Round 2 of the 2017 season kept the Hamilton-Vettel rivalry in place, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) starting on pole with Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) right next to him. Row 2 was also a Mercedes-Ferrari affair, Finns Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen starting next to each other.
Starting conditions were wet but no longer rainy. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso, P11) was the only driver to start on slick tires, the rest of the field running on intermediates. Bottas challenged Vettel through Turn 1 but the Top 3 held station at the start. The virtual safety car came out during Lap 2 as Lance Stroll (Williams) left the track following a collision with one of the Force India cars. Vettel pitted to change onto slick tires. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) moved up to third.
Green-flag racing resumed to start Lap 4. Antonio Giovinazzi (Sauber, subbing for Pascal Werlein) crashed on the front straight at the restart to bring out an actual safety car. The rest of the front-runners pitted for slicks. Live action returned for Lap 8, Hamilton leading Ricciardo and Raikkonen. Bottas spun right before the restart.
Max Verstappen (Red Bull) passed Raikkonen for third, the Finn reporting lack of torque from his engine. Verstappen passed Ricciardo for second going into Turn 6 of Lap 11. Hamilton led Verstappen by 3.2 sec during Lap 17 (of 56). Lap 21 found Hamilton talking about making it to the end of the race on his current set of tires.
Vettel passed Ricciardo for third in Lap 22, two making contact after exiting Turn 6 but both remaining in competition. Hamilton’s lead was bigger than 5 sec and Vettel started immediately cutting into Verstappen’s gap to second. Vettel passed Verstappen for second during Lap 29 but ran more than 10 sec behind Hamilton. Verstappen pitted the next lap, putting on another set of supersoft tires.
Ricciardo pitted in Lap 34, moving Raikkonen to third. Vettel followed one lap later, making the Top 3 Hamilton, Raikkonen, and Verstappen. Hamilton came in at the end of Lap 36, retaining the lead. Vettel retook third from Verstappen. Raikkonen was complaining of a loose front end.
Raikkonen pitted. Vettel ran 6.2 sec behind Hamilton during Lap 41, Verstappen in third. Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen finished 1-2-3, the Dutchman having charged forward from P16 on the grid. Verstappen’s finish moved him into third in the standings behind a now-tied Vettel and Hamilton.
The 2016 podium was also Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull; Nico Rosberg and Daniil Kvyat flanking Vettel.
Driver standings (Top 10)
Sebastian Vettel (Germany), Ferrari – 43
Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain), Mercedes – 43
Max Verstappen (Netherlands), Red Bull-Renault – 25
Valtteri Bottas (Finland), Mercedes – 23
Kimi Raikkonen (Finland), Ferrari – 22
Daniel Ricciardo (Australia), Red Bull-Renault - 12
Carlos Sainz Jr. (Spain), Toro Rosso-Renault – 10
Felipe Massa (Brazil), Williams-Mercedes – 8
Sergio Perez (Mexico), Force India-Mercedes – 8
Kevin Magnussen (Denmark), Haas-Ferrari - 4
Mercedes (Hamilton, Bottas) – 66
Ferrari (Vettel, Raikkonen) – 65
Red Bull Racing (Verstappen, Ricciardo) – 37
Toro Rosso-Renault (Sainz Jr., Daniil Kvyat) – 12
Force India-Mercedes (Perez, Esteban Ocon) - 10
Williams-Mercedes (Massa, Lance Stroll) – 8
Haas-Ferrari (Magnussen, Romain Grosjean) – 4
Next event: Bahrain Grand Prix – Apr. 14-16, 2017