Mercedes realise they have work to do
Despite Lewis Hamilton’s inherited victory in Bahrain, Ferrari remain favourites to win the next F1 race
Lewis Hamilton added another victory to his tally at Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix but neither the five-times Formula One world champion nor his Mercedes team were under any illusions about who should have won.
“It’s a bit subdued because we are all racers and the emotional winner today was [Ferrari’s] Charles [Leclerc],” team boss Toto Wolff told reporters.
Hamilton agreed: “He deserved the win today. He’s done the job all weekend.”
Leclerc, Ferrari’s 21-year-old Monegasque newcomer, had been heading for his first Grand Prix win after becoming the Italian team’s youngest driver to start from pole position.
He was leading comfortably when a power unit problem in the closing laps dashed his hopes, leaving him unable to fend off Hamilton and the Briton’s second-placed Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas.
A late safety-car deployment at least enabled Leclerc to hang on for third place and a first career podium.
“He was the quickest car, or the quickest guy, and he should have won the race. Then things swing in the other direction,” said Wolff.
Hamilton took the chequered flag ahead of Bottas, who had led the champion home two weeks ago in Formula One’s season-opener in Australia and now leads the standings by a single point.
The two one-two finishes in two races came against all expectation, however, with Ferrari fastest in preseason testing and in Bahrain.
Wolff indicated there needed to be a dose of realism.
“You have to take the one and two, celebrate, but take it with humility and a knowledge that there is work to be done and not think that this was the performance ranking of the Sunday,” he said. “It wasn’t.”
Mercedes had been on the back foot all weekend in Bahrain, with Leclerc fastest in two of three practice sessions and four-times champion teammate Sebastian Vettel leading the other. The pair also locked out the front row in qualifying.
While Hamilton was able to take the fight to Vettel, whose race unravelled in a spin and a lost front wing that left the German fifth at the finish, Leclerc looked comfortable out front.
Wolff said the red Ferrari cars would be favourites for victory again at the next race in China on April 14.
“We are lacking straight line speed and that is something that in China is very important, so we need to stick our heads together.”
Neuville wins Tour De Corse Rally
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville won last weekend’s Tour de Corse, the French leg of the world rally championship, after Ford’s Elfyn Evans suffered a puncture in the final Power Stage on Sunday.
M-Sport Ford’s Evans had reclaimed the lead by winning the 13th stage in Corsica early on Sunday, but a puncture cost him over a minute in the final stage, won by Britain’s Kris Meeke (Toyota Yaris).
Welshman Evans slipped down to third overall, one minute 6.6 seconds off the pace, with defending world champion Sebastien Ogier of France (Citroen) moving up to second, 40.3 seconds behind Neuville.
Belgium’s Neuville went top of the world championship standings after four rallies as prerace leader Ott Tanak (Toyota Yaris) finished sixth overall in Corsica. He has 82 points, Ogier has 80 and Tanak is on 77 points.
The next race is the Rally Argentina from April 25-28.
Marquez dominates in Argentina
Honda’s five-times MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez won the Argentine Grand Prix on Sunday to take the overall lead from Ducati rival Andrea Dovizioso.
The Spaniard, who started on pole position at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, now has 45 points to the Italian’s 41 after two races.
Italian legend Valentino Rossi finished second for Yamaha with Dovizioso, winner of the Qatar season-opener, third.
“I ride like when I was young, I enjoyed it very much,” said Rossi, who passed Dovizioso on the last lap, of his first podium finish as a 40-year-old and first since he was second in Germany in July 2018.
Marquez won by more than nine seconds, making a lightning start and then pulling away to leave the rest to scrap for second.
The 2018 winner Cal Crutchlow was ruled out of the reckoning after being handed a ride-through penalty for a jumped start, something the Briton felt was unwarranted.
SA’s Binder brothers enjoyed successful outings in the supporting races, with Darryn Binder (KTM) delivering his best Moto 3 result with a second place, while Brad came home fifth in the Moto 2 race on his Ajo KTM.