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Race: Vettel Wins Lonely Bahrain GP

Sunday 21st April 2013

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Race: Vettel Wins Lonely Bahrain GP

Race: Vettel Wins Lonely Bahrain GP

Sebastian Vettel drove an exemplary race to win the Bahrain GP ahead of Kimi Raikkonen while late passes decided the rest of the top ten.

The reigning World Champion took the lead after passing Fernando Alonso on the first lap and Nico Rosberg on the third. And with the Alonso's Ferrari suffering a DRS malfunction, Vettel was given a free pass as no one else appeared to have the pace to challenge.

It was a race filled with overtaking moves and dramatic action right up till the final lap when Lewis Hamilton passed Mark Webber to grab P5. There was also a feisty team-mate battle between Jenson Button and Sergio Perez with the pair making contact twice.

Race Report
The sun was shining down on Sakhir, though it was slightly cooler than qualifying with the ambient temperatue at 29C and the track at 41C with a gusting 20mph wind.

After the penalties were applied, following qualifying, the first six rows of the grid looked like:
1.Rosberg, 2.Vettel, 3.Alonso, 4.Massa, 5.Di Resta, 6.Sutil, 7.Webber, 8.Raikkonen, 9.Hamilton, 10.Button, 11.Grosjean, 12.Perez.

As the red lights went out Rosberg got a fantastic getaway with Alonso and Vettel battling it out for P2. Alonso took the place. Behind him, the normally fast-starting Massa was being mugged by a couple of Force India drivers. Di Resta looked to pass the Ferrari and Sutil was ready to pick up the pieces.

Vettel wasn't giving up on P2 so easily and as the cars headed for Turn 4 the Red Bull driver put his RB9 up the inside of Alonso to take the place back but ultimately overtook him going through on the inside into Turn 5. They battled hard throughout the lap - Alonso looking to regain the place between Turns 10 and 11 but to no avail. The two Mclarens got good starts at the expense of Lewis Hamilton.

Positions at the end of Lap 1: 1.Rosberg, 2.Vettel, 3.Alonso, 4.Di Resta, 5.Massa, 6.Webber, 7.Button, 8.Perez, 9.Raikkonen,10.Hamilton

Sutil had suddenly started to drop back On Lap 1 and headed to the pits with a puncture on his front right.

Nico Rosberg knew before the start of the race that his tyres were going to fade fast and Vettel didn't want to be backed up into Alonso and was keen to get past the Mercedes. Already the cars were forming up behind. Vettel had a look into Turn 1 and then again at Turn 4 but Rosberg was able to keep Vettel at bay by driving defensively. Vettel made the pass on superior traction going into Turn 5 on Lap 3.

It looked inevitable that Fernando Alonso would follow on Lap 4, but after lining up the Mercedes driver perfectly and taking the place, Rosberg immediately took it back. Alonso would have to wait another lap before making an easy pass using DRS and then suffered the ignominy of being overtaken by DiResta and Massa on Laps 7 and 9.

In the opening lap melee Massa had sustained damage to his front wing (presumably contact with Sutil) but similar to Raikkonen in the previous race (China), was advised to stay out. However he wasn't the only Ferrari driver with wing trouble. Fernando Alonso's rear wing had jammed open and he had to come in for it to be manually closed while making a very early change for tyres.

Whether Ferrari failed to advise him not to use it again, or he just forgot, but a lap later he had to come in again for it to be closed manually again. It couldn't be used for the rest of the race. What's more the early stops had put him well out of contention and back down in P18.

On track, Kimi Raikkonen was battling the two McLarens, but likely to be running a longer strategy and so when Button and Rosberg disappeared for tyres on Lap 10 he was through to P5. Alonso's troubles had promoted Paul di Resta to P2.

Positions on Lap 10:1.Vettel, 2.Di Resta, 3.Massa, 4.Perez, 5.Raikkonen, 6.Hamilton, 7.Hulkenberg, 8.Maldonado, 9.Bottas, 10. Webber, 11.Grosjean. 12.Pic, 13.Rosberg, 14.Button - Vettel's lead 5.8 seconds

On Lap 11 the pitlane became very busy as Vettel, Massa, Perez, Hamilton and Maldonado all came in. Of the front-runners, it was only Di Resta, Grosjean and Raikkonen who had yet to come in and looked to be going for two-stop races.The Bahrain GP was filled with battles in the middle order - less so in the first three places - and on Lap 12 Button passed Rosberg, and then a lap later Rosberg passed him back. In close attendance were Massa, Grosjean and Perez.

With Vettel pitting, this left Di Resta in the lead, and then when he pitted it was briefly Raikkonen leading before Vettel swept past him on much fresher rubber on Lap 15.

Button turned out to have quite an anxious grand prix and complained over team radio that Rosberg was moving around under braking to keep in front of him. He would have much more to complain about later on.

Raikkonen pitted and rejoined back in P11 - a poor pit-stop, the Lotus front jack impeding his rapid exit. He soon picked up the place vacated by Felipe Massa who shredded a rear tyre down to the core - similar to Lewis Hamilton's tyre fault in FP3 on Saturday. Massa limped back to the pits.

Positions on Lap 18 1.Vettel, 2.Webber, 3.Rosberg, 4.Button, 5.Grosjean, 6.Perez, 7.DiResta, 8.Hamilton, 9.Raikkonen, 10.Hulkenberg, 11.Maldonado, 12.Alonso.

On Lap 18 we had our only retirement with Jean-Eric Vergne retiring his Toro Rosso (damaged in a first lap accident).

On Lap 20 both Button and Perez got past Rosberg who slumped from P3 to P5 in half a lap. He came under pressure from Sergio Perez and then both cars pitted, Rosberg retaining the position. Out on track Button and Grosjean were swapping places before Button pitted (along with Mark Webber), while behind Rosberg and Perez had rejoined battle.

Perez finally got the better of Rosberg and now found himself in front of Button who had rejoined behind Rosberg after the pit-stops. Out in front Vettel was having a lonely time - he was able to pit from the lead on Lap 26 and retain the lead when he came back out.

The top four at this stage were: 1.Vettel, 2.Grosjean 3.Di Resta 4.Raikkonen.

Grosjean was overtaken by DiResta and three laps later the Frenchman pitted to rejoin in P9. But at this stage all eyes were firmly fixed on the intra-McLaren battle. Button had passed Perez on Lap 27, but Perez wasn't giving up. Before the race he had been advised by team boss Martin Whitmarsh to be more aggressive and "use his elbows" some more. And this he did.

With the two McLarens running P5 and P6 they battled all the way through Laps 29 and 30. Clearly no team orders in play. Perez used DRS to pass Button into Turn 1, Button fought back to retake the place. Perez made a light touch at the rear of Button's car and lost a front wing endplate.

On Lap 32, the fresher tyred Grosjean got past Rosberg as the two Mclarens were side by side in front. Button decided enough was enough and pushed Perez out wide - over team radio he had yelled "He just hit me - calm him down!" They bumped tyres heading for Turn 4.

It was the Lotus driver who split them up by making a brave overtaking move round the outside of Perez at Turn 4 on Lap 33.

Positions on Lap 331. Vettel, 2.Di Resta, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Webber, 5.Button, 6.Grosjean. 7.Perez, 8.Rosberg, 9.Hamilton, 10.Alonso, 11.Maldonado, 12.Massa

A lap later and Raikkonen was past Di Resta into P2 but Vettel was way too far in front to be caught, unless he had an issue as his engineer, Rocky, told him. "Sebastian, you're plenty quick enough - you can drop lap time." Grosjean passed Button for P5.

Rosberg pitted on Lap34 and then Button and Raikkonen on Lap35 to shake up the order once more - yet again Button's pit-stop put him behind Rosberg in P12 whereas Kimi was much further up the road, rejoining in P7. Raikkonen got on team radio to question the call: "Why did we stop so early - the tyres were great" to which the answer was "Don't worry, our strategy is looking good."

Felipe Massa was enduring an afternoon of problems - first with his front wing damage, then a puncture, and now another severe puncture with his right rear tyre failing. Were Ferrari running marginal tyre pressures?

On Lap 38 Raikkonen posted a new fastest lap in his charge to the front and passed Perez, who was staying out much longer than Button, to take P5 off the Mexican. TV replays showed contact between Rosberg and Webber at Turn 2, as Mark overtook the Mercedes and cut across in front - the two cars making contact. The stewards would investigate.

With Raikkonen and Di Resta pitting in front of him, Grosjean was up to P2 but would still need to stop one more time. He came in on Lap 43 (for mediums) and rejoined in P5 alongside Jenson Button, the Lotus taking the place.

At this stage he had the freshest tyres and although his team-mate looked uncatchanble unless his tyres fell of the cliff, the P3 of Paul Di Resta was in reach. With 12 laps to go he was six seconds behind DiResta and a second a lap faster than the Scot.

Button was falling back and Lewis Hamilton took P6 off him on Lap 45. At the end of the lap the positions were: 1.Vettel, 2.Raikkonen, 3.DiResta, 4.Grosjean, 5.Webber, 6.Hamilton, 7.Button, 8.Perez, 9.Alonso, 10.Rosberg, 11.Bottas, 12.Massa.

Button was in trouble. Perez overtook him cleanly through Turn 4 on lap 46 and on the same lap Alonso passed him too. Jenson then pitted and rejoined in P10 - yet again behind Rosberg. Fernando Alonso had stealthily crept forward despite lacking DRS and overtook Perez for P7 going into Turn 1 - with no DRS assistance. Perez tried to fight back but had to settle for P8. (Both had the same tyre stop).

The moves just kept on coming, Hamilton caught and passed Weber for P5 on Lap 51, then a lap later Webber took him back. On the same lap Romain Grosjean had caught Paul Di Resta to take the final podium place and replicate the podium positions from 2012 - Vettel, Raikkonen, Grosjean.

On Lap54 Sergio Perez muscled his way past Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard immediately coming on team radio complaining that the stewards should look at the move and penalise Perez. Perez into P7, Alonso back to P8.

Not far ahead Lewis Hamilton had not given up his hopes for P5 and was hounding Mark Webber. Webber looked to make a double move in blocking Hamilton into Turn 1 on lap 55 and he had to take a very defensive line into Turn 4. The duel continued through Lap 56 and finally Hamilton found a way past on Lap 57 of 57.

Webber then spoiled his 'good' work by running wide and allowing Sergio Perez to sneak through into a magnificent P6.

Vettel crossed the line for a dominant win ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, with a disconsolate Paul di Resta in P4 denied his first podium. Hamilton, Perez, Webber and Alonso finished in a gaggle in that order ahead of P9 Rosberg and P10 Button (both on four pit-stops).

It had been the very best of F1 races with action all the way through - a heroic drive by Alonso, some feisty moves by Perez, a considered drive by Hamilton and some great tyre conservation from the Lotus and Force India cars. But it was Vettel who had the dominant win and who had proved in the opening salvo - when Alonso was problem free, that he was No.1.

Frank Hopkinson

Result
01 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:36:00.498
02 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus +9.1
03 Romain Grosjean Lotus 19.5
04 Paul di Resta Force India +21.7
05 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +35.2
06 Sergio Perez McLaren +35.9
07 Mark Webber Red Bull +37.2
08 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +37.5
09 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +41.1
10 Jenson Button McLaren +46.6
11 Pastor Maldonado Williams +66.4
12 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber +72.9
13 Adrian Sutil Force India +76.7
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams +81.5
15 Felipe Massa Ferrari +86.3
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso +1 lap
17 Charles Pic Caterham +1 lap
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +1 lap
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia +1 lap
20 Max Chilton Marussia +1 lap
21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham +2 laps
R Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso

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