Sebastian Vettel has claimed an assured victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, emerging clear in an early race battle with Fernando Alonso and polesitter Nico Rosberg before cruising to win the 57-lap race.
The German finished over nine seconds clear of Lotus duo Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean, who completed the same podium line-up as the year before. Alonso and Rosberg, meanwhile, both had disastrous races.
Polesitter Rosberg converted pole into the lead on the opening lap, but it was soon immediately apparent that he was set for a torrid afternoon.
Fellow front-row starter Vettel made an excellent getaway from the dirty side of the grid, but found himself boxed in behind Rosberg on the dash to Turn 1 and slipped behind Alonso. Undaunted, the Red Bull driver quickly swept by the Spaniard with a brave move at Turn 4, before charging past Rosberg on Lap 4.
He quickly began to pull clear of the chasing pack, while Rosberg’s tyres rapidly began to fade. Despite some aggressive defence, second place was soon lost to Alonso.
Barely a lap later and the problem repeated itself, and so he was back in again, putting him almost at the tail of the field and with a massive task of trying to salvage some points without the use of the overtaking aid.
That he was able to climb into eighth place and claim four precious points was a huge achievement, and it spoke volumes about his ‘never say die’ attitude, although he was nonetheless frustrated that a possible win went begging.
It was a trying day for teammate Felipe Massa as well, who incredibly suffered two debris-induced rear punctures during the race. He finished fifteenth, almost a lap adrift.
Tyre wear was again one of the major talking points of the race. Despite seeming to have gotten on top of their tyre wear woes and with all signs indicating that the car’s long-run pace was good, Mercedes’ bogey issue returned in dramatic fashion on Sunday.
Rosberg was the principal victim, tumbling down the order to finish ninth after chewing his tyres through a four-stop race. It must have been gutting to see such a reversal in form after qualifying on pole.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton had a very quiet race for the most part, and one that differed from his usual race-long charges that we have grown accustomed to. The former McLaren driver opted to play the long game, managing fuel loads and tyre wear until his final stint, at which point he turned up the wick and started to charge. In the closing laps, he enjoyed a great battle with Mark Webber for fifth, with the pair racing wheel-to-wheel and the Briton ultimately coming out on top.
On the flip side, two drivers – Räikkönen and Force India’s Paul di Resta – opted for two-stop strategies. Both showed hugely impressive pace over their long stints, with the pair looking set to complete the podium until di Resta was overhauled by the fresher-shod Grosjean in the final laps. Nonetheless, it was easily the best drive in the Scot’s career, and put paid to many critics – us included! – who had doubted his ability to race wheel-to-wheel with the frontrunners.
Fourth place was a sensational result for he and the team, although tempered with another troubled race for Adrian Sutil, who sustained opening lap damage after a tangle with Massa. Despite running at the pace of the race leaders after his repairs, he could not scramble into the points.
The Mexican showed no quarter, especially not to teammate Jenson Button, with whom he engaged in a fierce battle that had the Englishman enraged.
The tactic worked, as Button spent too much time watching his mirrors and chewed through his tyres. Forced to make a fourth pit stop in contrast to Pérez’s three, Button claimed the final point in tenth place.
Williams’ point-less season continued, with neither Pastor Maldonado or Valtteri Bottas showing the sort of pace necessary for the Grove team to realistically be within a sniff of a top-ten result. The pair finished eleventh and fourteenth respectively, although Maldonado’s finishing position was flattered by the dramas that befell Sutil and Massa, in particular.
It was also another troublesome day for Sauber, with its radical C32 failing to threaten the points as Nico Hülkenberg uncharacteristically struggled with tyre wear issues of his own en route to twelfth place.
With a five-place grid penalty in his pocket from the Chinese Grand Prix, he again failed to break out of Q1 and then compounded his misery with a positively amateurish lunge on the opening lap that ensured an early pit visit for another front wing.
Racecraft and pace are sorely lacking in this youngster, and the team must surely be considering the wisdom of his appointment…
Toro Rosso also failed to finish in the points, with Jean-Éric Vergne retiring after an early collision with Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham, while Daniel Ricciardo suffered a mysterious lack of pace en route to finishing sixteenth, which will have the Faenza team urgently investigating the cause before the next Grand Prix in Spain.
Charles Pic took his heavily-updated Caterham on its most impressive drive of the season to finish clearly in front of the backmarker scrap in seventeenth place, even managing to finish ahead of Gutiérrez as he crossed the line in seventeenth place.
The Frenchman beat home the Marussia duo of Jules Bianchi and birthday boy Max Chilton, while van der Garde was the last of the finishers, two laps adrift, after losing his front wing against Vergne’s sideways Toro Rosso.
This marked the first time since 1986 that a woman has been given the honours of the collecting the Constructors’ trophy for the racewinning team. And at Bahrain of all places…
Vettel’s 28th career win moved him to sixth on the all-time winners list ahead of fellow three-time champion Sir Jackie Stewart and eases his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings to a ten-point margin over the consistent Räikkönen, while Hamilton lies a further 17 points adrift in third.
2013 Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (57 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||57||1:36:00.498|
|2.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||57||+ 9.111|
|3.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||57||+ 19.507|
|4.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||57||+ 21.727|
|5.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||57||+ 35.230|
|6.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||57||+ 35.998|
|7.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||57||+ 37.244|
|8.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||57||+ 37.574|
|9.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||57||+ 41.126|
|10.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||57||+ 46.631|
|11.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||57||+ 1:06.450|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||57||+ 1:12.933|
|13.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||57||+ 1:16.719|
|14.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||57||+ 1:21.511|
|15.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||57||+ 1:26.364|
|16.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||56||1 lap behind|
|17.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||56||1 lap behind|
|18.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||56||1 lap behind|
|19.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||56||1 lap behind|
|20.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||56||1 lap behind|
|21.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||55||2 laps behind|
|DNF.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||18||Damage|
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