Crash.net F1 Digital Editor Luke Smith brings you his driver ratings following a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday night.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – 9

Even accounting for Charles Leclerc’s heartbreaking failure, Ferrari should have won through Sebastian Vettel – but Lewis Hamilton had other plans. One sniff at splitting the Ferraris was all he needed, making a bold pass on Sebastian Vettel at the start of the third stint that forced the German into an error. Not only would it ultimately give Hamilton the win after Leclerc’s demise, but it also paved the way for a Mercedes one-two. Big credit for taking a mile when only an inch was given.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes – 7

The power of the beard wasn’t enough to get Valtteri Bottas in the fight for victory this weekend. Despite a good start, the Finn faded in the race compared to Hamilton ahead, reporting afterwards he had a drop in performance due to a plastic bag caught in his front wing. Bottas also ran with his engine turned down as he ran adrift from cars either ahead or behind, making P2 a pleasant surprise.

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Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari – 5

If the errors of 2018 acted as a knock to how Sebastian Vettel is viewed among F1’s greats, then Bahrain will have been another blow. A good start saw Vettel take the lead, but he was powerless to defend from Leclerc five laps later. His focus turned to beating Hamilton, only for Vettel to – again – defeat himself, spinning out at Turn 4 when going wheel-to-wheel with the Mercedes driver. Had he hung in there, Vettel would have likely got back ahead later in the stint. At worst, he’d have stopped Mercedes taking a one-two. In the end, he threw away more points in clumsy fashion. 

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari – 10

No way is Charles Leclerc not getting a 10. With the exception of FP2 – let’s face it, who cares? – and the final 10 laps of the race, Leclerc was the man to beat all weekend long. He was comfortably quicker than Vettel, who was ultimately more occupied with Hamilton, and deserved to win the race. It was a crushing performance that only further justifies Ferrari’s call to put its faith in such a young man for 2019, and – more crucially – a warning shot to his rivals at the front of the pack.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull – 8

A decent enough day at the office for Max Verstappen at a track where Red Bull struggled to mix with Ferrari and Mercedes. After an early clash with Carlos Sainz (put down as a racing incident), Verstappen managed to get the jump on Bottas early in the second stint, but couldn’t compete with the Mercedes on the Medium tyres, causing him to drop back. The car deserved fifth at best, so P4 is a good job indeed, keeping Verstappen third in the drivers’ standings.

Pierre Gasly, Red Bull – 5

Gasly’s tough start to life with Red Bull continued in Bahrain. Struggles in qualifying left him 13th on the grid, but he failed to make many inroads early on – testament to the quick midfield this year – and only rose to P8 late on thanks to Renault’s double DNF. Work to be done for the Frenchman as he gets to grips with the RB15 car.

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault – 6

The honeymoon – if there even was one – is well and truly over for Daniel Ricciardo at Renault. A narrow Q2 exit was followed by a decent start that saw Ricciardo move into the top 10, but his tyres faded quickly as he tried to hold on to a one-stop strategy. It was particularly costly in the closing stages of the race as Ricciardo failed to keep the likes of Lando Norris and Kimi Raikkonen back before an MGU-K failure caused his car to shut down with a few laps to go.

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault – 7

After issues caused Hulkenberg to drop out in Q1 on Saturday, the German put up a stunning fight through the field in the race, picking up six positions on the first lap alone. Even with a two-stop strategy, he was able to get ahead of one-stopping teammate Ricciardo, and was on course to finish as the best of the rest in P6 prior to a late loss of power.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas – 6

Kevin Magnussen showed great promise in qualifying, leading the midfield runners in sixth place, but struggled hugely in the race. Haas’ long run pace on Friday had sparked some concerns in the team, but not to the extent that we saw on Sunday. Magnussen was outside the top 10 by the end of the first stint, and eventually finished one lap down in 15th. 

Romain Grosjean, Haas – 5

Romain Grosjean said after the race on Sunday that he was already seeing some parallels to his beleaguered start to 2018, and you can see why. Two races, two DNFs, this time around after being hit by Lance Stroll on the first lap. Grosjean had been due to start eighth, but dropped to P11 after a penalty for a clumsy block on Lando Norris. He’ll want to avoid extending this difficult patch into a streak like last year. 

Carlos Sainz, McLaren – 7

The Bahrain weekend held much promise for Carlos Sainz, qualifying seventh and running sixth early on before a wheel-to-wheel fight with Max Verstappen that ended with contact. Damage to Sainz’s car dropped him to the back and made the race an extended test session before he was parked up with a few laps to go. It may have been a luckless start to life with McLaren for the Spaniard, but there are plenty of positives to take from this weekend.

Lando Norris, McLaren – 9

With the exception of Leclerc, Lando Norris was the stand-out driver of the day in Bahrain. Despite losing places at the start after running off the track, Norris fought his way back into the top 10 and nailed his two-stop strategy to run seventh. He had Kimi Raikkonen on his tail and within DRS range for the final 16 laps of the race, but defended superbly to hang on to the place, ultimately finishing sixth after Hulkenberg’s late retirement. Only Fernando Alonso has finished higher for McLaren since the end of 2014…

Sergio Perez, Racing Point – 7

Sergio Perez picked up a racing point for Racing Point in a result that perhaps flattered the true performance of the RP19 car in Bahrain. Perez started well to rise into the points, but an early stop left him hanging on at the end with his tyres. Renault’s implosion allowed him to sneak up into the points and cross the line P10, which was a bit more than the team really deserved. 

Lance Stroll, Racing Point – 5

Lance Stroll came back down to earth with a bump in Bahrain following his Australia heroics. Another Q1 exit was followed by contact with Romain Grosjean at the start that left Stroll’s car with damage, essentially ending his race. He was a lap down from half distance and eventually finished 14th. 

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo – 8

Bringing home the bacon for Alfa Romeo once again, Kimi Raikkonen was on-song in Bahrain, qualifying and finishing inside the top 10. An early pit stop to try and get the undercut left Raikkonen hanging on at the end of the second stint with his Medium tyres, but he was in better shape after switching to Softs for the final stint. While he couldn’t pass Norris for sixth late on, P7 nevertheless was a good finish for the Finn.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo – 5

A fairly anonymous weekend for Antonio Giovinazzi. He narrowly dropped out in Q1 and never really troubled the points, only rising to 11th thanks to the late Safety Car. Looked a world away from Raikkonen, so will need to focus on cutting the gap in China.

Alexander Albon, Toro Rosso – 7

It was a busy race for Alexander Albon that ended with his first F1 points. Scraps throughout offered some good entertainment, most notable being his overtake around the outside of Gasly at Turn 4. While he may only have risen into the points after the Renaults retirements, Albon comfortably outpaced the rest of the ‘lower midfielders’, and easily clear of teammate Danil Kvyat.

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso – 6

A tyre mix-up prevented Kvyat from running at the end of Q2, leaving him 15th on the grid, but he struggled to make inroads in the race. A five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane plus contact with Giovinazzi left Kvyat fighting back for much of the race, albeit only to P12 following the late DNFs.

George Russell, Williams – 7

Once again left to only fight with his teammate, George Russell put in another good shift for Williams in Bahrain. The gap between the pair grew gradually throughout the race, eventually standing at 45 seconds – a big gulf considering they were both on two-stop strategies. 

Robert Kubica, Williams – 6

Kubica’s ongoing struggles with the FW42 car continued in the race in Bahrain as he propped up the classified runners again way down on teammate George Russell. He was far closer in qualifying than in Australia, finishing just 0.04 seconds off, and got ahead early on, but couldn’t keep up with the Briton once the race settled down.

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