Hello and welcome to ESPN's live commentary of the Bahrain Grand Prix.


18:02: Hamilton takes his place on pole. Here we go...


18:01: Seems Carlos Sainz has been handed a five-second time penalty for exceeding the maximum time on his lap to the grid.

Massa's car gets going in the Williams garage and he makes his way to the end of the pit lane, but he can't start until the whole field has passed.


18:00: The clock ticks over to 6pm and Hamilton leads the pack away. Massa has stalled on the grid! He's being wheeled into the pit lane. Dreadful start to the evening for the Brazilian.

Did see Williams working rather frantically on Massa's car before the formation lap.

A radio message from Rob Smedley seems to suggest there's an electrical issue in the Williams.


17:59: The tyre blankets come off ahead of the formation lap.



17:58: Hamilton asks if he will need to do any fuel saving in the early stage of the race and Mercedes confirms he will, but a minimal amount.


17:56: Temperature is 26 degrees C out there. Track 31 degrees. Not too shabby for 6pm in the evening.


17:55: We're five minutes away from lights out. The light is fading. The anticipation is building.


17:54: The midfield is nice and tightly bunched and there should be some great scraps in the lower reaches of the points this evening. Interesting to see where McLaren can drag that Alonso, even if points seem very unlikely.


17:52: Button update: McLaren changed control electronics and eenrgy store overnight, as mentioned earlier, but there was still something in the data that made it clear the problems weren't fixed. Team not sure exactly what otherwise they would have addressed it and they could not get it started.


17:50: Let's not forget there's a battle behind Mercedes and Ferrari. Williams looks to be in purgatory at the moment, not at the front but not in the midfield. I would imagine another quiet race for both today and maybe even a few cursory glances over the shoulder at the Red Bull of Ricciardo - the Australian said the team is

17:48: The run down to Turn 1 could be crucial in this race. For Rosberg and Raikkonen, not gaining at least one place early on means they are at risk of being the sacrificial lamb strategy-wise for Hamilton and Vettel to win the race. Very fascinating race ahead.


17:47: A lot of mixed feedback about the national anthem before the race, but it's a nice touch. Applause as the music finishes and the drivers head back towards their cars. Just over ten minutes left until lights out.



17;45: The music has started and all the hats (including Lewis Hamilton's) are off.


17:44: The drivers are starting to wander to the front of the grid for the national anthem.


Michael says: I really don't know how to feel for Jenson, but what the hell is going on in there???


17:38: Ron Dennis says there were some issues with Button's Energy Recovery System and adds it would have likely failed if McLaren started the race.


17:36: Breaking news from McLaren. Button will not be starting the grand prix, seems the team has seen a glitch on the data. He was due to start from last after failing to set a time in qualifying yesterday.


17:32: The big focus is whether Ferrari can upset Mercedes today. A big factor in that will be strategy. What's the best options for the teams today? Here's what Pirelli had to say.

The situation in Bahrain strategy-wise is slightly similar to China (where the medium and soft tyres were also nominated) in that three stops is theoretically the fastest strategy, but two stops are actually more likely. The predicted total race time difference between the ideal two-stopper and ideal three-stopper is only 0.6 seconds, but in reality the need to deal with traffic would most likely make the two-stopper quicker. So our predicted ideal strategy is two stops for the 57-lap race. Start on soft, change to soft again on lap 19, then finally to medium on lap 38. The best three-stopper would be: start on soft, soft on lap 15, soft again on lap 35, and finally medium on lap 46.


17:30: Hello! Half an hour until lights out here in Sakhir.

Some early news from around the grid. Jenson Button has taken on a new energy store and control electronics overnight, his third component of each.

Lap 1

Good start from Hamilton and he cuts across Vettel into Turn 1 to keep the lead. Rosberg had a look down the inside of Vettel but he loses third to Raikkonen on the exit of Turn 2!

Some great scraps going on in the midfield, there's about five cars abreast fighting for position back there.

Maldonado runs very wide at the top of the hill at Turn 12.

Lap 2

Hamilton's lead already eight tenths after the first lap. Vettel has Raikkonen all over his mirrors as they come through Turn 1.

Massa has already got past the Manor drivers and his radio tells him to go and have some fun.

Verstappen is complaining about Maldonado on his radio.

Lap 3

Hamilton crosses in a 1:38.955 and he's 1.4s ahead of Vettel, out of DRS range as it is activated.

Massa has a big, big lock up through Turn 10. Maldonado is under investigation for being out of position on the grid.

Lap 4

Hamilton starting to eek out a lead.

Rosberg lunges down the inside of Raikkonen, locks up and takes the place! But he's got Raikkonen for company at Turn 4 but Rosberg holds firm, that's where he lost out to Hamilton last year. Some good fight being shown from the German.

Lap 5

Rosberg has already started to pull away from Raikkonen somewhat and the Finn has countryman Bottas not too far away.

Rosberg told he needs "a little bit" of brake management before he attacks Vettel.

Lap 6

Ricciardo tells Red Bull he's already starting to lose a little bit of grip in the tyres.

The lead out in front 1.9s.

Sparks fly from the back of Kvyat's car as he sizes up Verstappen. Replays show Maldonado dispatching the Dutchman at Turn 1.

Lap 7

"Checo, Sainz is hurting our race." That's Force India telling Perez to get a wiggle on and get past the Toro Rosso.

Massa is absolutely charging and passes Alonso for 13th. Think he might have enjoyed that one.

Confirmation Maldonado will get a five second penalty for being out of position on the grid. Eventful race once again for the Lotus man.

Verstappen pits with what appears to be minor front wing damage, perhaps why he was so easily passed by Maldonado at Turn 1.

Lap 8

Hamilton leads by 2.3s. Rosberg having a nibble at Vettel at Turn 4 but can't quite make a move stick. I'm liking this aggressive Rosberg, this is exactly the sort of fight he's needed to show since lights out in Melbourne.

Vettel did have a 1.4s gap over Rosberg at the start of the lap and it seems a mistake at Turn 1 allowed the Mercedes man to cut the gap.

Lap 9

Rosberg replicates the Raikkonen move and dives down the inside of Vettel at Turn 1. Great stuff from the German. Lots of sparks flying from the back of both cars as they went into the turn wheel to wheel.

Hamilton, meanwhile, is told he is building the gap nicely out in front.

Mercedes tells Rosberg to start managing his tyres a little more, seems they are going to try and stretch his stint out more than originally intended.

Lap 10

Raikkonen now very close to Vettel - the gap just seven tenths.

"I think I can go a bit faster but I will try to overtake him," says Raikkonen. Interesting message. Vettel appears to be struggling at Turn 1 - he's ran deep at that turn three laps running now.

Lap 11

Raikkonen opens up the DRS but can't get close enough to pass, but he's very, very close behind the four-time world champion. The gap down to half a second.

Hulkenberg pits. Three stopper for the Force India? Faster strategy, but you have to dispatch more traffic.

Sainz the latest man to lock up and run deep into Turn 1.

Replays show Massa passing Nasr for 14th.

Lap 12

Hamilton is six seconds ahead of Rosberg. It seems he's fallen back slightly so maybe he is struggling with his tyres too.

Lap 13

That's better from Rosberg as he turns in a 1:40.9, giving him a bit of a buffer over Vettel. That gap now 1.7s. Raikkonen has dropped back to a second behind.

Grosjean pits for soft rubber. The Lotus driver has had a quiet race so far, he was seventh before the stop.

Maldonado has taken on brand new medium tyres and sets a fastest lap - a 1:38.495. How will the leading pack respond to that?

Lap 14

"The tyres are dying," says Bottas, as Vettel pits from third. This an attempt to undercut Rosberg.

Alonso also pits from ninth for medium tyres. Hulkenberg is back into the points but he's got Ericsson's Sauber all over him.

"Push now, push now," Ferrari tells Vettel. Will Mercedes pit Rosberg ahead of Hamilton to prevent the undercut? You imagine they will.

Lap 15

And they do. Rosberg heads in and takes a set of soft tyres.

Vettel has successfully undercut the Mercedes! Rosberg joins to see the gearbox of Vettel through

"OK, attack him now on fresh tyres," Tony Ross tells Rosberg.

Lap 16

Hamilton pits from the lead.

Button appears to have turned pundit:

Raikkonen stays out and takes the lead of the race,

Hamilton gets out just in front of the squabbling Vettel and Rosberg and Rosberg dives down the inside of the Ferrari once again! Brilliant driving from the German, this is aggression we haven't seen before. That shows you how quick those new tyres were on the out lap.

Hamilton's lead all but wiped out by Rosberg being pitted first.

Lap 17

Raikkonen still leads.

Fastest lap from Rosberg, a 1:37.690. Hamilton also took soft tyres at that stop.

Hamilton has got his lead back to 1.6s.

Lap 18

Hello now. Ferrari are splitting the strategies - Raikkonen gets medium tyres at his stop. He rejoins just ahead of Bottas but will have the benefit of that faster soft rubber at the end of the race.

Rosberg told brakes are a concern.

Seeing a replay of Kvyat passing Alonso for 14th down the inside of Turn 4.

Lap 19

Massa's charge continues, he's up to tenth.

Perez is told to manage his current set of tyres, sounds like he needs to get another 20 laps out of his new soft tyres.

Lap 20

Bottas' radio is a thing of beauty at the moment, it's so gravelly it makes him sound like some sort of Scandinavian transformer.

Lap 21

This race is beautifully poised. Raikkonen nine seconds behind the top three but has quicker tints to come on those soft tyres.

Lap 22

Hulkenberg complains he is "just eating the tyres". The Force India man currently ninth.

Hamilton's lead still around the 1.6s. He won't want to back Rosberg into Vettel this time around as his lead is as vulnerable to the undercut.

Lap 23

Lap 24

Hamilton has pulled out 2.3 seconds on Rosberg.

Perez has just been told to stop overlapping his pedals,.

Lap 25

"I think hitting the target laps with these tyres will be quite difficult," says Bottas. He's still fifth. As he says that Nasr gets past Massa at Turn 11. Lovely move.

Train of three cars, Ericsson, Massa and Maldonado, enter the pits in quick succession.

Lap 26

Maldonado the winner in that one, he exits the pits ahead of Massa and Nasr - they completely switched positions. Seems Sauber took a while getting the left rear on the car.

Raikkonen is 6.8s behind team-mate Vettel. Rosberg has a nice three second buffer over Vettel.

Replay of Nasr's release, they were in very risky territory but I think that was safe enough.

Hulkenberg pits for mediums.

Another problem for Sauber at the pit stop as they struggle with his front left.

Lap 27

Hulkenberg re-joins slap bang in the middle of that battle, behind Maldonado but ahead of Massa.

Alonso told he'll be racing this group at the end of the race.

Replays show Vettel running off the track at Turn 11. Another unforced error from Vettel, who seems to be struggling under braking this evening.

Lap 28

Raikkonen is eating away at the gap to Vettel - he's now 6.1s down. Those medium tyres an inspired choice from the Finn because he's managing to get much more out of them.

Rosberg is told wind strength is dropping out there.

Lap 29

Nasr makes a nice move on Sainz at Turn 4.

Raikkonen one of the quickest men out on track on those medium tyres.

Hulkenberg eases past Alonso with the help of DRS into Turn 1.

Nice gaggle of cars forming behind Alonso. Going to be some action in the latter stages of this race.

Lap 30

"OK Kimi, pace is very good," Ferrari tells Raikkonen. That gap to Vettel now under five seconds.

Massa the next man to DRS his way past Alonso down the pit straight.

Lap 31

Nasr now sizing up Alonso and has a look down the inside of Turn 11 but decides against what would have been an outrageous lunge.

Yellow flags in sector two, Sainz has pulled over to the side of the track.

Nasr makes it three in a row for Alonso as he passes the Spaniard down the inside of Turn 1.

Seems Sainz was released without his wheel fully connected. Can't imagine that'll need a safety car as he's pulled off as far off the circuit as possible.

Lap 32

Hamilton and Rosberg have used exactly the same amount of fuel. Raikkonen has used less than anyone in the top six and is still cutting the gap to Vettel.

Lap 33

Vettel pits from third place, so Raikkonen flashes past and moves up into the podium places. The medium compounds go on Vettel's car, lovely stop from Ferrari.

"Why do you think the option will be quicker?" Raikkonen asks. Seems he wants to stay on the primes for his next stint. Ferrari tells him he'll be quicker initially.

Hamilton will box this lap for primes.

Lap 34

Hamilton pits and is comfortably clear of Vettel when he re-joins the circuit. Medium tyres for the world champion.

Bottas pits from fifth for medium tyres. As I predicted, another quiet race for the Finn in purgatory between the front and the midfield.

Very important lap now for Rosberg if he wants to avoid the Vettel undercut.

Nasr passes Hulkenberg round the outside of Turn 4. Lovely stuff.

Lap 35

Rosberg takes on the medium tyre and once again Vettel has successfully managed the undercut.

Fastest lap for Vettel, a 1:37.547. Raikkonen's good work being undone slightly as he stays out there on these old mediums.

Lap 36

Vettel runs very, very wide at the final turn and that allows Rosberg past. Vettel fights back at Turn 1 but Rosberg holds firm. Lots of errors today from Vettel.

Lap 37

"I think I have some damage on the front wing. I don't know why," Vettel says.

Vettel pits again for a new front wing! This is far from ideal and this hands a podium to Raikkonen, surely.

Lap 38

That also means Mercedes have this one-two all but in the bag... unless Raikkonen can do something very magical in his final stint.

Raikkonen leads but still needs to pit.

"Everything is on for P3, Kimi, but we'll try and do our best for better," is the message to the Finn. His last podium was Korea in 2013.

Rosberg told to save his tyres for the end of the race, when he'll have Raikkonen for company.

Lap 39

Hamilton gaining on Raikkonen, who still does not pit. The lead is 1.5s. A man with a prime view of all of this is Alonso, who has just been lapped by Raikkonen but is on the fresher soft tyres so is keeping the Finn in his sights.

Alonso unlaps himself!

Raikkonen seems to have radio issues and asks for a repeat of the earlier message.

That second pit stop dropped Vettel behind Bottas, by the way.

Raikkonen losing so much time by staying out. I think Ferrari has left him out way too long.

Lap 40

Hamilton dives down the inside of Raikkonen and regains the lead. A bit of traffic down there and Hamilton gets very close to Hulkenberg's Force India. The German dives out of the way through Turn 4 and lets Hamilton and Raikkonen through.

Lap 41

Raikkonen pits from second, where he takes on the option tyre. He's got 16 laps to hunt down Rosberg, but he'll have an awful lot of time to make up.

Lap 42

Vettel is closing in on Bottas in fourth as he recovers from that unscheduled stop.

Hamilton complains his rears have been badly damaged as he made his way through traffic. Rosberg will have to do the same, but the gap is down to 4.5s.

Lap 43

Lots of smoke coming from the brakes of Maldonado in the Lotus pit box. That doesn't look too healthy at all and the mechanics are looking at the rear of the car.

He is out of the race - he's had some terrible luck so far this year. Seems he locked up his rears as he came into the pits, he was complaining about a loss of power over the radio so maybe that's where it happened.

Lap 44

Rosberg calling for blue flags as he approaches that same gaggle of cars Hamilton complained about earlier.

Raikkonen chipping away at that gap, 14 seconds is the margin with 13 laps left.

Lots of blue flag waving going on out there and Raikkonen is told he'll approach some now as he charges around the Sakhir circuit.

Lap 45

Mercedes tells Rosberg it thinks Raikkonen will catch him before the end of the race. Game on. Twelve seconds the gap now.

"The leaders are in blues, let's make hay," is the message to Raikkonen. Whether he understands the phrase or not, the message is pretty clear - push, lad.

Lap 46

Bottas has Vettel all over his mirrors.

Rosberg makes his way past Hulkenberg's Force India. Raikkonen is now ten seconds behind but, crucially, he's going to have to clear that traffic too.

Hamilton isn't safe, either, with the pace Raikkonen currently has. How long he can keep this pace in the tyres is key now.

Lap 47

EIGHT seconds now. Raikkonen absolutely flying, his last lap 1.5s quicker than Rosberg's.

Vettel not getting any closer to Bottas, even under DRS. He nearly had a chance with better traction out of Turn 1 but no luck.

Ferrari tells Raikkonen he'll catch Rosberg in five laps. That'll give him five laps to reel in Hamilton....

Nasr passes team-mate Ericsson for 13th.

"Don't tell me the gap any more," says Rosberg about the rampaging Raikkonen.

Lap 48

This will be a thrilling finish. The gap now 7.6s as Raikkonen hits that traffic.

"Come on, the blue flags! They just don't want to move, those people." a flustered Raikkonen complains.

"This is great. Threat from behind is minimal so we can fight for this place," is the message to Bottas. That's basically the all-clear to fight tooth and nail for fourth.

Lap 49

Raikkonen has got past Nasr and Hulkenberg. Next up? Some chap called Alonso.

Lap 50

The gap now 5.8s. The rate of catching has slowed down because of that traffic but the next car down the track for Raikkonen is Rosberg. He's hunting second and possibly better.

Lap 51

Hamilton seems to have stepped his pace up slightly, he just took seven tenths out of Rosberg. The lead is 5.8s.

Replays show Perez passing Massa with a neat and tidy move down the inside of Turn 1. A popular overtaking venue this evening, courtesy of Mr DRS. Massa appears to be struggling for grip.

His team-mate is doing a great job and is still holding firm in front of Vettel.

Lap 52

Raikkonen 3.7s down on Rosberg. The lead might just be out of the question but Rosberg and second position are on a plate for the Finn now. Rosberg has saved a bit more fuel compared to Raikkonen, but that might not be enough to hold the Finn at bay.

Bottas locks up into Turn 10. Is he starting to struggle on those tyres? This fight could bring Ricciardo into the hunt, as Red Bull tells the Australian over the radio. Bottas getting very defensive.

Lap 53

Three seconds between Rosberg and Raikkonen, but he knocks two tenths off in the first sector alone, and then another huge chunk in the middle sector.

Hamilton approaching two lapped cars.

Replays show Vettel coming oh-so-close to driving into the back of Bottas at Turn 1. Very late on the brakes from the four-time world champion and he's really struggled this afternoon.

Lap 54

Raikkonen now under two seconds behind Rosberg.

Former team-mate Alonso is just one position away from a point - but Kvyat is some 15 seconds clear in tenth.

Hamilton getting the news Rosberg is now under threat from Raikkonen. The Finn getting closer and closer to the Silver Arrows.

Lap 55

Kvyat puts himself into ninth ahead of the Rosberg/Raikkonen battle - Massa can't fight back because of the blue flags.

That seems to have hurt Raikkonen more than Rosberg but not by too much. The gap nearly one second as Rosberg runs very wide at the top of the hill at Turn 12.

Lap 56

Raikkonen just outside of the DRS zone as he starts the penultimate lap.

Rosberg runs wide at Turn 1 and Raikkonen gobbles up second position! Rosberg looks like he'll fight it back but Raikkonen has the pace advantage.

Replay suggests Rosberg just missed his braking point.

Very contrasting emotions on the Mercedes and Ferrari pit walls.

Bottas two laps away from a brilliant fourth. Vettel doesn't look like he can get close enough for a pass.

Lap 57

Hamilton has started his final lap but he's reporting a brake-by-wire issue. His lead is six seconds, surely enough for the win. Hamilton will nurse this one home.

"Caution on the brakes," Peter Bonnington tells him.

Raikkonen takes a huge chunk out of Hamilton but nowhere near enough as Lewis Hamilton wins the Bahrain Grand Prix. Raikkonen second, Rosberg third.

Bottas, cool as anything under pressure, holds off Vettel for fourth.

"Fantastic job Lewis, fantastic job!" Peter Bonnington tells the race winner.

Ricciardo has finished sixth but brakes down just after the pit straight! His engine started smoking just as he completed the final turn.

"You were great, Kimi! I'm proud of you," says Arrivabene. "Yeah, thanks everybody" comes a classic Raikkonen response.

"Sorry about the brakes, Nico. Happened at the worst time." Confirmation Rosberg was also suffering with brake problems.

Fireworks light up the Bahrain night sky as we wait for the podium ceremony.

Hamilton jumps around as he joins the podium, ahead of the English national anthem. Raikkonen his usual cool self up there.

Not much enthusiasm from Raikkonen in spraying the rosewater. Get that man a bottle of vodka, someone.

Hamilton receives the trophy with a big grin. Ferrari is catching up but nothing has changed in front - he's the man to beat and it's hard to see where Rosberg is going to turn the tide.