For the first time, Formula 1 used the outer layout of the Sakhir International circuit, with only eleven corners and lap times dropping below one minute, Charles Leclerc qualified an astonishing fourth position while teammate Sebastian Vettel could only manage thirteenth.
It was a disappointing start for Leclerc as he collided with Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen at turn four, with the Ferrari driver and Verstappen retiring as both cars ended their race in the barriers, deploying a safety car. Vettel had a better start, moving up to ninth in the chaos.
Replays showed Leclerc making contact with Perez as the pair dueled over fourth position, while Verstappen was forced to go around the outside of the pair, leaving his Red Bull with nowhere to go but into the tire wall. Alfa Romeo's Kimi Räikkönen also suffered a poor start, spinning on the exit of turn three.
Racing resumed on lap seven, with the Mercedes duo of George Russell and Valtteri Bottas leading the way. Vettel was able to hold his ninth position, looking to make ground on the Renault of Esteban Ocon ahead.
Vettel dropped to tenth, but was on the more durable medium compound Pirelli tire for the opening stint of the race, the German driver looking to go longer into the first stint and keep the faster soft compound tires for the later stage of the race.
Twenty laps into the race, Vettel was holding position in twelfth, as Perez, Alexander Albon and Lando Norris battled ahead. The medium compound tires of Perez and Albon coming into play as Norris struggled on the soft compound tires, Vettel taking eleventh as Norris decided to pit for a set of medium tires.
As the soft compound runners pitted for fresh mediums around lap thirty, Vettel moved up as far as seventh position, as Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat closed up. However, Vettel opted to pit on lap thirty-two, a steady pit stop putting the Ferrari on the hard compound tires as the team decided to go for a one-stop strategy. Vettel re-joined the race in twelfth position.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed on lap fifty-four to recover the Williams of Nicolas Latifi, which came to a stop at the side of the circuit. A number of drivers pitted for fresh tires, including Vettel for a new set of soft compound tires, re-joining once again in twelfth position.
A second Virtual Safety Car was then deployed on lap sixty-two as Williams driver Jack Aitken lost his front wing on the final corner after colliding with the barrier, with the Safety Car itself being deployed for the second time in the race.
Struggles for Mercedes during the stop saw Bottas drop down to fifth position, as Russell retained the lead. However, Russell was then forced into a second stop after the team mistakenly put a mixed set of tires on his car.
Racing once again resumed on lap sixty-eight, Perez now the new leader of the race. Vettel remained in twelfth position, but set off in search of the points after the McLaren of Norris.
Mercedes revealed that in its pit stop mix-up, Bottas accidentally was given the same set of hard compound tires that he pitted with, while Russell powered on after leader Perez.
A puncture for Russell put him out of play for a potential race win or points finish, as Vettel just lingered outside of the points in eleventh, dropping back down to twelfth once again as a recovering Russell overtook the Ferrari.
At the chequered flag, Perez took his first F1 victory ahead of Ocon and Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll, as Vettel finished the race in twelfth, unable to take a points finish in a disappointing race for Ferrari at the Sakhir circuit.
Written by Coilin Higgins. Join our email list if you’re interested in receiving the latest on our online magazine and store.