After racing on a wet track two weeks ago, Formula 1 returned to a dry track for the first of three consecutive races in the Middle East to end the 2020 season. Lewis Hamilton once again dominated to pick up the win, three hours after the start of the race.
The first lap of the race saw Valtteri Bottas suffer a poor start, dropping him from second to sixth place while Sebastian Vettel fell from 11th to 15th. Romain Grosjean collided with Daniil Kvyat, causing his car to crash and ignite, which brought out the red flag. The car was split in half through the barrier and Grosjean luckily came away alive with minor burns on his hands and ankles with some broken ribs. The red flag lasted nearly 80 minutes as a second standing start was needed.
On the restart, Hamilton pulled away from the pack but was followed by Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in second and third place. Kvyat made contact with Lance Stroll, causing Stroll’s car to flip upside down. He was OK after the incident as the safety car was brought out. Kvyat would later receive a 10-second penalty for the collision.
Bottas suffered a puncture, forcing him to pit as he fell to 16th place.
After the safety car, Daniel Ricciardo fell from sixth to ninth place as Lando Norris moved into fifth place. Vettel’s car continued to lose pace, dropping all the way to 18th before drivers started pitting. Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon were the first drivers to pit as many drivers changed tires around the 18th lap. Hamilton took medium tires while Verstappen took the hards.
Carlos Sainz overtook the Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon for sixth around lap 24. On lap 35, Red Bull decided to take a second stop, sending Verstappen to the pits. However, any hopes of an undercut were dashed as the stop lasted 5.1 seconds. Verstappen came out second behind Perez. Two laps later, Perez pitted and came out behind Norris and Sainz in fifth place. After Sainz and Norris pitted, Perez cycled back up to third ahead of Alexander Albon.
Perez was cruising to finish third and receiving his second consecutive podium for the first time in his career. However, his engine started smoking, forcing Perez to retire from the race and the safety car was brought out once again.
Hamilton won the race under the safety car, picking up his 11th race win of 2020.
Verstappen finished second, picking up the fastest lap of the race and 19 points on the day. Albon finished third after Perez’s retirement, the second podium of his career. This is the first time since the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix that both Red Bull drivers finished on the podium.
Norris and Sainz finished fourth and fifth. Pierre Gasly finished sixth as he was the only driver in the top 10 to use a one-stop strategy. Ricciardo and Ocon finished seventh and ninth with Bottas splitting them in eighth, overcoming his early tire puncture to earn four points. Leclerc finished 10th to round out the point standings.
Formula 1 will return to Bahrain next Sunday for the Sakhir Grand Prix, the outer track of the Bahrain International Circuit.