2019 Bahrain GP: Charles Leclerc Denied Victory
Charles Leclerc didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend at the 2019 Bahrain GP, but still couldn’t grasp victory after a mechanical issue caused him to lose engine power with less than 10 laps to go.
The day before, having seemingly fixed its issues and turned up the engine, Ferrari had locked out the front row in qualifying, with Leclerc leading Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel took the lead at the start but Leclerc quickly regained it after having gotten to grips with the tires. Vettel went on to have a thrilling battle with Lewis Hamilton for the second podium spot, which concluded when he overdid it on the throttle, spun, and damaged his rear tire. On the way back to the pits, the vibrations from the tire caused the mounts on his front wing to fail spectacularly. After that, Vettel could manage no better than fifth.
Meanwhile, Leclerc remained unchallenged until lap 46 of 57, when he suddenly reported “something strange with the engine.” It appeared that the complex MGU-H system, which converts heat energy from the exhaust into power for the battery, was no longer doing so, representing a loss of upward of 160 horsepower.
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The substantial gap Leclerc had built to Hamilton wasn’t enough to keep him at bay before the checkered flag, and in fact it was only a very late safety car that helped him stay on the podium at all, by ensuring that the 2019 Bahrain GP would finish under caution.
The safety car was triggered by the joint retirements of Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, both of whom had been set for a good points haul before simultaneously experiencing their own separate engine problems.
That allowed rookie Lando Norris to capture sixth place, and his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr might have scored points as well had he not gotten too racy with Verstappen and damaged his car. In fact, it was a good day for all of the sport’s rookies: Alexander Albon also scored points in the Toro Rosso, and though George Russell may be stuck in the worst car on the grid, he had a good race as well.
Pierre Gasly, now in his second year in Formula 1, overcame a poor qualifying performance and difficult start to finish eighth, though in no small part thanks to Red Bull’s pit strategy. So far he is looking leagues away from his teammate in terms of performance and he’ll be desperately trying to put in better results to appease the team’s cutthroat management.
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Finally, F1’s elder statesman Kimi Räikkönen once again had a quiet put productive race. Alfa Romeo will be glad to have secured his services in last year’s contract talks.
Thanks to having captured the fastest lap of the race in Australia, Bottas continues to lead the championship and Mercedes has so far scored the maximum amount of points available to them, bar the single point Leclerc earned for the fastest lap in the 2019 Bahrain GP. That comes as a surprise, given how strong Ferrari had been in pre-season testing and in every Bahrain session leading up to the race itself.
Then again, looking great until it actually matters has been a recurring trend for Ferrari in recent years. In 2018, Ferrari dropped a lot of points while it had the fastest car, and so far 2019 is not off to the best start for the sport’s oldest team.
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Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.