Lewis Hamilton is “gunning” for a third Formula One world title after taking an early grip on this season’s drivers’ rankings.
For the second successive year Hamilton triumphed in Bahrain to take his career tally to 36 wins, with 21 of those from pole position. With three victories in four races this term, Hamilton has already opened up a 27-point cushion to Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
The German had to settle for third behind Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, with the Finn on the podium for the first time in 26 races since the 2013 Korean Grand Prix. But, with Hamilton in such imperious form, with nine wins in the last 11 grands prix stretching back into last season, he is going to take some stopping at this rate.
With three-times champion Sir Jackie Stewart asking the questions on the podium after the “champagne” celebrations – rose water is used in the Middle East – the Scot asked Hamilton about his prospects of joining him in such an elite club.
“I’m gunning for it,” said Hamilton. “For us as a team we have shown Mercedes is still the best and we are working as hard as we can to maintain this momentum we have. Ferrari are pushing very hard to close up, but I’m so really happy and proud of everyone for all the hard work they have put in.”
Following an indifferent start to his season, certainly in comparison to team-mate Sebastian Vettel, Raikkonen conjured his best drive for 18 months.
Closing in on Rosberg in the final stint, Raikkonen passed him on lap 56 of 57 as the German also encountered brake issues. Raikkonen’s remarks were also indifferent as he said of his podium position: “Obviously it’s much nicer than being out of it. “We came second and obviously we got quite close to the Mercedes, but it’s a bit disappointing after that, although I’d rather take this than something else.
“You cannot feel happy – we are happy to be second, but it’s still disappointing. It’s not what we want to do.
“I’m sure we are only going to get stronger and better as a team and improve the car. It’s a great place to be.”
Rosberg, meanwhile, was left to lament his late brake issues, although it is doubtful he would have kept Raikkonen at bay anyway even if he had not struck. “At the end it was very disappointing that Kimi got me, but I had no chance to defend my position with a brake problem in the last two laps,” said Rosberg.
Front-wing damage meant Vettel could eventually only manage fifth behind Valtteri Bottas in his Williams, while Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was sixth, albeit crossing the line in spectacular fashion as his Renault power unit blew.
Fernando Alonso just missed out on the points with 11th, and was the only McLaren to start and finish the race as Jenson Button’s car never even made it out of the garage due to ongoing electrical woes.
Manor’s Will Stevens again saw the flag, finishing 16th, more than 40 seconds clear of team-mate Roberto Merhi.