Berlin, 30 November 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes won a hectic Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix which was overshadowed by Haas driver Romain Grosjean leaping from his flaming car to escape a major crash in the opening lap.
World champion Hamilton held the lead from pole position ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to claim his 95th career victory on Sunday with Alex Albon third in the other Red Bull.
“That was a tough race guys but great job,” Hamilton said over team radio.
“Physically very demanding, [Red Bull] had a lot of speed today so I was flat out trying to keep them at bay. I’m grateful to my team who at the end of the day did a great job with strategy,” he added in the post race interview.
The Briton said Grosjean‘s accident was “a shocking image to see” and was “just so grateful that the halo worked.”
“When I get in the car, I know that I’m taking risks. But it is a reminder to people watching – this is a dangerous sport. It’s an amazing job that Formula 1 and the [ruling body] FIA have done to make it safer,” he added on Twitter during a lengthy delay to repair a barrier.
The lights went out and the session was immediately red-flagged after a massive hit involving Grosjean. TV footage showed the car on fire and broken in two pieces, but Grosjean walked away and was helped into an ambulance to receive medical care.
“That was frightening to see but we’re glad to see Romain walk out of the Medical Car,” tweeted his team, who said the 34-year-old had “some minor burns on his hands and ankles but otherwise he is ok.”
Haas gave an update on Grosjean‘s condition, saying he would stay in hospital overnight but x-rays had not shown sign of fractures.
FIA president Jean Todt said on Twitter he was “relieved Grosjean is safe. We have always put safety at the top of our priorities and will continue to do so.”
Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri said “it was an accident my generation has never seen.
“I didn’t imagine a Formula One car could still split in two like that. I kept thinking about his wife and children watching at home. But the main thing is he got out of this one,” Gasly said.
The race restarted after being suspended for over an hour with a standing start, but it didn’t take long for the safety car to come out as Lance Stroll of Racing Point crashed with Alpha Tauri’s Danill Kvyat and the impact tipped him over.
Once the safety car came in the race proceeded without further incidents until the final laps, when the Racing Point car of Sergio Perez halted with flames coming out the engine.
The Mexican was set to secure his second consecutive podium but his retirement meant Albon would be in the podium for the second time this season.
“Obviously a bit of luck involved with Sergio,” Albon said. “I felt like the last few races have been getting better and better, but the results didn’t really show it.”
This was the first time Red Bull team secured a double podium since Japan 2017, when Verstappen was second and Daniel Ricciardo third.
Verstappen was set to put up a fight for the win but an unusual slow Red Bull pit stop made things harder for the driver.
“We were just lacking a bit, I tried to keep it close, we weren’t really aggressive enough with the strategy and had the issue with the pit stop – it is what it is,” the Dutchman said.
Racing Point, fighting for the third place in the drivers’ championship, had failed to score on a frustrating day.
McLaren finished fourth and fifth with Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz respectively. Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri was sixth, followed by Ricciardo of Renault and Mercedes’ Vatteri Bottas, who struggled during the entire race.
Bottas started second but made a bad start, suffered a puncture and is now just 12 points ahead of third-placed Verstappen in the standings.
Ferrari cars of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were 10th and 13th respectively.
Following his accident Grosjean was voted driver of the day by Formula One fans.
Next weekend is the second race of the Bahrain double-header at the Sakhir Circuit and the penultimate of the season. F1 boss Ross Brawn promised a “deep investigation” into the Grosjean crash before the next race.