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November 30, 2020 — SAKHIR, Bahrain
Honda-powered Formula 1 racers took different routes to the front in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, but in the end three Honda engines finished in the top six for the first time in 25 races (Germany, 2019). Max Verstappen and Alex Albon gave the manufacturer its first double-podium finish of 2020, while Pierre Gasly came home in sixth.
The Aston Martin Red Bull squad locked down the second row on the grid with Verstappen standing third alongside Albon – a position that was a testament to the Red Bull team, which had to repair Albon's car after a hard crash in Friday's free practice session.
Verstappen wrested second from Valtteri Bottas in the first corner of the race, but things took a somber turn before the end of the lap. In the rear of the field, Romain Grosjean took a hard right turn past the nose of Scuderia AlphaTauri's Daniil Kvyat and slammed into the Armco barrier, cutting his car in half. The cockpit area, where Grosjean was still belted in, erupted in flames. Luckily, Grosjean was able to get out of the car as the safety crew helped him to safety.
The damage to the barrier made for a 90-minute red flag stoppage and on the restart, Kvyat had contact with Lance Stroll resulting in a rollover crash in which Stroll was not injured. Kvyat later received a 10-second penalty for his role in the incident.
Verstappen chased eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton for most of the event, leading briefly during the first round of pit stops, before settling for second. The Dutchman halved his deficit to Bottas in the point standings, gaining an extra points for running the race's fastest lap, and moving to within 12 points of second place with two races left to run.
Albon ran another steady race and was chasing down Sergio Perez for third place when the engine in the Perez car started smoking. A lap later the rear of the car burst into flames, bringing out the Safety Car with three laps to run. Albon was promoted to third with the Perez stoppage, but the stewards were unable to get the race restarted for a final-lap sprint.
The stoppage also helped Gasly's fortunes, securing his sixth-place run. The Frenchman was the only driver in the field to execute a one-stop strategy, and he was doing yeomans work in holding off Daniel Ricciardo and Bottas before the Perez Safety Car ended the proceedings. Kvyat rebounded from the penalty and finished 11th, just one spot out of the points.
The teams and drivers of the Formula 1 World Championship will stay in Bahrain but the track layout will change, as F1 will run for the first time on the faster 3.543 km (2.2 mi.) outer circuit.
Technical Director, Honda F1
First of all, we are really relieved that Romain Grosjean got out from that terrible accident with only minor injuries. We have not seen a crash like that for many years, but it proved how safe the current Formula 1 cars are and that is down to the hard work of the FIA. It was great to see both drivers on the podium. As for Scuderia AlphaTauri, Pierre was the only driver to go for a one-stop strategy and he drove an intelligent tire management race to make it work and finish sixth. Daniil finished just outside the points, his race compromised by a penalty. Now, we have the benefit of staying in the same place to prepare, although we will race on a new layout of the Sakhir track. We plan to keep today's momentum going for next weekend and for the final round in Abu Dhabi a week later.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda
Start 3rd, Finish: 2nd
“It was of course a big shock to see the flames at the start of the race and you know it is bad when there is fire like that. We were all relieved that Romain was able to get out of the car himself and I hope he recovers quickly. It's not nice to see those things happen but the safety is incredible with the suits and the halo really saved his life today by pushing the guard rail up over his head. In the race I tried everything I could to stay with Lewis and there wasn't much left to give but overall I think second is where we belong today with the pace of the car. A double podium is a great result for the Team and well done to Alex as I am pleased for him. The car seems to be working well here so we'll see how next weekend goes on the different layout but hopefully we can find a bit more pace and get everything that's possible.”
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda
Start: 4th, Finish: 3rd
“Of course there's a bit of luck involved today and Sergio drove a good race but we were there to capitalize and that's exactly what we did so I'm really happy. Considering the car damage we had on Friday, the guys did an amazing job to get everything ready for Saturday and it's nice to repay them in this way. Like everyone in the paddock I was also very relieved to see Romain walk away from the car after the accident, it was shocking to watch back and the safety team did an amazing job today.”
Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: 8th, Finish: 6th
“The main thing about today is to see Romain walking away from that horrific crash at the start of the race. Performance-wise, I'm really pleased with our job. We took a risky strategy - it was a gamble - but it paid off in the end. It was one of the toughest races and a lot of hard work inside the cockpit today, it was all about managing and pushing as hard as I could, without hurting the tires too much and keep them alive for as many laps as possible. We managed to get one of our best results of the year, so I'm really happy to make it back in the points and make the best out of this Sunday.”