Vettel wins Bahrain GP as Raikkonen makes return to the F1 podium
22 April, 2012
Apr.22 (PVM) The Formula 1 form book was torn to shreds this weekend as reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel bounced back from near oblivion to take his first win of the season for Red Bull, while Lotus made good on early season promise with Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finishing second and third respectively.
Victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, round four of the 2012 Formula 1 world championship, catapults Vettel to the top of the points standings, and makes it four different winners in the first four races – drivers and cars – in what is panning out to be one of the tightest contests in memory.
The result also marked an all Renault powered podium plus fourth place, comprehensively turning the tables on the Mercedes powered brigade which were the predominant force in the the first three races of the season.
Vettel stole pole position 24 hours earlier, and in the race got off to a strong start. he opened a gap early on and appeared to control the race thereafter. Although he did come under extreme pressure from Raikkonen in the penultimate stint, the world champion dug into his impressive race craft repertoire and managed to defend effectively until the final stops. A slick pit stop by the Red Bull crew and keeping a cool head under duress he edged out around a three second lead which he managed to retain until he crossed the line for his 21st career F1 victory.
Relieved would aptly describe Vettel’s post race demeanour as he gave account of his afternoon at the office: “I think it was an incredible race, extremely tough. We had a good start, I was able to pull away immediately which turned out to be a big advantage because we always had to go on a used set of tyres as we used nearly all of them in qualifying. Kimi was very quick, so was Romain.”
“The strategy, everything seemed to work. I can only say a big thank you to the team. They did an incredible job. The amount of work they had to do which we have given them because we were weren’t happy with the car. Little tweaks here and there. It was tough. We were trying to get the car to our liking. We got it right this weekend, I was very happy in qualifying and the race to be fair,” added Vettel.
Lotus had been threatening a strong result since testing in February when it emerged that in the E20 they had a handy and ultra-quick car. Bad luck and weird circumstances conspired against them in the three opening races, but it all came good in the desert heat of Sakhir as both Raikkonen and Grosjean scored the results that had eluded them. Raikkonen’s second place was his 63rd podium finish, while Grosjean was making his first ever visit to a grand prix podium with third place.
The Iceman reflected on his afternoon, “I think we gave ourselves a chance but I’m disappointed I didn’t manage to win it. I made a small mistake at the beginning, lost one place to Ferrari, and I had to get that place back. In the end we were not fast enough to win. I got one chance to get past Sebastian but I chose the wrong side. That was the only chance really.”
“At least we got on the podium with both cars. In the last race we failed and probably people thought we were a bit stupid. But it turned out to be the right direction and the team deserves what it has achieved today,” concluded Raikkonen.
Teammate Grosjean, the reigning GP2 champion, has turned around his season in the past two races.
Early on it was he who was first of the Lotus pair to mount a challenge and reveal the true pace of the black and gold car at the desert track, commented, “It was great. I’m very proud of the team. We knew we had a good car, we were little bit surprised at how quick we were. We tried a different strategy to Kimi and it turned out to be not too bad. I think our car is very competitive. It has been a tight season and every small detail makes a big difference. I’m very happy to get my first podium. The next target is victory.”
Mark Webber made it four out four fourth place finishes as he again just missed on the podium for Red Bull, nevertheless it was a 1-2-3-4 finish for Renault F1 power.
As surprising as the make up of the Bahrain podium was, the biggest surprise no doubt was the overnight demise of McLaren and Mercedes who arrived at the island kingdom as the form teams.
Although Nico Rosberg salvaged fifth for Mercedes, he was on the back foot all day and a shadow of the driver who dominated so impressively in China a week earlier.
He was also involved in some highly questionable blocks, first on Lewis Hamilton and then on Fernando Alonso – you name it: desperate, cynical, unsporting, malicious and worst of all dangerous – unexpected from ‘nice guy’ Rosberg.
Michael Schumacher’s race was compromised from the outset, technical issues in qualifying coupled to an overnight gearbox change forced him to start the race from 22nd. The seven times world champion never really featured as he played catch up all afternoon on his way to tenth and a solitary point – perhaps not bad considering where he started from…
‘Man of the match’ (if there was such a thing in F1) would without doubt go to Paul di Resta who literally nursed his Force India VJM05 to sixth place and the only driver to gamble on a two stop strategy as all around him went for the safe three stop option.
Di Resta said afterwards, “We had a difficult start to the season but we said if we could pick up any points at the fly-aways, that was job done. Given we’ve finished seventh in Malaysia and sixth here on performance, we can be very happy. Hopefully when we bolt on a bit more downforce in Barcelona, we can finish where we have in Bahrain.”
Again in the thick of things with the cumbersome Ferrari F2012 was Alonso, who managed a great start and thereafter spent his race defending for all he was worth on his way to seventh place.
This time around, and for the first time in a while, his team mate Felipe Massa was there or thereabouts and in sight of the Spaniard for the entire race – a rarity these days – crossing the line in ninth place.
McLaren were simply woeful at their ‘home’ race – a Bahraini sovereign fund own a chunk of the Woking squad. Lewis Hamilton was victim of two pit stop bungles and one very tardy stop which collectively cost him at least a dozen seconds (if not more) – a similar problem that emerged a week earlier in Shanghai cost Jenson Button dear at the time. Clearly the problem remains and this time around seriously hampered Hamilton’s afternoon. Eighth was his meagre reward.
It was worse for Jenson Button who qualified fourth but in the race was never better than fifth. Avergae turned to bad when within sight of the finish the McLaren driver suffered a puncture while in seventh place. A lap later he parked the MP4-27 in the garage with a mechanical issue.
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh commented, “We lost a lot of time and places for Lewis [during the stops]. More of a concern is generally we weren’t quick enough. The frustration gets compounded when you don’t perform in during the stops. Ultimately, we have got to look at technique and how we do it. These guys volunteer to put themselves in the spotlight. There is an enormous amount of stress on them. We change him for the last stop because he was stressed but it’s our job to protect them. Things go wrong and that’s life. We need to makes sure we pull together.”
It was also big disappointment for Daniel Ricciardo who qualified the Toro Rosso sixth on the grid, but a dreadful start – which saw him drop down the order to 17th at the end of an incident packed first lap for him – ruined what should have been a strong race for the young Australian. Instead he finished 15th, behind his rookie team mate Jean Eric Vergne who started from 17th.
Although both Sauber drivers featured in most battles on the day, neither scored points with Sergio Perez (for whom Sepang must now be a distant memory) finishing 11th and Kamui Kobayashi 13th across the line.
Also sinking to 2011 style depths were the Williams duo of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna ending their respective races in the team’s pit garage.
Formula 1 now returns to Europe for what many teams consider the season proper, and at this stage there is no dominant team and the championship is more open than it has been for decades.
Race winner – double world champion – Vettel summed it up, “It’s a very tight season. The cars are very close to each other. Small things can make a huge difference. We started the season with McLaren as the best car by far but we have seen Sunday can be a different picture. I think they still have one of strongest packages. China was a very good lesson for us, driving two packages. For here we focused on our new package and pushing that forward. I’m just happy for now. I don’t care what happens in the next race, at least not today.”
Bahrain Grand Prix – Sakhir, Sunday 22 April 2012
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||57||Winner||1||25|
|2||9||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||57||+3.3 secs||11||18|
|3||10||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||57||+10.1 secs||7||15|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||57||+38.7 secs||3||12|
|5||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||57||+55.4 secs||5||10|
|6||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||57||+57.5 secs||10||8|
|7||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||57||+57.8 secs||9||6|
|8||4||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||57||+58.9 secs||2||4|
|9||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||57||+64.9 secs||14||2|
|10||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||57||+71.4 secs||22||1|
|11||15||Sergio Perez||Sauber-Ferrari||57||+72.7 secs||8|
|12||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||57||+76.5 secs||13|
|13||14||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber-Ferrari||57||+90.3 secs||12|
|14||17||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||57||+93.7 secs||17|
|15||16||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||56||+1 Lap||6|
|16||21||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham-Renault||56||+1 Lap||18|
|17||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham-Renault||56||+1 Lap||16|
|18||3||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||55||+2 Laps||4|
|19||24||Timo Glock||Marussia-Cosworth||55||+2 Laps||23|
|20||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||55||+2 Laps||20|
|21||23||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT-Cosworth||55||+2 Laps||24|
|22||19||Bruno Senna||Williams-Renault||54||+3 Laps||15|
|Ret||18||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||25||+32 Laps||21|
|Ret||25||Charles Pic||Marussia-Cosworth||24||+33 Laps||19|
Note – Maldonado qualified 17th, Schumacher 18th. Both dropped five grid places as penalty for an unscheduled gearbox changes.