Vettel Wins Easily in Bahrain as Lotus Takes Second and Third
Photos from Red Bull’s Twitter profile
Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel decided to echo Fernando Alonso’s Chinese GP win from last week and cruise into first virtually unopposed. The podium also looked great for Lotus, as Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean took second and third, respectively. Some fans may have experienced a spot of déjà vu, as this was an identical podium to the 2012 Bahrain GP, although Paul di Resta certainly didn’t make it easy for Grosjean to take third. Here’s the race breakdown:
The starting grid was surprising, to say the least. Nico Rosberg earned pole position during qualifying, beating Vettel by 1/4 second, but the rest of the grid was shuffled around quite a bit to account for penalties. Lewis Hamilton finished fourth but was docked five places for changing his gearbox due to tire and suspension problems (gearboxes cannot be changed until after the fifth GP). Mark Webber finished fifth but fell back three places, his slap on the wrist for hitting Vergne in China. A slow lap time and a crash in China with Adrian Sutil relegated Esteban Gutiérrez to dead last. The penalties brought both Force India cars to fifth and sixth in the starting grid, bests for di Resta and Sutil, respectively.
Unfortunately, the Force India drivers would find themselves entangled soon after race start. Sutil ran di Resta off the road relatively quickly, a theme that would repeat itself throughout the race, albeit with different players. Rosberg was able to fight off Vettel for a couple of laps, the strength of the Red Bull constantly nipping at his heels. Rosberg was ultimately unable to fend off the reigning champion, who dispatched the Mercedes and began building a commanding lead.
By Lap 7, it was clear that Alonso’s F138 had suffered some sort of failure, as his DRS slot became stuck in the open position; he hurried his car into the pits to correct the problem, which was fixed by a pit crew member by simply slamming it closed. Alonso was unable to use DRS for the remainder of the race, for fear that it would again become stuck open, which would have undoubtedly launched an FIA investigation. The lack of DRS had to be disappointing for a man that had so handily won the Chinese GP just one week earlier.
As Vettel pitted in Lap 11 to slap on a pair of fresh hard tires, di Resta found himself leading the pack for the second time in his life (the first time was at last year’s Bahrain GP). By Lap 15, however, Vettel had sneaked his way back into first, followed by Räikkönen and Webber. By Lap 26, Vettel held such a commanding lead over Grosjean (in second) that he was able to successfully pit and reenter the track still in first place. Di Resta overtook Grosjean one lap later, at the same time a more interesting development took shape a few spots back.
That development would be the aggressive fight for fifth between McLaren teammates Sergio Pérez and Jenson Button. Pérez found himself sitting uncomfortably behind the former World Champion, and the ensuing brawl (complete with multiple physical hits) lasted for a couple of laps, during which Grosjean slipped by the two distracted drivers. Although Pérez eventually took fifth, aggressive blocking action didn’t stop Hamilton from squeaking by.
Near Lap 40, Grosjean began to close the gap between Vettel and himself. Grosjean followed the German into the pits for the last time; Grosjean desperately needed to pit to shed his delicate mediums, and he was lucky that Vettel needed to do the same. By Lap 46, Pérez and Button were again fighting, allowing Alonso to walk right on by. A few laps later, Hamilton and Webber were swapping places amongst themselves, complete with more harsh blocking from Webber, who desperately needed points to bounce back from his DNF in China. In the end though, Webber was unable to contain Hamilton, and slipped a few places to finish seventh.
The race closed with Vettel in first, ahead of Räikkönen and Grosjean; his victory allowed Vettel to surpass the legendary Jackie Stewart in overall wins. The post-race interview with the McLaren drivers was frosty, although McLaren sporting director Sam Michael assured the press that the rivalry had been sorted out. So it’s not just Vettel/Webber that we have to watch out for this season…
Luckily, the Bahrain GP was light on DNFs, as Jean-Eric Vergne was the only racer who didn’t cross the finish line. He was rammed by Giedo van der Garde in the first lap, causing a puncture and floor damage. This led to complications with overheating, and Vergne retired on Lap 16. Alonso’s wing problems and a collision with Adrian Sutil left Felipe Massa’s front wing damaged to the point that he suffered obvious amounts of understeer in the corners; both Ferrari drivers finished on opposite ends of the middle of the pack.
The fifth Grand Prix of the 2013 Formula 1 season will be held on May 12 in Spain.