BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine
Formula One

You have aged 10 whole years since Hamilton and Rosberg’s epic Bahrain duel

Yup, that legendary wheel-to-wheel battle was a decade ago and we feel old now

Published: 01 Mar 2024

With the new 2024 F1 season about to begin in Bahrain, it got us thinking: what was the best Bahrain Grand Prix ever? And in less time than it supposedly takes a Tesla Roadster to hit 0-60mph we remembered that thrilling, race-long duel between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg and basically just settled on that.

A thrilling, race-long duel that - we’re afraid to say - happened almost 10 entire years ago. Yikes. Back in the days when one team was utterly dominant… not like now, huh?

Advertisement - Page continues below

Anyway, the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix was the third race on the calendar that season, by which point it was exceedingly obvious that Mercedes had smashed the new V6 turbo hybrid engine regs and that they’d be unbeatable for ages.

But unlike modern day Red Bull, at least they had two drivers in vaguely the same league as each other and P1 was never a foregone conclusion. Heading into the race Nico Rosberg led the championship from teammate Lewis Hamilton, who’d retired from the curtain-raiser in Australia but bounced back to win in Malaysia; one-one in the chequered flag stakes.

And so the stage was set for an all-time classic. It was the German driver who took pole position with a scorcher of a lap in qualifying, but Hamilton led the way by Turn 1 after diving down the inside of his main rival seconds after lights out.

Looking after his tyres in the early stages, Rosberg became the aggressor on lap 18 as he surged past Hamilton on the inside of Turn 1 and into the lead. Briefly. Anticipating the move, Hamilton sneakily took a wider line into the corner and cut back across Rosberg, very nearly smashing his front wing off in the process.

Advertisement - Page continues below

“Warn him, that was not on!” shouted Nico over the radio. Hamilton… did not get the memo.

A lap later Rosberg tried the same move again, and although he locked up under braking Hamilton did the same, allowing him to snatch the lead. Again briefly. Running nose-to-gearbox down into Turn 4, Hamilton again got back on the power early on corner exit and used it to edge back past Rosberg through Turn 5. Gripping stuff.

After that the Mercedes drivers went for different strategies, Rosberg running the slower medium tyres for his second stint and Hamilton the faster softs. On quicker rubber Hamilton built up a lead of almost 10 seconds, but that vanished the moment Pastor Maldonado - responsible for many, many broken bits of carbon fibre over the years - T-boned Esteban Gutierrez and sent the Mexican somersaulting through the air. Oops.

Hamilton vs Rosberg Bahrain 2014

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

That brought out the safety car, and with Hamilton swapping onto the slower mediums as Rosberg adopted the softs, it looked like the race had swung Nico’s way as the field was released with 11 laps to go.

Rosberg heaped the pressure on Hamilton, but somehow the Briton clung on despite being at a severe disadvantage. With time running out, Rosberg made one last do-or-die pass for the lead on lap 53, but once again he went too deep and Hamilton swept clear again. This time for good.

Cue a heartwarming playfight in the pit lane that… did nothing to signpost the bitter fallout that was to come. What we didn’t know at the time is that the two drivers had just laid the groundwork for an internal spat over which engine modes they were allowed to use to try and knock seven bells out of each other. Oh dear.

By the time Rosberg had ‘crashed’ in qualifying in Monaco (thus handing himself pole position) a month later, the childhood friends were reportedly no longer on speaking terms. And, well, we know the rest don’t we?

More from Top Gear

See more on Formula One

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine