Vettel Holds Off Raikkonen And Wins Bahrain GP

Pole position and a clean getaway from the grid. It had the hallmarks of a standard victory and Sebastian Vettel duly delivered to take his 22nd career win.

His first pole of the year went with his first win and the German was delighted to cross the line in first:

“I am very happy we made it [to victory] here. We were not quite sure how competitive we would be,” he said.

“I think China was a very good lesson for us to understand the weakness of the car a little bit more by driving with two different packages. Here we focused on the new package and pushing that forward.”

The new package he spoke of had a new exhaust layout which team-mate Mark Webber ran with China, with better race performance than Vettel. This time round for Bahrain, Vettel used the same configuration and to great effect. It wasn’t a trouble-free race however as he came under attack from Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen and team-mate Romain Grosjean took advantage of Lotus’ new updates and were on the pace all afternoon.

The Iceman enjoys his first podium for Lotus

Raikkonen kept Vettel honest whilst catching up to the leader and had one chance to pass him, only to resist the urge to at the last second. The Finn was very happy with the race, hoping that this won’t be his only chance for victory this season:

“Of course I wanted to win and would have been much happier in myself if I had won but nevertheless the team deserved what they got and hopefully we can put ourselves in this position more often,” he said afterwards.

“We had the car already in the first three races to be up there but we made some small mistakes and it cost us too much.

“Today wasn’t far away. I really should have made it but I didn’t so, like I said hopefully we can put ourselves in this position more often to have a chance. But we have to work hard and improve certain areas of the car and I’m sure we can be up there more often and try to get the win.”

Grosjean collects the first trophy of his F1 career

Romain Grosjean picked up the first podium of his F1 career and said that he had not expected such a strong race:

“It is great, a great feeling so far,” said Grosjean. “I am very proud of the team, of what we did. We knew we had a good car but I think we were a little bit surprised at the beginning about where we were.

“It turned out to be not too bad in the end and I think our car is very competitive. I think we can be very happy with what we did. The first points is one step and the next step I thought it would take time but we can be happy and have a week off to enjoy.”

Webber now has four consecutive fourth-places

Mark Webber made it four fourth-place finishes in a row and was satisfied to finish where he did:

“I didn’t have Kers for the first lap, so it was difficult to put pressure on Lewis, but then I got it back.

“In the first two stints, I couldn’t stay with those guys – the two Lotus’ and Seb – so I had to consolidate from there.”

Di Resta's best result since his 6th place at last year's Singapore GP

Paul Di Resta was one of the few drivers to risk running one pit-stop less than most of the field but it paid off as the Scot brought his Force India home in sixth position:

We played our cards right in qualifying by saving a set of tyres,” di Resta. “We could’ve gone out there and been a hero in qualifying but today is when it counts and you grab the points.

“It was an amazing job by the whole team in the combination of pitstops and strategy. At one point they said ‘another 10 laps on these tyres’, and I thought they were asking too much, but no.

We’ll certainly hopefully come to Barcelona in fighting form with the new aero update,” said di Resta.

“We need to kick-start our season. There’s a lot of people around us that have scored some big points, and we need to keep this form.”

McLaren endured a long afternoon in the desert

McLaren had a disastrous day as a baffling lack of pace coupled with two botched pit-stops for Lewis Hamilton meant the team threw away what could have been a big points haul.

Jenson Button said after the race that they were never comfortable with the car all afternoon, with adjustments having to be made throughout the race:

“The pace wasn’t there at the beginning,” he said. “We didn’t have a very good balance and we were really struggling with oversteer, so all the way through the race we were taking front end out of the car and going massively forward with the brake bias, so I think we were a long way out with the balance for the race. But the pace wasn’t there anyway.

“With good pitstops we would have been much happier but still we wouldn’t have been anywhere near the front guys and one to one and half seconds [of pace] is something that we don’t really understand where it’s gone.”

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said a review would be undertaken to understand how to rectify what went wrong, but also defending his mechanics:

“We’ll review lots of things but I don’t think it’s a criticism of him as an individual,” he said. “He’s taken it very badly and it’s our job to support to him at the moment.

Firstly you have got to say that any guy who volunteers to be a gun man in a team like this is a brave guy, and that’s one of the reasons I have just been speaking to him now, because I know how hard he is being on himself at the moment.

These guys are all mechanics and they don’t get paid extra for doing it. They put themselves in the firing line and under an enormous amount of pressure, so naturally I’m very protective of them because they deserve my protection.

They’re brave, they volunteer for it, they try hard and they know the pressure they are under. But we have got to look at the equipment, we have got to look at the process, we have got to look at the approach. So it’s disappointing.”

Rosberg was lucky to escape both incidents without penalties

Nico Rosberg’s on-track behaviour saw the stewards get involved twice as his aggressive behaviour towards Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso was frowned upon, but the stewards took no action and Rosberg was not penalised. Rosberg forced both drivers off the race-track on different occasions, with Hamilton overtaking him whilst on the sandy run-off area. Alonso was particularly incensed:

“I can only say that if, instead of such a wide run-off area there had been a wall, I’m not sure I’d be here now to talk about it,” said Alonso.

It was a day of intrigue all-round and the first Bahrain GP with DRS appeared to have been a spectacle to behold, in contrast to previous races held in the region which had been criticised for its lack of overtaking and general action. 2012’s first four races have seen four different race winners and the early signs are that it could well be a tight championship. The season now moves to Spain in three weeks where it begins the year’s European leg, which finishes in September.

Bahrain GP Result

Pos   Driver        Team                          Time
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h35:10.990
2. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 3.333
3. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 10.194
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 38.788
5. Rosberg Mercedes + 55.460
6. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 57.543
7. Alonso Ferrari + 57.803
8. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 58.984
9. Massa Ferrari + 1:04.999
10. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:11.490
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1:12.702
12. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 1:16.539
13. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:30.334
14. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:33.723
15. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
16. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
17. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
18. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 1 lap
19. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
20. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
22. Senna Williams-Renault + 3 laps

Not classified/retirements:

Driver          Team                          Lap
Maldonado Williams-Renault 26
Pic Marussia-Cosworth 25

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