Vettel thought Bottas had him at 'checkmate' in final laps

Kristopher Nichols
April 10, 2018

While Bottas had to settle for second, it was Lewis Hamilton who took third place in the race, having started ninth.

Before the lights went out, there were signs the fight for the front would be a live one. "Valtteri (Bottas) had a bit of a sniff, but fortunately he ran out of laps so I am really happy".

In his 200th race Vettel held on for a nail-biting victory over the two Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, but a pitstop snafu saw Raikkonen drive off before his pit crew were ready, breaking the leg of a Ferarri mechanic. Hamilton lost another place on Lap 2 when Max Verstappen barged past at the end of the main straight, with the pair making contact.

"But the auto ahead chose to dive to the right so I had to bail out and had cars pass me on the left, so I fell back on the opening lap".

Raikkonen said his performance did not ease the frustration of losing the result.

Daniel Ricciardo, on the other hand, suffered an electrical problem which shut down his auto forcing him to end his race.

Toro Rosso-Honda's Pierre Gasly took a brilliant fourth place. It was Magnussen who would have to taste defeat, with Gasly retaining fourth position, and showing early signs of a very strong race.

Bottas entered DRS range with two laps to go but a half-hearted look at Turn 1 on the final lap was as close as he got. It was the German driver who first pitted for a fresh set of Soft tyres.

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"These tyres were done, done, in the last 10 laps", a jubilant Vettel told his team over the radio after he took the chequered flag. The Mercedes' tyres were in a better condition in the final ten laps and Bottas quickly shaved four seconds off the Ferrari's lead between lap 49 and lap 54.

He would have faced a challenge from Kimi Raikkonen late in the race but the second Ferrari retired following an incident in the pit lane. It was the second time the team had been involved in an unsafe release from a pit stop during the weekend. As he headed back out the mechanic on the left rear wheel, subsequently named as Francesco, was knocked over suffering a shinbone and fibula fracture. During a routine pit stop, Raikkonen's vehicle was released too early and hit one of the team's mechanics as he accelerated away.

Back at the front, Vettel tried to pull away from Bottas but could only build up a consistent gap of four seconds.

Vettel conceded he doubted the initial call to stick him on a one-stop strategy but admitted holding off the Mercedes had made the victory even sweeter.

Kevin Magnussen bounced back from his disappointment in Australia to finish fifth for Haas ahead of Renault's Nico Hulkenberg.

Marcus Ericsson grabbed two points for Sauber by finishing ninth ahead of Esteban Ocon, who was 10th for Force India.

After starting from pole position, Vettel held the lead through the opening sequence of corners as Bottas managed to beat Raikkonen into Turn 1.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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