Sebastian Vettel held off a late attack from Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas to grab back-to-back victories to kickstart the 2018 Formula One season. There was disaster for team-mate Kimi Räikkönen after he was released from his pit box too soon as well as the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. Meanwhile, it was a race to remember for Pierre Gasly and Toro Rosso.
We bring you what the drivers and key team personnel had to say after an eventful weekend in the desert.
Sebastian Vettel: “Obviously, this is a great way to start the season and it wasn’t expected. Obviously Australia was a different race and if you compare these two races, here we had the pace and won on our own. So, I think it’s been much better, but it was a very tough race.
“We were losing a little bit at the end and Bottas was getting closer. We couldn’t wait and see what he was doing. So, in response to that we had to come in first to protect the track as much as I could. We had targeted two stops and that’s why we had chosen soft tyres. But then we had to change strategy.
“It feels better winning here than in Australia, because here we had the pace. So, I am very happy, even though it’s sad to see one of our guys getting injured. I wish him to get well soon, I know he’s in very good hands now.”
Kimi Räikkönen: “What happened to our guy Francesco today at the pit-stop is very unfortunate. I feel sorry for him and hope he’s going to be OK soon. It’s always a bad thing when someone gets injured but I am sure he has the best people taking good care of him and I wish him a speedy recovery.
“As for the accident itself, all I know is that I moved when I saw the green light go on. I couldn’t have possibly realized that there was an issue with the rear left wheel, then I saw someone had got hurt and, immediately, I was told to stop by the team.
“Unfortunately something must have gone wrong and we’ll need to find out what. The car had good speed today but I had some wheelspin at the start. Anyway, there’s not much I can do now but wait for the next race, where we’ll try to do our best.”
Maurizio Arrivabene (Team Principal): “Today’s result, with a win for Sebastian, is confirmation of the great job done by the team, of an effective car and of a driver who drove like a true champion right to the very end. It was a shame for Kimi, who would have completed a fine result for the team.
“We chose to take one of our mechanics up onto the podium as a mark of respect to our colleague Francesco who was injured during the pit stop. The whole team hopes he recovers quickly. We are already preparing for the next race in China and as usual we will give it our all.”
Lewis Hamilton: “I’m happy. I started ninth, so third is not bad at all. It’s damage limitation. We leave here with good points. I think there were some frustrating points during the race where they couldn’t hear me, so I had to choose particular points during which I could speak to them.
“When you’re trying to catch Sebastian, who was 25 seconds ahead, you want to know exactly what you need to do in order to not kill your tyres but make it so that you can catch him at the end. If you’re not getting that feedback, it makes it kind of frustrating. So, that’s an area we need to improve—but it’s not always the case.”
Valtteri Bottas: “I picked up some points but Sebastian, who’s leading the Championship, got more. It’s early days—but, anyway, a lot better than two weeks ago. And the race pace we had was actually slightly better than we expected coming into it. We put a little bit more pressure on Ferrari than we thought. So, that was positive.
“Honestly, in the last three laps, it was getting really tricky with the tyres for me as well. If I would have pushed a bit harder in the middle of the stint to catch him earlier I’m not 100% sure if it would have helped me or if my tyres would have been even more destroyed in the end.
“I think it was maybe 15-20 laps before the end I received the information that Sebastian might try a one-stop as well and might struggle in the end. But, before that, we were 80% sure he was going for two stops.”
Toto Wolff (Team Principal): “We realised pretty early that the Medium was a good tyre. We saw that with Alonso and decided to try it, to see how it would be on our cars with the option of stopping twice. Valtteri immediately had very good pace. So it was clear that he would make it to the end on the Medium but there was still a chance that Ferrari would do the same.
“They were taking big risks because at the end Vettel’s car was probably two seconds slower than Valtteri, so if it would have been one or two laps later he would have lost the race. But ‘would be’ is not what counts. What counts is the race result and Sebastian and Ferrari won it, and it was well deserved. They adapted to the situation.
“After coming out on the Mediums behind Sebastian and with a gap that we were able to close down, knowing that they needed to either stop again or would run out of tyre. This was the moment where I would say the 90% probability was on us winning. And we lost that.”
Pierre Gasly: “Unbelievable, what an incredible day! The second race of the season with Toro Rosso and Honda, and we finish P4. It’s just amazing, I’m so happy! A big thanks to the team because the car was fantastic! The car has been fantastic since the beginning of the weekend, today I could just push flat out and the pace was great because I managed to pull away from the Haas.
“I need a bit of time to let this sink in, but we will definitely enjoy it with the team tonight! The start of the race was mega—I managed to overtake Ricciardo in Turn 1 which was great, after that it got a bit tricky when Magnussen overtook me in Turn 1, I knew I had to overtake him straight back because I would lose time and it would be difficult to catch him afterwards.
“Once I passed, I managed to keep him behind and push flat out while I was trying to manage the tyres, which we did pretty well. I think the pace was great so I’m just super happy.”
Brendon Hartley: “An amazing day for Toro Rosso but a disappointing day for me. I had a good start and first couple of corners but had a small contact with [Sergio] Pérez in Turn 4. This not only damaged my front wing for the remainder of the race but I was also given a 10-second time penalty.
“We had the pace to be comfortably in the points without the penalty so it was a bit frustrating. A big thanks to all at Toro Rosso and at Honda, it has been an amazing turn around since Melbourne which bodes well for the next few races.”
Franz Tost (Team Principal): “Fourth place is a fantastic result for Honda and for Toro Rosso. We arrived in Bahrain with a new aero package and also Honda came with some modifications, and from the beginning onwards on Pierre’s car – where we fitted the upgrades—we saw that we improved the performance in comparison to Melbourne.
“The start of the race from both drivers was quite good. Pierre defended his position and came back from the first lap in fourth, he then fought against Magnussen in a very good way and kept his position until the end of the race. I must say, that he controlled the speed by managing the tyres and the fuel in a very professional way.
“Brendon unfortunately touched Perez after the start, therefore he got a 10-second penalty when he did his first pitstop. Therefore, he couldn’t finish in eighth or ninth position. Brendon did a good job in the race because it wasn’t easy for him to catch up as he spent a lot of time in traffic.
“Generally speaking, we are very happy with this result. To finish in fourth position in the second race of the year is really a very positive sign from Honda and from Red Bull Toro Rosso side. I’m quite confident that we have what we need to keep this level of performance.”
Toyoharu Tanabe (Honda F1 Technical Director): “It was a very exciting race and it is satisfying to have seen both our cars perform well to take the chequered flag. Special congratulations must go to Pierre who drove brilliantly all weekend to finish 4th, to give Honda it’s highest finish since we returned to Formula 1 in 2015. Brendon drove very well to fight back from a 10 second penalty, but unfortunately it was enough to drop him out of the points.
“In the two weeks since our difficulties at the Australian Grand Prix, everyone in the team, at the track and back in the UK and Japan, has worked very hard and this nice result is a well-deserved reward for all our efforts. We feel we have made some progress, improving our reliability and it is also clear that the aero updates introduced here worked really well. We can enjoy this moment for a few hours, but as from tomorrow, it’s time to focus on the next round in Shanghai.”
Kevin Magnussen: “I’m happy about today. It’s really good to get 10 points and get our championship started. I’m really proud of the team, especially the guys on the pit stops. They had a tough time between Australia and here. They kept their heads and got back to basics. They did what they do best and they delivered today. I couldn’t really fight with Gasly in the Toro Rosso ahead in fourth, but still, we’re happy with P5.”
Romain Grosjean: “It was always going to be difficult starting from the back of the grid. I didn’t really have a good first lap, but after that I came back through the field quite nicely. If I hadn’t lost my bargeboard I’d have finished potentially seventh or eighth. That was a problem – losing parts as we’re just running on track. On those two laps, the car was absolutely undriveable. We had to pit to remove the part, so that was the end of the story.”
Guenther Steiner (Team Principal): “I’m pretty happy with fifth place. There were maybe a few points lost with Romain, who was going strong from 16th up to 10th, but then he needed an additional pit stop to clear off some parts of the car which had come loose. We have to investigate that to see if he went off or hit something at the start. All in all, it’s been a good weekend.
“The pit stops were good. We had five in the race and they were all good. I think the guys have recovered and I’m very proud of them, and they can be proud of themselves for what they’ve achieved this weekend. Coming back from two failed pit stops at the last race in Australia to take a fifth-place finish without a problem, it’s fantastic.”
Nico Hülkenberg: “We got the maximum from the race today, which is a good positive. We didn’t quite have the pace to compete with the cars ahead of us and that leaves me a little disappointed, so it’s clear the midfield fight is very close. It was a busy race and our main focus was fuel saving whilst still trying to race other cars and I think we managed that quite well tonight.”
Carlos Sainz, Jr.: “I was surviving in the end there with very tired Soft tyres and having to do a lot of fuel saving. We need to analyse what happened at the start because I had too much wheel spin and from there onwards the race was compromised. I was stuck in traffic after both stops and we couldn’t really do a lot from there. It was a tough day to be honest, but luckily China is just around the corner and we will fight our way back to the points.”
Cyril Abiteboul (Renault Sport Managing Director): “It was an action-packed race that nevertheless saw us score a fine result with Nico who put in a great drive on a track that is difficult for us. Carlos’ poor start penalised his race, which proved, once again, that every detail counts. Carlos finished just outside the points, which is disappointing, but he did the best he could with fuel management that became very complicated in his race to move back up the order.
“We had good pace in qualifying and the performance level of the car should see us qualify higher on the grid and thus have easier races. Sixth place for Nico keeps us in a good place in the Constructors’ Championship with a points total in-line with our objectives, but the race pace wasn’t very good in particular with the Soft tyres, which needs to be analysed, understood and improved as soon as possible.”
Fernando Alonso: “It was another great race today, with the team performing good pit-stops, good strategy and good reliability. Everyone worked perfectly today and we got both cars into the points. We did a good job at the start, overtaking a couple of cars. We had newer tyres compared to the people around us and we were expecting a bit more, but after that we had the pace to keep our position in the front train.
“Looking at the overall picture of the weekend, we struggled in every session and had quite a poor qualifying, so now being seventh and eighth is a positive result for the team.
“We know that we have the potential, and that the car has some good things and bad things which we need to make sure we improve as soon as possible. New parts are coming, but whatever we have on the car on Sunday we’re sure we’ll deliver and push to the limits, and today was another good example.”
Stoffel Vandoorne: “After the start of the race I didn’t think this result would be possible today! I had a terrible start, a lot of wheel-spin off the line and found myself sitting there in absolute last after Turn 1. From there we made a great recovery, and to finish eighth and have both cars in the points again is very pleasing.
“We always knew our race pace was going to be better than our qualifying pace and today we proved that again. We overtook a lot of cars on track and made some very bold overtaking moves into Turn 1. For me it was an amazing race and I enjoyed some great fighting, so I’m pretty happy. We were very ambitious today and had a good strategy, knew our race pace was better than a lot of the people around us and today is a great result for us.”
Éric Boullier (McLaren Racing Director): “After a tough day for us yesterday, a double-points finish is a pleasing reward for the hard work the whole team put in overnight to ready our cars for today’s race. Both drivers did an incredible job—managing their tyres and fuel, regulating their pace, and reading the situation around them to maximise their track positions.
“Fernando drove masterfully to keep on top of the pack and attack cars further ahead, making great progress against our nearest competition to finish seventh. Stoffel, after suffering at the start and exiting the first corner last, made an impressive fightback through the field. Although most of them weren’t seen on our screens, he made no fewer than 11 on-track overtakes over the course of the race, to finish just behind his team-mate in eighth place.
“I’d also like to say a massive well done to our mechanics for their excellent work in the pit-stops today, which really helped us to execute our strategy perfectly. Finally, we send our thoughts and best wishes to the Ferrari mechanic, and we hope he makes a speedy recovery.”
Marcus Ericsson: “It is an amazing feeling to back in the points, especially this early into the season, as a start to our new chapter with Alfa Romeo. It is a great reward to everyone at the racetrack and back at the factory. The strategy we had today was good, and it was a challenge to make it all the way to the end of the race with the tyres and fuel we had.
“I had to be clever as a driver and pick the right fights to make sure that I do not use the tyres too much. It was a great team effort. I am very happy, very pleased, and I look forward to continuing on this positive path.”
Charles Leclerc: “It has been a motivating evening for the team. After working hard all weekend, we scored two points, with Marcus having a very strong race. At the same time, I am not completely satisfied with my own result. We went for a high-risk strategy after I struggled with a flat-spot at the beginning of the race. We opted for a set of medium tyres—unfortunately, they did not last as long as we hoped.
“We are looking into what happened in the stint on the medium option and will be sure to learn from this experience. In any case, it was a positive race for the team, and I look forward to being back in the car next weekend in China.”
Frédéric Vasseur (Team Principal): “It was a very good first step for us and a reward for the hard work during the winter by the whole team, both at the race track and at the factory at home. Today we made an important recovery from qualifying and both drivers and the team did a good job.
“Congratulations to Marcus for the strong race. He put in a huge effort over the winter to be able to show everyone that he is able to deliver. It is a great accomplishment for him. Charles also did a good job and put in a consistently good performance throughout the race.
“Unfortunately, he lost a lot of time at the beginning of the race after having issues with a vibration on the front wheel, requiring an early pit stop. All in all, it was a good team effort and we are pleased with the outcome of this weekend, but we remain completely focused and will continue to work hard and push in this direction.”
Esteban Ocon: “It was a very tough race and there was never really a chance to catch my breath. I was always pushing, always fighting, always chasing. We are right in the middle of the midfield fight and it was a nice reward to overtake Carlos [Sainz] with just two laps to go and score the final point.
“I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get more from this race, especially starting from eighth place, but we did the best we could in the circumstances. The main positive to take from this weekend is the improvement we made compared to Melbourne. We need to keep working in the same direction to find more performance in China next week.”
Sergio Pérez: “It feels like an opportunity lost because my race was effectively over on lap one. We knew how important it was to stay out of trouble, but there was nothing I could do to avoid what happened. I made a pretty good start, but Brendon [Hartley] lost control of his car and spun me around. I had a lot of damage to the floor and that cost me performance for the rest of the race.
“Despite that, I nearly made it back into the points, but in the end there was no chance to do it. We can look at some positives: it was a fun race, with lots of battles and we are making progress with the car. I hope we can continue the good work and be quicker in China, where we will hopefully get more performance from our package.”
Otmar Szafnauer (Chief Operating Officer): “We had to work very hard to score the final point tonight. Esteban did an excellent job of chasing down Sainz in the final few laps and put significant pressure on him to overtake him and move back into the top ten. It was marginal as to whether it would be a one or a two stop race, but I think we called it about right with both cars.
“Sergio’s race was compromised heavily by the contact with Hartley on the opening lap where we were simply the innocent victim. There was big contact, which damaged the floor quite significantly and impacted performance. The spin dropped him to the back of the field and a slow puncture forced him to pit early and adopt a two-stop strategy. To recover to P12 was a tremendous effort in the circumstances.”
Lance Stroll: “I was really happy with my race, even though we were nowhere in terms of position. I had a really good start and picked up five positions, so I was happy about that. After that I touched the front wing fighting with Grosjean, so I had to box early and we lost 10 seconds as we had to change the front wing at the stop. But I managed to recover from that and beat my team mate at the end.
“I am obviously happy with the recovery we made after the first couple of laps. I still believe we did the maximum we could have done today. I hope we can be better in China, but behind the scenes there is a lot of work to be done.”
Sergey Sirotkin: “It’s not so easy to summarise the race. This was my first F1 race distance. It was a good experience, but we switched our plan. Our strategy was a two-stop, which we ended up sticking with and it was not optimum as I think we lost a bit of track time with that. Then I was caught by quite a lot of lapped cars, so again I lost quite a bit of track time.
“The pace was OK but we cannot follow other cars. It’s something we definitely need to improve. It’s a big problem on the first lap as it’s impossible to fight people without damaging the front tyre. However, as we said a few days ago, we’re just trying to get to the end of the race.
“I tried all the tyre compounds, so it was a good experience and I came up with some good pace on the last set, so it was a reasonable improvement. Now we go to China.”
Paddy Lowe (Chief Technical Officer): “It was not a great end to a very tough weekend for the team. We didn’t have the pace today to compete with any other cars except ourselves. We have clearly got to go away and look deeply into what has affected our pace, even relative to where we were in Melbourne just two weeks ago.
“We’ll see what we can do in the short time available between now and China next week. This is a time to stick together as a team and work intelligently and diligently on the problems we face. Finally, I hope the Ferrari mechanic is OK after the nasty looking incident in the pitstop during the race.”
Max Verstappen: “Due to the hit with Lewis we sustained some more severe damage than just the puncture, we haven’t had a chance to look at the car yet but we suspect the differential. From the start I was enjoying the feel of the car and finding the gaps and it was shaping up to be an exciting race. I had a good tow on the straight, the last corner was really good so it allowed me to stay close to Lewis.
“We got a bit squeezed but from the middle to the end of the corner I was ahead, I then felt a nudge from behind and could feel the puncture and therefore knew the race was likely over. In my opinion there was plenty of room for the both of us to go around that corner and to say ‘no action taken’ is a bit harsh as I am now out of the race due to that contact on my left rear. If it was the other way around I’m sure he would want it looked into.”
Daniel Ricciardo: “Coming in to turn eight I lost all power, everything switched off without warning and I couldn’t do anything. I guess it’s an electrical engine issue, maybe battery related but I don’t know exactly yet. Obviously, everyone in the team is so disappointed as we genuinely felt like we had a good car today.
“The weekend was going pretty good for us and I really believe our race car was even better. I know I only did one lap but I could already see Kimi sliding on the rear tyres. I really felt like we were going to be in with a good chance which makes it even more frustrating.
“Being out so early in a race is just the worst feeling; especially when it’s a night race and you are up all day waiting for those two hours and after two minutes it’s over. I get really fired up for Sundays so now I’ve got two hours of adrenaline stored up inside me and I don’t know what to do with it. This sport can rip your heart out, it’s brutal sometimes.”
Christian Horner (Team Principal): “A brutally harsh race for us today. After an average start Daniel managed to move back up into P4 and was catching Kimi quite quickly. But then a complete electrical shutdown with a suspected failure to the energy store brought a premature end to his race.
“While Max made great progress in the first couple of laps, he was right on Lewis’ gearbox and lined up a pass into turn one and unfortunately contact on the exit of the corner gave Max a puncture and the resulting damage, and that sustained to the transmission driving back to the pits, ultimately caused his retirement.
“Both cars retiring within two laps is extremely disappointing particularly when we had a race car today that was capable of challenging Ferrari and Mercedes. Thankfully the next race is only one week away and congratulations to Toro Rosso on a fantastic race result.”