Lewis Hamilton believes that Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg was the faster driver today in Bahrain despite failing to pass the Briton in the dying stages of a spectacular grand prix.
Hamilton claimed his second straight win by giving Rosberg a masterclass in defensive driving. After Mercedes had planned to allow their drivers to fight it out with different strategies, a safety car period following Esteban Gutierrez’s crash meant that Rosberg had the advantage on a quicker tire.
Having lost a 10 second lead, Hamilton appeared to be at the mercy of his German colleague, but despite a number of lunges and opportunistic overtaking attempts, Rosberg simply could not find a way past. Come the checkered flag, Hamilton’s winning margin was just 1.085 seconds; a far cry from the 17 abyss between the two drivers last weekend.
“That was a really tough race tonight and I am absolutely delighted to have come home with the win,” Hamilton explained after the race. “It’s a long time since I had a race like that! I knew that I needed a good start and to go into the first corner in the lead was crucial to my race this evening.
“From there, it was such a battle. Nico drove fantastically well and, in all honesty, he had the pace on me today but I managed to hold on. I knew when the safety car came out that Nico would be on the option tires and that he would be quick. To try and stay ahead of him was so hard and when I came across the line I was just so relieved.”
Hamilton conceded that he felt under pressure because of the inter-team battle, but the Mercedes management had insisted that its drivers would be free to race each other, bucking the trend of team orders that have tainted many races over the past decade.
“When you’re racing your teammate, the pressure is really intense and we both knew that we had to bring the cars home for the team and for the championship,” he said. “All credit to the team for allowing us to race and I hope the fans loved the show that we were able to put on tonight.”
With this win, Hamilton moves clear into second place in the drivers’ championship with 50 points, and trails Rosberg by just 11 heading to the Chinese Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.