Hamilton wins thrilling Bahrain GP as F1 rises above infighting
Critics of the new rules are left with egg on their faces after 'best race for years'
LEWIS HAMILTON won a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, and his triumph after a stunning race rightly deflected attention away from another round of "squalid infighting" over the controversial rule changes that have blighted the start of the new season.
The Mercedes driver held off team mate Nico Rosberg, who began the race on pole, in a gripping climax as the two drivers battled for the lead over the last ten laps after a safety car incident wiped out Hamilton's earlier advantage.
Mercedes did not invoke team orders, and instead watched, like the rest of the world, with hearts in mouths as Hamilton was forced to defend for all he was worth to hold off Rosberg. It was a sensational duel but in the end the Englishman survived to take his second straight win.
"The fireworks that burst into the black sky over the Sakhir circuit were nothing as to the fireworks on the track," says Kevin eason of The Times. "Time after time [Hamilton and Rosberg] passed and re-passed each other for the lead, their wheels close to touching at almost 200mph.
"Let us hope that the doom-mongers, who had trashed the sport in the hours leading up to this grand prix with such enthusiasm, were absorbing the significance of a race that will live long in the memory."
It could mark a turning point, agrees Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph. "This was the race to make the naysayers feel ever so slightly foolish, as the sport's new era burst into life in spectacular fashion," he says.
Described as the "best race for years" by Paul Weaver of The Guardian, it made the griping of Bernie Ecclestone and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, look ridiculous.
"What made this race truly extraordinary was the fact that the breathless fencing between Hamilton and Rosberg was replicated – albeit at a slightly less frenetic level – by other teams, most memorably by Williams, Force India and Red Bull," he adds.
The race was "characterised by wheel-to-wheel duels between team-mates", says Sky. "Perhaps not too much is wrong with the sport's 'rules reset' after all."
There was even a spectacular crash between Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez, which triggered the late safety car, when Maldonado crashed into Gutierrez while exiting the pits, flipping the Sauber over. Thankfully, Gutierrez emerged from the wreckage unharmed.
"The vocal critics of Formula 1's brave new world left the Bahrain paddock with egg on their faces," agrees ESPN's Inside Line column. The most thrilling Grand Prix for years also laid to rest doubts about the circuit and concerns that fuel regulations would hinder out-and-out racing.
It was left to the oldest man on the grid, Jenson Button, to give his seal of approval to the race, even though he failed to finish.
"I can't even remember how many cars I overtook but it was quite a lot – and I think it was the same for almost everyone out there. I really enjoyed it, in fact," he said. "Formula 1 may have new power units and technical regs this year, but it's clearly every bit as good as it ever was in terms of on-track spectacle."