Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix, leading from lights to chequered flag as the unpredictable 2012 F1 season took another twist.
Vettel never lost the lead but this wasn’t the dominating performance we grew accustomed to in 2011. He was pushed all the way by the Lotuses of Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean, one of whom was usually in his mirrors. In the end he crossed the line three seconds ahead of Räikkönen. Grosjean was a comfortable third. Mark Webber made it four fourth places in a row, Nico Rosberg nursed a damaged Mercedes home for fifth. Paul di Resta toughed out a two-stop strategy to take sixth. Fernando Alonso was seventh,
Lewis Hamilton endured a miserable afternoon for eighth, Felipe Massa scored his first points of the year with ninth, and Michael Schumacher took the final point, having come through the field from the back of the grid. Vettel, Hamilton and Webber all got away cleanly but behind them Grosjean had a great start, jumping from seventh into fourth. When the DRS became available he passed first Webber for third and then Hamilton. “I really enjoyed the first stint, the car was fantastic,” said Grosjean in the FIA post-race press conference. “I thought I would [catch] Sebastian but then we choose to go for the prime on the second stint, and it appears that there were a little bit less grip, it was more difficult.”
The other Lotus was also making ground. Räikkönen advanced from 11th to seventh at the start, and then used his advantage in having fresh tyres to pick off the other front runners. He also benefitted from Hamilton dropping out of contention with a slow pitstop. When that first round of stops shook out he was third with only his team-mate and Vettel in front. They stayed that way until mid-race when Räikkönen eased past Grosjean with the aid of DRS. He then closed on Vettel and looked like he had the pace to take the lead. He made one attempt with the DRS but Vettel held him off and Räikkönen then fell back.
“I got close enough once to have a chance but I chose the wrong side, and that was it,” said the Finn. “After that my tyres dropped off a bit and I couldn’t get close enough. It’s a great thing for the team to finish second and third, so I’m happy for them but a bit disappointed to not be able to challenge more for the win.”
Victory catapults Sebastian to the top of the Drivers’ Championshp with 53 points, narrowly ahead of Hamilton (49) and Webber (48), with Button (43), Alonso (43) and Rosberg (35), the three other race winners, a short step further back. “I’m very happy,” said the new championship leader. “I think we had to work extremely hard in the first couple of races and we weren’t where we wanted to be, so I’m very pleased we’ve had a much better weekend here. I owe this one to the team, they’ve worked flat out here at the circuit and back at the factory. It was a very tight and difficult race, I knew every single corner would be crucial with no mistakes allowed. I kept the car on the track all the time and we got a great result.”