It might have produced the same podium trio it did 12 months ago, but that is no reflection of the battle royal that raged in the Bahrain desert this afternoon as Formula One exploded into action in the Middle East.
Sebastian Vettel overcame strong opposition from Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg in the opening laps of the Grand Prix to put himself in a position where his unassailable RB9 could allow him to build a sizeable lead.
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean made exceptional use of the Lotus E21’s famed tyre durability to secure 2nd and 3rd after a low-key start to the race, the maturity and racing nous of both men shining through to carry them forward from the lower reaches of the top ten to the podium.
Briton Paul Di Resta drove a measured and tactically brilliant race for 4th, equalling his best ever F1 result achieved in Singapore last year. The 12 points for the position elevates the Scot to 8th in the Driver’s Championship Standings.
Lewis Hamilton finished 5th thanks to a cunning two-stop strategy by his new Mercedes team, withstanding a late race charge from Sergio Perez who attracted criticism from some for his aggressive driving during the Grand Prix. “Checo was a little too combative with Jenson this afternoon, and I think he knows that.” claimed McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh just after the chequered flag had fallen. Button used the team radio to vent his anxiety after the Mexican nearly wiped out his front wing on the back of the Briton’s car.
“Today wasn’t brilliant for me.” said the 2009 Bahrain GP winner post-race. “Okay, the race was a lot of fun, but I didn’t get the result I wanted because I used up my tyres fending off Checo. There was a lot of action out there, and as I say I wasn’t really able to conserve my tyres as a result.”
Mark Webber persevered to take 7th, despite an on-the-edge moment with Nico Rosberg that saw the two men the centre of the steward’s attentions. The incident, in which Webber cut across Rosberg’s front wing and hit the Mercedes, was later dismissed by the FIA as ‘a racing incident’.
Fernando Alonso came incredibly close to having to retire from the race after his DRS became stuck open not once, but twice. The Spaniard was forced to make two unplanned pitstops so his Ferrari team could force the flap shut and allow him to go on to 8th place. Felipe Massa fared even worse, making two unplanned stops of his own when the right-rear wheel of his F138 was punctured twice.
Pole-sitter Nico Rosberg was 9th after his strategy did not work out, ahead of Jenson Button who was also forced to make a 4th unscheduled pitstop.
Toro Rosso’s Jean Eric Vergne was the only retiree with a problem caused by puncture damage.
“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 Vettel after his crushing victory.
“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 Six. Out of Turn four I did the same on Nico, a little bit of Kers and got him into Turn Five.”
Vettel’s win extends his lead at the top of the Championship table to 22 points over Kimi Raikkonen, with Hamilton’s 5th moving him up to third on 50 points, 3 clear of Fernando Alonso.
BAHRAIN GP TOP TEN
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