Imperious Vettel Sweeps Up in Bahrain Cracker

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I love to be in clean air, with the speed we had mid-race, it was quite comfortable today”. (FIA 2013). At least this was the case for one person in Bahrain. While Sebastian Vettel cruised to his second win of the year, close knit racing and sublime action behind made sure the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix was one of the best of the season so far.

The German was in impeccable form from the moment the lights went out to the chequered flag. Behind him at the finish was Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, making sure that he is firmly a championship contender. And with more overtakes than the first two races combined, the season looks closer than ever.

Qualifying

Nico Rosberg picked up his second career pole position after dominating both Q2 and Q3 sessions. His pole time was just over two tenths faster than second placed driver Vettel, with Fernando Alonso lurking behind in thrid. Lewis Hamilton set the fourth fastest time in Q3 but would start 9th after incurring a five place grid penalty due to an induced gearbox change in FP3. Also receiving a penalty, Mark Webber would start 8th after losing three places for his crash in China. Force India had another promising qualifying with Di Resta in 5th and Sutil 7th. The McLarens of Button and Sergio Perez were 10th and 12th respectively, but were confident of better race pace. Just missing out were Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg in what was very tight Q2.

Outside the top 16 were the usual suspects of Caterham and Marussia, this time Charles Pic outqualifying his countryman Jules Bianchi, with van der Garde and Chilton bringing up the rear. Esteban Gutierrez would start plum last after a post China grid penalty.

Race

As the lights went out, it was an even start by many of the top runners, making it a free for all into turn one. Rosberg made a slightly tardy getaway and immediately had to defend heavily from Vettel, the Mercedes driver doing well to maintain his lead on the first lap. Vettel, having had to lift off, had Alonso round the outside of him in the first turn. The Spaniard forced his way past albeit for just two corners as Vettel squeezed back past when the Ferrari ran wide at turn 4. Also at turn 4, after having made an impressive start, Adrian Sutil found himself trundling back to the pits after slight contact with Felipe Massa. The other Force India, Paul di Resta made a good start too, getting himself up to 4th place. That then became 3rd as Rosberg began to fall back, before taking advantage of a DRS malfunction for Alonso on lap 7 to leap up to second

Rosberg held off Vettel defiantly for the first 2 laps before the Mercedes went too wide at turn 4 on lap 3. Vettel easing his way past before sprinting off into a lead and victory that would never in doubt. Raikkonen had been fairly anonymous in the opening laps as he fought with the fast starting Perez for 9th and 10th. The Lotus team played the strategy perfectly and stopped just twice with the Finn, fighting in the lower points positions for much of the race before heading to the head of the field in the last quarter. The same strategy was supposed to work for his team mate Romain Grosjean, however the Frenchman was shifted onto a three stop strategy early on as rising temperatures and debris cost the Lotus grip. However, Grosjean was able to use his superior tyres and lightning speed later on in the race to fight his way past di Resta 5 laps from the end to finish on the podium and get his season back on track in 3rd.

Di Resta, thoroughly impressive throughout the race, manfully held onto the leaders’ pace and looked for all money to scoop his first career podium in 3rd. Strong early pace meant he could keep up with the leaders and after the first round of stops, eased past Grosjean for second place. However, with older tyres in the latter stages, it was almost impossible to fend off Grosjean – who had stopped later than the Scot – and duly had to settle for a career equalling best finish of 4th. Although disappointed, di Resta was philosophical afterwards: 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”

The second stint of the race produced some of the best racing of the year so far and nearly created another intra-team fall out, this tile at McLaren. Button and Perez had been very close throughout the opening quarter and the Mexican seemed to be following the advise of team boss Martin Whitmarsh to “be more aggressive”. On lap 28 Button got into the slipstream of his team-mate, but Perez defended wildly by cutting off Button on the main straight. Cue radio message and one unhappy team leader. Lap 30 and Perez dived down the inside of the Englishman into turn one. Button held on round the outside, giving Perez just enough room and brilliantly took the place back through turn 2, before immediately defending the inside line into turn 3. Perez, forcing the issue, tried to undercut Button on the exit. However, he mistimed his move and clipped Button’s right rear tyre and lost his front wing endplate. Naturally, team boss Whitmarsh was not best pleased, and neither was Button: “He just hit me up the back. Calm him down!”. And it didn’t stop there, once more Perez tried to force his way past, and once more Button was having none of it. Up to turn 3 for the second time and Perez closed the gap and banged wheels with his team-mate at nearly 130mph. Button replied by forcing Perez off the track on the exit and thus keeping the place. Perez would eventually take the place later, but Jenson was not impressed, and he let the team know!

Raikkonen got himself past Perez and Hamilton by lap 40, the Mercedes driver pitting immediately after for new tyres. The final round of stops was about to begin as Alonso, already reeling from his DRS problem came in for the last time. Raikkonen was hauling himself up to the podium positions once again and made little work of those in front. The positions stayed relatively stable until the end, with the exception of di Resta/Grosjean. In the final few laps, Hamilton was beginning to find some speed and putting in fast lap times, got past old team mate Button into turn 1. Then he found himself all over the back of Mark Webber, a fight that lasted until the final lap, where Perez also squeezed past into turn 4.

But nobody could stop the top 3 as Vettel took his second victory of the season in comfortable fashion. Raikkonen took an easy enough second place with team-mate Romain Grosjean taking his first podium of the year. In a complete replica of the 2012 result, the 2013 version of the Bahrain Grand Prix proved to be a real cracker, not what we usually expect from this circuit!

Pos.

No.

Driver

Constructor

Laps

Time/Retired

Grid

Points

1

1

 Sebastian Vettel

Red BullRenault

57

1:36:00.498

2

25

2

7

 Kimi Räikkönen

LotusRenault

57

+9.111

8

18

3

8

 Romain Grosjean

LotusRenault

57

+19.507

11

15

4

14

 Paul di Resta

Force IndiaMercedes

57

+21.727

5

12

5

10

 Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes

57

+35.230

9

10

6

6

 Sergio Pérez

McLarenMercedes

57

+35.998

12

8

7

2

 Mark Webber

Red BullRenault

57

+37.244

7

6

8

3

 Fernando Alonso

Ferrari

57

+37.574

3

4

9

9

 Nico Rosberg

Mercedes

57

+41.126

1

2

10

5

 Jenson Button

McLarenMercedes

57

+46.631

10

1

11

16

 Pastor Maldonado

WilliamsRenault

57

+1:06.450

17

 

12

11

 Nico Hülkenberg

SauberFerrari

57

+1:12.933

14

 

13

15

 Adrian Sutil

Force IndiaMercedes

57

+1:16.719

6

 

14

17

 Valtteri Bottas

WilliamsRenault

57

+1:21.511

15

 

15

4

 Felipe Massa

Ferrari

57

+1:26.364

4

 

16

19

 Daniel Ricciardo

Toro RossoFerrari

56

+1 lap

13

 

17

20

 Charles Pic

CaterhamRenault

56

+1 lap

18

 

18

12

 Esteban Gutiérrez

SauberFerrari

56

+1 lap

22

 

19

22

 Jules Bianchi

MarussiaCosworth

56

+1 lap

19

 

20

23

 Max Chilton

MarussiaCosworth

56

+1 lap

21

 

21

21

 Giedo van der Garde

CaterhamRenault

55

+2 laps

20

 

Ret

18

 Jean-Éric Vergne

Toro RossoFerrari

16

Puncture damage

16

 

Grand Prix in quotes

Quotes retrieved from FIA.COM (2013)

We are lacking speed and eat up the rear tyres too much so it simply wasn’t enough this weekend”. Nico Hulkenberg on a difficult weekend for Sauber

Vergne had spun and was moving off the line. I tried to miss him but couldn’t and we made contact which destroyed my front wing and basically ended my race on the first lap” – Giedo van der Garde on his first lap collison with Jean Eric Vergne.

I’m very proud of what we have achieved over the first four races and to be third in the drivers’ championship is beyond any of our expectations – Lewis Hamilton surprised at strong Mercedes start.

A tremendous job by the team and a wonderful drive by Paul saw us come within a whisker of the podium today. Although we missed out on third, the 12 points scored keep us up in fifth place in the Championship” – Force India team principal Vijay Mallya very pleased with his team’s performance

You’re never really happy if you don’t win, but I suppose second place is as close as you can get. I drove to the maximum and the car had the pace that we missed in qualifying yesterday so it was a pretty good result” – Kimi Raikkonen naturally disappointed with second, expect nothing less from the iceman

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