Bahrain GP: Vettel cruises to victory and extends championship lead
By Berthold Bouman
Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel cruised to the victory on a blazing hot Bahrain International Circuit this afternoon during round four of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix. Although the German didn’t start from pole, he was fast enough to take over the lead from pole sitter Nico Rosberg.
“I knew it was crucial to get into the lead and look after the tyres, the pace was phenomenal, the car was great. I could push every single lap and look after the tyres,” said the victor. “I lost out to Fernando at the first corner, but I could get him back. I saved some KERS and could out-accelerate him into Turn 6. Out of Turn 4 I did the same on Nico, a little bit of KERS and got him into Turn 5.”
“It was an impeccable performance from Sebastian,” said Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner. “He was absolutely supreme. He had so much in hand and then he has to do the fastest lap at the end just to show he has plenty left in the tyres.”
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen – Photo: Red Bull Racing
Although Raikkonen had said the Lotus just wasn’t fast enough on the Bahrain circuit, the Finn, after numerous fights, moved up the ranks to finally finish in second place. Lotus had given Grosjean a new chassis after the problems he had experienced during the first three races of the season, it was the right move and the Frenchman immediately was considerably quicker than in the old car, and he finished third after a long battle with Paul di Resta in the Force India.
But the Iceman repeated what he had said earlier on, “I don’t think we had the speed this week against Red Bull. We could have finished a few places higher in qualifying but in the end we were still not close enough to Red Bull. I guess it would have helped, but it didn’t happen for many reasons and second was the best we could achieve today.”
Initially, Fernando Alonso took second place from Vettel during the start, but Vettel took his second place back at the end of the first lap. Rosberg, who led the race early on, was a sitting duck when DRS was activated after three laps, he lost the lead to Vettel, then lost more positions to Alonso, di Resta, and Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari.
A tough day for Rosberg, and the disappointed German said, “As nice as it was to start from pole this afternoon, it was just as hard to finish in ninth place. I didn’t feel comfortable in the car today and it wasn’t much fun out there really.” And he added, “We switched to a four-stop strategy at the end of my third stint but it wasn’t enough. We were using the rear tyres too much and at the end, I was really struggling and wasn’t able to push hard enough.”
Bad day for Ferrari – Photo: Ferrari
It certainly wasn’t Ferrari’s day, the DRS flap on Alonso’s rear wing got jammed, he had to visit the pits, a good old whack from a Ferrari mechanic seemed to have cured the problem, but when the Spaniard used the downforce reduction device again, it got stuck for the second time, forcing the double World Champion to visit the pits for a second time, and he couldn’t use his DRS anymore for the rest of the race. Nevertheless, it was still an impressive performance by Alonso, who fought his way back from 17th to eighth position.
Also a bad day for Massa, his front wing was damaged after he had hit the rear of the Force India of Adrian Sutil during the start of the race, then after 17 laps got a right-rear puncture, and another puncture after 37 laps, which effectively robbed the Brazilian of a good points finish, he finished the race in 15th place.
Most drivers were on a three or four-stop strategy, but di Resta was on a two-stop strategy, the Scot showed what the Force India is capable of as he even led the race, but his last set of tyres started to wear out quickly during the closing stages of the race, both Lotus drivers easily overtook him, and he finished in fourth place. Sutil was less lucky and had to be satisfied with 13th place after a very early unscheduled pit stop due to the puncture he got during his fight with Massa.
Fourth place for Paul di Resta – Photo: Sahara Force India
Di Resta was pleased with the result today and commented, “It’s great to round off the fly-away races with a fourth place and a race that was probably my strongest Grand Prix. The podium was very close, but with our strategy we were always going to be vulnerable at the end of the race — especially to Grosjean who had two new sets of medium tyres. I had a good start to the race, a strong opening stint and we showed our true speed today, but ultimately fourth place was the maximum that was possible.”
McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were involved in several hair-raising wheel-to-wheel battles, the Mexican driver hit the 2009 World Champion several times, and after several other thrilling fights, he wheel-banged his way to sixth place. Button complained about his team colleague over the radio, and it was indeed a bit silly to watch Perez almost taking out Button.
Perez was on a rampage today – Photo: McLaren F1
Perez was aware of the fact he put McLaren in a tricky situation, “I guess I was a little aggressive on track today; banging wheels with Jenson was perhaps a little too risky, a little too hard, but the team never came on the radio to tell us to stop racing. There were no team orders. There was a lot of adrenaline from both of us, and Jenson is always a very strong racer, but hopefully we’ll help each other a little more in the future.”
It was also a difficult race for Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes driver was also involved in various fights with Perez, Button, Rosberg and Mark Webber in the second Red Bull. During the closing stages of the race, Hamilton and Webber fought for position, but Hamilton emerged as the winner and finally took fifth place.
“It’s been a tough weekend for us but we got through it and finishing in fifth place was some good damage limitation,” said Hamilton. “My race didn’t start well at all. I was looking after the tyres but I really struggled on the first two stints and was falling back.” About his battle with Webber he commented, “I had so much fun fighting with Mark at the end. We really needed that point and I was so determined to get by. It was good, clean wheel-to-wheel racing.”
Vettel is now leading the Drivers’ Championship with 77 points, followed by Raikkonen (67), Hamilton (50), Alonso (47), Webber (32) and Massa is sixth with 30 points. Red Bull is also leading the Constructors Championship with 109 points, followed by Lotus (93), and Ferrari this with 77 points.