Sebastian Vettel has charged to victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of the Lotus’ of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in an identical podium to the one seen in Bahrain 2012.
Nico Rosberg lined up first on the grid ahead of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Lewis Hamilton who qualified in 4th lined up 9th having been handed down a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change following a rear tyre puncture which damaged the gearbox. Mark Webber also lined up out of position, 7th for the Aussie with a three-place penalty for his Shanghai clash with Vergne while Gutierrez was the final man in the troublesome trio to be given a penalty, a five-place drop for his crash with Sutil in China meaning the Mexican started in 22nd.
Rosberg led the grid around on the parade lap and took his place on pole position. The last time Rosberg started first, he won. What seemed like an eternity after Rosberg took his place, Gutierrez at the back slotted into 22nd and the man with the flag, excuse me – I don’t know his name, signaled to Charlie Whiting that all was okay.
One, two, three, four, five lights. And they were away!
Sebastian Vettel was straight on Rosberg’s gearbox and looking for a way past, pulling alongside his fellow German on the run into Turn 4. He scraped past the Mercedes but out braked himself and allowed Rosberg retake the lead of the race from Vettel and Alonso. At the back of the grid, Esteban Gutierrez stuck his nose in too deep and lost his wing in a Caterham sandwich while Giedo van der Garde went into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso and gave the Frenchman a rear puncture.
Vettel lined his prey up once again, failing to stick a pass into T1 but trying again out of T3. This time Vettel had the slip stream again and managed to creep past Rosberg and make the move stick, demoting Nico to 2nd and into the clutches of a fiesty Fernando Alonso who didn’t need to be asked twice try and take 2nd from the German, but can’t quite make it past. Half a lap later and Alonso geared up for a charge past the MGP-04 down the start/finish straight and this time can push past. Di Resta in a strong looking Force India made short work of Rosberg and pushed him down to P4.
Now Alonso’s team-mate, Felipe Massa, was hunting down Rosberg despite running with a damaged front wing as a result of light contact with Sutil on the opening lap. Massa darted this way and that way behind Rosberg and finally made his way past the German and demoted the pole man to 5th. In the meantime, Fernando Alonso in second was forced to pit with a broken rear wing. The Spaniard had opened DRS on the back straight but when he braked, the rear flap opened even wider and wouldn’t close. If you remember Montreal 2012, Schumacher was blighted by a similar problem which saw his eventual retirement from the race.
Ferrari, however, managed to manhandle the rear wing closed and sent the Spaniard on his way with a fresh pair of boots. However in the same DRS zone on the very next lap, the same problem hit Alonso and he was forced to return to the pits for the second lap in a row where they once again manhandled the wing closed, telling the double world champion to keep his wing closed. Nevertheless, he was now far down in the grid and his race ruined.
The McLarens scrapped while Raikkonen looked for a way past the distracted drivers and Sebastian Vettel allowed Paul di Resta to lead the race when he pitted for fresh tires. At the same time, Rosberg was still dropping down while being attacked left, right and finally centre, this time being passed by Jenson Button to demote the German from 1st to 7th in 15 laps.
Perez lined up behind Grosjean and an unbelievably fiesty Mexican was sticking his nose here, there and everywhere and getting far to close for comfort. Out braking into turn 8, he ran very close to Grosjeans rear tyres but avoided any contact.
The McLarens were still scrapping with each other, now joined by Rosberg. Perez came up behind Rosberg and passed him on one side while Button went the other side and tried to pass Perez out of turn 3 but was blocked by his team-mate. Next lap up and di Resta passed Grosjean into T1 while Button followed suit to pass Checo at the same spot merely seconds later. Perez wasn’t letting his team-mate off that easy and passed him into T3 while Button used the slip stream to get passed him into Turn 4 before Perez tapped the rear of Button’s car, losing a front wing endplate in the process but otherwise safely passed.
Rosberg, now in eleventh, was finally fed up and began a charge, beginning with Pastor Maldonado on the back straight to move back into the points. Meanwhile, Mark Webber had slowly crept up the grid on his 200th GP start and was emerging from the pits when attacked by Nico Rosberg. Mark was having none of it and closed the door in T2 but at this stage Rosberg was too far along the inside of the Aussie, meaning when the door was closed, Rosberg was hit. The Mercedes got sideways across the Chicane but caught himself and kept his position while Mark raced off in the front. He was later given a reprimand by the stewards.
The race was wrapping up but not before Hamilton could pass Webber and make a mistake into T14 to allow Webber back past him. With four laps remaining, Webber had a fight on his hands but kept Hamilton behind him – at least until the last lap when the Briton slipped around the Aussie out of Turn 1. Perez was still fighting and nudged Alonso off the track into turn 4 and made a pass on the Spaniard stick. He then followed Hamilton’s example and passed Mark into turn 4.
An unchallenged Vettel cruised across the line followed by Kimi and Romain to, as I’ve said, fill out the podium as it was in 2012. Mark was a mediocre 7th for his 200th Grand Prix start while Fernando Alonso in 8th was robbed of a great race due to DRS issues. Nico Rosberg was ninth having started in 1st and will be questioning what caused such a poor showing while Felipe Massa finished far off the pace, down in 15th having suffered two punctures. Charles Pic was the top back-marker while Max Chilton finished 20th on his 22nd birthday. Jean-Eric Vergne was the only retirement, the team retiring him very early on as a result from the damage caused by his clash with Vergne.
- Sebastian Vettel
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Romain Grosjean
- Paul di Resta
- Lewis Hamilton
- Sergio Perez
- Mark Webber
- Fernando Alonso
- Nico Rosberg
- Jenson Button
- Pastor Maldonado
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Adrian Sutil
- Valtteri Bottas
- Felipe Massa
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Charles Pic
- Esteban Gutierrez
- Jules Bianchi
- Max Chilton
- Giedo van der Garde
- Jean-Eric Vergne (damage)