Charles Leclerc's Bahrain GP performance should make Ferrari question Sebastian Vettel's No.1 status

He might not have won the Bahrain Grand Prix as he deserved to but have no doubts about it, Charles Leclerc cemented his place as one of Formula One's future stars this weekend.

His late engine failure was hard to watch and robbed him of a maiden victory he surely won't have to wait too long to claim. It also should have sent a clear message to Ferrari that it has two men equally capable of winning the championship this year. Here's a look at the main talking points from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Heartbreak for Leclerc: Sport can be so cruel. Charles Leclerc did everything right on Sunday evening, only to be let down by his machinery with 12 laps remaining. The feeling in the cockpit must have been one of pure pain as the 21-year-old felt a good deal of horsepower disappear from under his right foot and his first Formula One victory slip through his fingers.

Ferrari later confirmed a cylinder cut out on Leclerc's engine. The lost performance was worth between four and five seconds a lap and, with that thorn in his side, there was no way Leclerc could finish ahead of the two Mercedes. Some consolation came in a podium finish thanks to a late Safety Car neutralising the order, as well as a bonus point for fastest lap, but this should have been the best day of Leclerc's career to date. Needless to say, there is no doubt there will be much, much better days in the future.

What on earth is wrong with Sebastian Vettel?: While one Ferrari driver deserves a lot of plaudits, the one driving the other car might just have a bit of explaining to do in the post-race debrief. Vettel had led early on, but had no answer to Charles Leclerc's pace from that point. But a lack of raw speed is easier to explain away than what happened to Vettel later.

While fighting Hamilton late in the race he did well to defend on one occasion, only to spin in identical circumstances a lap later as Hamilton went by on the outside of Turn 4. Replays showed there was no contact beforehand, which was similar to the spin Vettel suffered while being passed by Hamilton at last year's Italian Grand Prix. He also famously crashed on his own while leading in Germany several months earlier.

Sunday evening looked a lot like the Vettel who crumbled horrendously in 2018 and might have set off alarm bells at Maranello. Recent history and the incidents listed above suggest the four-time world champion does not cope well in high-pressure situations and Ferrari will hope his latest spin does not trigger another avalanche of mistakes.

Two title contenders: Ferrari said ahead of this season it would favour Vettel in any 50/50 situations this year, but in fairness to the Italian team both drivers were allowed to race -- which hadn't been the case in the final moments of the Australian Grand Prix. There should be no doubt about it now, both Ferrari drivers are capable of winning the title this year and Leclerc has made a big statement.

Game recognises game: It was nice to see Lewis Hamilton's reaction to Leclerc's misfortune. The reigning world champion went straight to the Ferrari driver in parc ferme and offered him a hug, before offering him some words of consolation as they waited to take their places on the podium: "You drove amazingly all weekend. You got a long, long career ahead of you, dude. I know it sucks right now".

Hamilton has always been quick to show appreciation for younger talent -- he's done similar with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in recent years -- and you could tell he felt a little bad at how the race had panned out, similar to his reaction to winning in Azerbaijan last year after Valtteri Bottas suffered a late puncture. But it doesn't matter how you win them, does it?

Lando is worth the hype: Another youngster worthy of praise is McLaren rookie Lando Norris. The 19-year-old had a great race and scored a deserved first haul of points on Sunday evening. He turned in some nice overtakes on Kimi Raikkonen -- a classic battle of young verses old -- and Daniel Ricciardo during the race and looks every bit the racing prodigy he had been billed as throughout his fledgling career so far.

Max gets his elbows out again: Max Verstappen escaped without punishment for his collision with Carlos Sainz and it's open to debate about whether that was justified. The Red Bull driver left space on the inside of Turn 4 as he went wheel-to-wheel with the McLaren. Sainz's car immediately suffered a front wing failure and puncture and, despite re-emerging from a pit-stop at the rear of the field, he later retired from the race.

Sainz sounded upset on his radio immediately after the incident but had calmed down by the end of the race, saying: "It's racing, it's incidents. All I can say is that I started well, I did all I had to do and tried everything I had to try and I ended up worse off. It was my turn to get a puncture thanks to how hard he hit me. The normal thing would have been that we both got a puncture and to be both out of the race. He was lucky to continue, but he hit me really hard and that was it."

Offering his view, Verstappen said: "He tried to go around the outside and braked late, I guess he didn't see me. In these cars you are blind to what is happening next to you. I braked late and saw him turn into the corner, so I had to take avoiding action. We clipped wheels and it was unfortunate."

Double trouble for Renault: At one point in the evening, it looked like Renault's biggest issue post-race would be the fact its drivers made light contact while fighting for position shortly after the second round of pit stops. But three laps from the end both cars ground to a halt at almost exactly the same time.

Renault had been enjoying a great race to that point -- Hulkenberg had charged back through the order after his poor qualifying and was running in P6, while Daniel Ricciardo had seemingly made the best of a far-from-ideal one-stop strategy to run in the points. There have been some big reasons for Renault to feel encouraged this year, including some of its pace through the speed traps in Bahrain, but poor reliability has always been a problem for the French manufacturer in the V6 turbo era and Bahrain will have done little to ease those fears.

Other points worthy of mention:

  • Renault's misfortune elevated Toro Rosso rookie Alexander Albon from 11th to 9th and the first points of his F1 career so far. It also helped Sergio Perez claim a point.

  • Daniel Ricciardo escaped without punishment for failing to reattach his steering wheel to his Renault after his late retirement. That probably helped consolidate Leclerc's podium, as it meant the stewards were unable to remove his car in time to bring the Safety Car in before the end of the race.