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Faultless Vettel holds off comeback king Raikkonen to win Bahrain GP
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Apr 2012   |  6:08 pm GMT  |  38 comments

Sebastian Vettel produced a faultless drive from pole position to win the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of the the two Lotus cars of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. This is Red Bull Racing’s first victory of 2012 and makes it four different winners in as many races this season.

It was Vettel’s 22nd career F1 victory and his first of the season. He is the fourth different winner in four races.

If Vettel’s pace in qualifying was a surprise, it was the Lotus’ performance on race day which caught the eye. Raikkonen, starting in 11th place, had a chance to win the race and was frustrated afterwards not to have done so. It’s a sign of how sharp the 2007 champion is after his two year layoff and how Lotus has produced a very good car.

Lotus brought a raft of updates to this race including a new rear wing, floor and barge boards and this made an already fast and consistent car into arguably the fastest car of the weekend.

Vettel now leads the Drivers World Championship, whilst Red Bull take over the lead of the Constructors’ World Championship as McLaren had a very poor day in the office which saw Jenson Button retire on the penultimate lap and Lewis Hamilton suffer two slow pit-stops resulting in an eighth position finish. In total he lost 16 seconds and inevitably ended up with a lot of traffic. But McLaren were struggling anyway with race pace and the rear tyre wear was clear from early on in the race.

Red Bull collected thirty-seven points this afternoon to McLaren’s three as Mark Webber continued his consistent form and finished the Grand Prix in fourth place, for the fourth time this season.

Vettel led the race from lights-to-flag and a perfect start allowed him to open up a gap of almost six seconds before the first round of pit-stops. Behind him, both Lotus’ had scythed through the field during the opening stint and found themselves knocking on the door of the podium after their first tyre change. During these stops Raikkonen opted for another set of the soft option tyre, unlike many of the field, and he was soon up into second position after passing Webber and Grosjean before the second phase of pit-stops.

During the second stops and seeing Lotus’ pace on the soft tyre, Red Bull gave Vettel another set of softs to try and maintain the gap to Raikkonen as the Finn was now on a new set of prime tyres. The Lotus once again showed very good pace as the tyres got older and the former World Champion closed to within 0.5 seconds of the current World Champion. Raikkonen was unable to pass Vettel before the final set of pit-stops and barring a couple of fast laps from Raikkonen the gap stayed constant through to the end of the race.

Grosjean had a fairly quiet race after a brilliant first stint and he claimed France’s first podium finish since Jean Alesi in 1998. The same can be said for Webber who had a fairly lonely afternoon, finishing the race in the middle on a fourty-five second chasm between third and fifth position.

Nico Rosberg had a very eventful race, having dropped down to ninth from the start he managed to claw his way back to fifth position, making two very aggressive defensive moves in the process on Hamilton and Fernando Alonso which landed him in trouble with the stewards. However they ruled that Hamilton was always behind Rosberg when he made the move to block and so awarded no penalty.

Rosberg, like Raikkonen, chose to run his extra set of option tyres during the second phase of the race, however he could not make them last the distance of the Lotus’ and was unable to make any strides towards Webber.

Behind Rosberg was Paul Di Resta, the Scot making just two stops during the race as he defended very well to keep Alonso and Hamilton at bay until the chequered flag. Alonso was another very fast starter, making his way up to fifth position during the first lap, although the Ferrari driver was unable to match the pace of Rosberg and Webber. Hamilton had a frustrating race, compounded by two slow pit-stops which both surrounded the rear left corner that cost Button time in Shanghai.

Felipe Massa was much closer to his team mate than previously and finished the race in ninth place. Michael Schumacher added another point to his solitary point from Malaysia as he made his way from twenty-second on the grid to take the final points position.

Sergio Perez’s Sauber headed the remainder of the field, as he too had a quiet race ahead of the second Force India of Nico Hulkenberg and the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne. Vergne was able to beat team mate Daniel Ricciardo after the Australian made a poor start from sixth on the grid and finished the race in fifteenth, the Toro Rosso’s either side of Kamui Kobayashi in sister Sauber.

The Caterham cars came home line astern, with Vitaly Petrov beating Heikki Kovalainen to sixteenth place. Kovalainen received a puncture on the first lap, which ruined any chances of him progressing on from a great qualifying effort.

Timo Glock was the only finisher for Marussia after Charles Pic retired from the race on lap 25. Glock came home ahead of the HRT pairing, Pedro De La Rosa once again finishing ahead of Narain Karthikeyan.

We’ll deal with the wider context of this race in a separate piece

[Additional reporting: Matt Meadows]

BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX, Sakhir Circuit, 57 laps
1. Vettel Red Bull 1h35:10.990
2. Raikkonen Lotus + 3.333
3. Grosjean Lotus + 10.194
4. Webber Red Bull + 38.788
5. Rosberg Mercedes + 55.460
6. Di Resta Force India + 57.543
7. Alonso Ferrari + 57.803
8. Hamilton McLaren + 58.984
9. Massa Ferrari + 1:04.999
10. Schumacher Mercedes + 1:11.490
11. Perez Sauber + 1:12.702
12. Hulkenberg Force India + 1:16.539
13. Vergne Toro Rosso + 1:30.334
14. Kobayashi Sauber + 1:33.723
15. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1 lap
16. Petrov Caterham + 1 lap
17. Kovalainen Caterham + 1 lap
18. Button McLaren + 1 lap
19. Glock Marussia + 2 laps
20. De la Rosa HRT + 2 laps
21. Karthikeyan HRT + 2 laps
22. Senna Williams + 3 laps

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Surprise,surprise Mclaren shoot their drivers in the foot, AGAIN. Wow. Dejavu.


James,would you be able to explain the following – if Rosberg’s defense over Hamilton was legitimate, why Hamilton was not punished to overtaking him with 4 wheels off the race track?


Not very consistent. I’m really surprised that Rosberg’s blocking moves were not penalised.


I have to admit i thought at the time Rosberg’s continual diving to the inside to block was against the rules as like the BBC commentators kept saying he didn’t leave 1 cars width. However re-reading the rules you get this:

20.3 More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off‐line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner.

It seems that the 1 car’s width only applies when moving back onto the racing line.

Looking at that rule though it does seem that in the future cars can be perfectly entitled to make 2 clear moves to defend, not 1 as they can always say they are just returning to the racing line.

McLaren really need to get their pit stops sorted they’re consistently slower than their rivals this year even without the mistakes. Lewis should really still be leading the championship.

Good to see Lotus joining in the fight, all we need is for Ferrari to make a similar step in performance and we could have 5 teams and 10 drivers fighting for race wins (although maybe only 9 as even with a step in perfomance Massa will likely still struggle)


What an excellent racing track.

Fast straights, fast curves, slow curves…

Plenty of places to overtake (or at least try).

F1 to Bahrain next year as well.


Yes, I thought Raikkonen had got Vettel on the inside for that overtake — the speed differential was astonishing — but then he jinked to the outside and blew it. Of course, it’s very easy to be critical from an armchair but it seems, with hindsight, Kimi agrees. He must be kicking himself.

When the time comes to vote, Kimi will be my driver of the day.

Can we have a in-depth explanation of where McLaren are screwing up with the wheelnuts, James?


But McLaren were struggling anyway with race pace and the rear tyre wear was clear from early on in the race.

True, but there’s nothing to suggest that anybody else from the people behind him before the first stop would have caught him. Webber might have done, but nothing from the pace of Di Resta, Button, Rosberg or Alonso to suggest that they would have. That’s 4 places worth of points thrown away today. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be a season where that kind of generosity will be allowed.

Awful, awful performance from the McLaren team today. No other team seems to appear so hapless on the big stage.

Really, it’s no wonder we often end up seeing these emotional and sometimes reckless performances from Hamilton. If I were him, I’d have serious troubles trusting the team. Strategy on who has the right to pit first seems to change from race to race, and now dodgy stops. Outcomes don’t appear to be in his hands at the moment.

More and more interested by the prospect of Hamilton reuniting with Haug at Merc. Think it’d be a great match.


Could not agree more!


Kimi Drive faultless…. Grosjean drive impressive finally we are starting to haul points lads….As for Rosberg…shame…fastest car and shameful driving feel sorry for him and them….

Keep up the good work Lotus after that escapade in China what a comeback…


Enjoyed that one. Vettel has had a great year so far, keeps getting better and better. Really hope that Lotus stays in the development race- want to see Raikkonen with a real shot at the WDC this year.


Kiitos Kimi.


A good race for Bahrain (in terms of the track – I’m leaving out the political side), or at least the first two thirds were, the last part lost its bite. A few thoughts:

– An eventful first 4 races with crazy fluctuating form amongst the teams. Fours different winners and teams. Nice!

– Two of the less established teams (Sauber and Lotus) have missed out on victories through being too conservative compared to their more confident, top-flight challenges (Ferrari and Red Bull, respectively).

– McLaren are probably the most disappointed team in terms of not having hit their potential. Even in Melbourne they should have had a 1-2 (though the unlucky SC wasn’t their fault). Button has had two very strong results and 2 no scores – a championship can’t be won that way. Hamilton has been consistent but unfortunate.

– Conversely Ferrari/Alonso are the ones to have maximised their chances. For Alonso to be only 10 points off the championship lead before their Spain upgrades is a massive save! They can’t be discounted.

– Even after a crazy and exciting first 4 races where form was impossible to predict, out of the chaos we’ve still come away with one familiarity: Vettel is leading the Drivers’ Championship and Red Bull the Constructors’!


never ever have i seen such a disaster pit stops from one team.Amount of points that lewis lost because of mcl team is shocking


Third race in a row! When I suggested the same thing on an earlier JA article, numerous posters felt the need to patronise with ‘we all make mistakes’ posts etc. It’s disgraceful. Lewis would probably have another 10 points minimum were it not for his team. JB would probably have another 6 or 8!


i so wish, kimi had tried for the second time to Overtake VET but i guess tire-ware didn’t allow it.


Vettel showed again that when he has the car,he can more than anybody else,drive the faultless race and get the max out of it. Great race for Lotus F1 team.Finally got car,strategy together.If they can consistently qualify in the Top 5,this team can challenge.

Mercedes after 1 good race went backwards and still nobody knows if they can perform race after race.

But McLaren have shot themselves in the foot.After starting out with the best car,through pit stops and strategy lost a lot of points.They should have gone back to Europe with a sizable lead,instead they are going back 2nd.The lack of race pace of Lewis Hamilton in all 4 races is the biggest mystery.

Top drive by Paul Di Resta too. All in all 4 exciting races for F1 fans



It was an amazing race but my question was why couldn’t they pit Kimi before or after seb ! Am sure the team musta seen redbull mechanics come out – you think lotus still needs their think tank to be working inspire of having sir Jackie Stewart on board ?


It will be in the strategy report



Seriously, how long before the top teams think about putting him in one of their seats?!? lot of contracts running out at the end of the year…


A race dominated by the tiny ‘sweet spot’ of the Pirellis. The track temp dropped 10 degrees lower than in qualifying (what the teams had setup for), and some teams were unlucky enough to find themselves outside the operating window of the tyres. This lead to a loss of laptime in the order of a second a lap compared to qualifying – McLaren, Mercedes, Sauber and Toro Rosso. Lotus on the other hand moved into the tyre window and profited by the same margin. The Red Bull seems to have the widest window of performance, and Vettel has always been better at managing the tyres better than Webber, hence the 30 second gap.


What was the stewards answer to Hamilton’s overtaking on Rosberg with all 4 wheels off the track?


I’d be more interested in why Rosberg was not penalised for driving Alonso clean off the track!!


Did he have any choice?


Now how many of you are going to disagree with me when I say McLaren are trying their best to ruin their best WDC and CC chance in three years? Many of you patronised me last time I said it if I recall.

Just who has the best car anyway? Any ideas? It’s not McLAren and hasn’t been since Australia.


I am sad that Kimi did not make my day, but it was good to see him challenging the finger boy from P11- almost well done.

I am neither for, not against McLaren, but it is almost a certainty that they will screw one of two pit stops per race. When Hamilton was pitting, I said to my friend that they will screw the pit stop and it was the case. But..doing it consistently is a whole different story. One could feel sorry for Hamilton.

I am struggling to understand why Rosberg was not punished. It was very harsh from his side and I though he was blocking Alonso right and left,not to mention how he pushed him off the track. And Hamilton too.

Red Bull and Vettel are leading the championships after 4 races – McLaren will need to find a way and explain how did they let it happen.

Other that that, a boring track.


What the hell has happened to McLarens?

Lewis’ pit stops were awful – all of them… nad to make matter worse, it’s not the first time this season… what the hell are they thinking? Why Ferrari can train their pit stop team and McLaren can not?

I am left completely unsatisfied and even disgusted by the way they raced today.

Hope in the 3 coming weeks they will sort out all of their issues, otherwise the season is already over for them


Old school approach got it done.  Bernie may be a tough negotiator but he sure delivers on a contract.

Teams get more money and McLaren keep their 50% Bahrain investor satisfied.  That means they can afford to keep all the British fans happy with a contender year in, year out.  Win-win?

One could argue they did it all for Vettel!  I’m just glad they did it.  Now we can talk about Kimi for next 3 weeks, and that’s just fine by me


What a race!…It’s really great to see Kimi back. For all the drivers and journos who said he would struggle with his return, his 2nd place today makes it all the more satisfying. Next is the top step.


Rosberg should have been black flagged today, he was unsporting and ridiculous. James, have you any information from Mclaren that would explain the left rear issues plaguing the team? And is there a genuine conspiracy to have Jenson finish ahead of Lewis Hamilton…or anything from the paddock that could support the conspiracy?


No penalties for Rosberg? More than pathetic! What’t the difference in his epizode with Alonso compared to Schumacher vs Barrichello few years ago?

Even no video from Alonso car – costs are too high for Bernie to install cameras in every car or was there any Force India in sight?

Nascar, Indy had turning cameras for years, but probably F1 management sleeps when those races are on air.

Another epic fail.


Very disappointed with McLaren in this race. In China it was Button and now its Hamilton with the left rear problem.

Vettel’s performance gave hints of “normal service has been resumed.”

Raikkonen and Schumacher were the drivers of the day with excellent performances coming through the field.

I just hope that all the top 5 teams get closer in performance as this championship seems to have all the elements of being a classic contest.


Wow I am a Schumi fan, but how can you say he did a better job than Vettel?

I mean the guy drove a very mature race as he usually does. Having said that yes I think Kimi and MS did a very good job.

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