finish the race. Hamilton had not been expected to be anywhere near the top given how woeful Mercedes has been in pre-season testing.
Hamilton on Cloud 9
However, the Stevenage-born driver was ecstatic after the race.
“There is no better feeling when you come together and have a result like this. Every point can make a difference. I have lost world titles by one point,” he told the official F1 website.
With just two laps to go, it seemed as though Verstappen and Perez would claim the third and fourth spot behind the two Ferrari drivers. However, they were both forced to retire.
Hamilton did not take a direct jibe at Verstappen, but was firm in his words.
“Ultimately we have done a better job because we had better reliability. So I don’t say it is luck, but hard work. It was not all down to luck because, in the end, our team did a better job than theirs this weekend,” he said.
Hamilton praises Russell
Regarding the unexpected podium, Hamilton said, “Oh, for sure, we would not have expected [to get a podium].
“I woke up this morning hoping, super, super hoping that we would have a chance to fight, that we would have a car that’s better than we think. But we did struggle in the race.
“George did a great job to get us third and fourth [which] I think is pretty remarkable given the problems that we have.
“The thing is with our car, we have a car that’s bouncing a lot everywhere. It’s not just in a straight line. We have very poor rear end through all the low-speed corners and all the medium-speed corners.
“The only place that is generally quite good is, relatively, in the high [speed corners] and then we are very slow in the straight line. So, I don’t know if it’s drag or if it’s power, we haven’t figured that out yet.”
Mercedes-Red Bull rivalry still alive
The rivalry between Mercedes and Red Bull has been building in recent times. Last year, there were many instances where team bosses Toto Wolff and Christian Horner got a touch too personal as tempers reached a boiling point.
Horner appeared to be in a bullish mood before the start of this campaign and was left visibly shaken after the calamity that saw both his drivers lose out on valuable points.
“I can’t remember the last time it happened to us but it’s obviously your worst nightmare. It was a brutal finish. What looked like a decent haul of points suddenly evaporated,” he said.
Ferrari back in business
For many F1 fans, the highlight of the race was the fact that Ferrari seems well and truly back to form. Their pre-season has been mightily impressive and the Maranello will be further buoyed after seeing their drivers put in such a comprehensive display in the first race of the season.
“The last two years have been incredibly difficult for the team so we could not hope for better. It has not been easy but it is incredible to be back at the top,” Leclerc said.