RACE DEBRIEF

    Lewis Hamilton’s 11th victory of the year at the Bahrain Grand Prix may have been put in the shade somewhat by Romain’s Grosjean’s fiery accident. But how did the seven-time champion – set to miss this weekend's Sakhir GP at the hands of Covid-19 – score relative to his rivals in Power Rankings? Our judges have their say…

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our five-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out to produce a race score – with those scores then tallied up across the season on our overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    Hamilton led all bar one session of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, put in a sublime qualifying effort to take pole by 0.289s from team mate Valtteri Bottas before recording his fifth victory in a row – and a record-tying fourth in Bahrain. And the scary thing? He did it all for the fun of it, having wrapped up his seventh title last time out in Istanbul. Seriously impressive stuff, as Hamilton tops our Power Rankings for a second straight race. He won’t for a third though, with the Briton now recovering after contracting Covid-19.

    READ MORE: ‘I’m devastated I won’t be racing this weekend’ says Hamilton after positive Covid-19 test

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    As so often in 2020, the question ‘what more could Max Verstappen have done?’ has to be asked after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Verstappen was the only driver to lead a session during the weekend bar Hamilton (the false Red Bull dawn of FP3…) while he then spent the whole race doing all he could to hold onto the Mercedes driver’s coat-tails – his life made more difficult by the strategy-compromising Safety Car after Lance Stroll’s roll. He at least moved to be within 12 points of eighth-place finisher Valtteri Bottas’ P2 in the drivers’ standings – while our judges once again recognised the Dutchman’s quality.

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    You have to feel for Sergio Perez, who may be staring down the barrel of an F1 exit – while simultaneously driving as well as he ever has. That was in evidence in Bahrain, where after a brilliant qualifying effort to take P5, he then leapt to P3 at the start before spending the whole race keeping the Red Bull of Alex Albon at bay – something Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner no doubt watched with interest. Ultimately, an MGU-K issue three laps from the end robbed him of a second straight podium – but it didn’t take anything away from Perez’s performance.

    READ MORE: Perez says late failure ‘hard to digest’, but admits podium irrelevant in context of Grosjean crash

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    Twice in two races Carlos Sainz has lined up 15th on the grid only to find himself fifth at the flag. Sainz was the only driver to opt to start on a soft tyre that most had thought wouldn’t last longer than a handful of laps, eking out its life brilliantly and executing a number of dazzling passes to finish just behind team mate Lando Norris – who’d started six places further forward in ninth.

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    A gruelling 32-lap stint on hard tyres was the key to Pierre Gasly notching up his best finish since the Portuguese Grand Prix. Yes, the Frenchman was perhaps spared a late-race mauling by Daniel Ricciardo thanks to the Perez-related Safety Car. But having once again outpaced team mate Daniil Kvyat across qualifying and the race, it was another quality drive from the Gasman in 2020.

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    Lando Norris admitted that the red-flag stoppage after Romain Grosjean’s Lap 1 crash prevented his race from unravelling, with Norris having leapt up to P7 at the start only for contact with Gasly to damage his front wing – which he was ultimately able to change ‘for free’ during the red flag period. After that, Norris showed mighty pace to end up P4 at the flag, for his best finish since Monza.

    READ MORE: Norris and Sainz delighted with P4 and P5 in Bahrain GP, as McLaren jump to third in constructors’ battle

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    The Bahrain Grand Prix was a familiar story for George Russell, who once again put in a sterling qualifying effort to take P14 on the grid, only to lack the pace in the Grand Prix to really make proper headway. Ultimately, he’d finish a commendable 12th, but still frustratingly out of reach of the points, despite leading home the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. At least he’ll have a Mercedes W11 to wield this weekend at the Sakhir Grand Prix, though, having been announced as Hamilton’s replacement.

    READ MORE: Wolff thanks 'open-minded' Williams for releasing Russell to Mercedes

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    On paper, the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend was exactly what Alex Albon needed – a “boring” race (as he put it) where he qualified fourth to Verstappen’s third, and finished third to Verstappen’s second. But the shine was taken off Albon’s efforts by an almighty shunt in Free Practice 2 – which to be fair, he did well to bounce back from – while his failure to pass Perez on track stopped it from being a fully convincing performance from the Thai driver. Still, there were certainly positives to latch on to as he seeks to hold onto that Red Bull seat.

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    This was by no stretch Charles Leclerc’s finest performance this year, but there were flashes of the Monegasque’s magic, not least his Lap 3 restart, as he jumped from 12th to eighth – helped by an excellent move on team mate Sebastian Vettel at Turn 1 which left the German decidedly bemused. Ultimately, the Bahrain Grand Prix was a struggle for all Ferrari-powered teams, though, with Leclerc helped to the final point of the evening when Perez retired.

    READ MORE: Vettel says his Bahrain race was compromised by having to avoid 'ruthless' Leclerc at start

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    Daniel Ricciardo had high hopes for the Bahrain Grand Prix, after qualifying an excellent sixth, and with Renault having performed well at lower downforce circuits this season. But the race never really came together for the Australian, who was forced to spend most of the Grand Prix battling his team mate Esteban Ocon rather than being allowed to get on with things and limit the damage to the rampaging McLarens, as he eventually finished seventh.

    MISSING OUT

    After enduring an even more deflating evening than his team mate, Esteban Ocon was left to come home P9 to Ricciardo’s P7 for Renault. And the Frenchman is the driver who sits on the fringes of the top 10, having scored 0.2 points less than Ricciardo with a 6.6.

    Meanwhile, one of our judges felt compelled to offer the highest score of the race to Medical Car driver Alan van der Merwe, who played a key part in helping get Romain Grosjean to safety after his horrendous Lap 1 crash. And while we couldn’t include that score here, we agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment!

    READ MORE: ‘It could have been a very different outcome’ – Bahrain crash heroes hail F1 safety pioneers like Charlie Whiting

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    Medical Car driver Alan van der Merwe, pictured on the left of the image helping Romain Grosjean, earned the top score from one of our judges

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    There’s no movement at all in the first seven places of the standings, although just 4.5 points cover third-placed Gasly to seventh-placed Norris, meaning it’s all to play for with two races to go. Meanwhile, considering Sergio Perez has two non-scores to his name in 2020 (after he came down with Covid), he’s done exceptionally well to climb back into the top 10, behind the swapped around George Russell and Valtteri Bottas – who are set to enjoy a tasty battle as team mates at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

    Russell to Mercedes: Why this is a potentially career-defining chance for the young Briton

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