How Sebastian Vettel lost the race (Bahrain Grand Prix start analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The Bahrain Grand Prix got off to a hectic start
The Bahrain Grand Prix got off to a hectic start

Before the Bahrain Grand Prix started Sebastian Vettel was favourite to win – with 64% of us on the live blog picking him to come home first.

But his chances evaporated in a frantic first lap where he slipped from third to fifth behind Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Here’s how the first lap unfolded:

Bahrian Grand Prix lap one position change (click to enlarge)
Bahrian Grand Prix lap one position change (click to enlarge)

Three of the best starts belonged to KERS-powered cars: Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Nelson Piquet Jnr. Fernando Alonso might have done better had he not been squeezed off the track on the run towards turn one.

Button, crucially, pounced on Vettel while the Red Bull driver was being passed by Hamilton. Vettel was pinched between Hamilton and Button at turn one and had to back off. He made a stab at re-passing Button on the run towards turn four but there was no way through.

That was the first moment that cost Vettel the race – the second came on the following lap when Button scrambled by Hamilton – but Vettel wasn’t able to replicate the move.

Raikkonen had made up five places at the start but was passed by Rubens Barrichello halfway around the first lap. Similarly Hamilton briefly got ahead of Jarno Trulli for second but couldn’t keep the Toyota behind.

Both the BMWs broke the right hand sides of their front wings on the first lap, and as they dropped back they held up a string of other cars and allowed Mark Webber to make some useful progress from 18th.

51 comments on “How Sebastian Vettel lost the race (Bahrain Grand Prix start analysis)”

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  1. Hamilton driver of the race. He has finished well in points in every race so far in that dog of a car.

    Bad luck for Vettel and the traffic but it was his own doing.

  2. StrFerrari4Ever
    26th April 2009, 16:23

    I was disappointed when Vettel couldnt get past Hamilton and then Trulli because he would’ve clearly won the race but still he showed great character keeping Jarno behind him.

    Catalunya in 2 weeks Red Bull say they have upcoming updates hopefully they’ll still be up there

  3. Raikkonen pulled out some of his raw speed to hold off the quicker car of glock, Roll in spain :D!

  4. How ’bout that “Trulli Train”? We’ve heard Martin Brundle say that on more than a few occasions.

  5. It was just Kimi’s KERS that helped him defend, just like Nelson did with Rubens. I was hoping really for Vettel but Lewis defended the place in crucial time which he knew he can’t do that for long. Kers made vettel lose. A great race though. but couldn’t get into the live blog :(

  6. Barrichello – driver of the race! I almost lost my interest (cause of BMWs another bad race), and than commentators turned my attention to Rubens making his way through the field. It was really interesting to see him doing that and to see where Browns are compared to others – I felt like “change white to red and it would be like in Ferrari days” :)
    Overall it was much better race than last week, when I was falling asleep. Only thing I didnt like (except BMWs) was watching for couple of laps three cars (think it was Vet,Ham,Bar – ?) following each other – nothing was hapening and they were showing them for too long to my tastes, especially when there are 17 other cars, c’mon!
    And where are all those improvements for TV viewers? They say a lot and do nothing.


  8. Trulli also lost an opportunity to win the race. Toyota has yet to learn that races are not won on pace alone but with strategy.
    On a circuit that is difficult to overtake on, it made no sense saving the best tyres for the last stint. Most teams would have tried to build an advantage then defend their position in the final few laps. Hope they get another opportunity

  9. Had Ferrari not taken 10 seconds to change Kimi’s set of tyres on his second stop he would have ended fifth.
    But it just seems too hard for the Scuderia today, if they don’t make it a Barcelona podium in two weeks they’ll most likely switch their focus to 2010 …ending Kimi’s contract too.

    What a shame.

    1. Kimi should go to Red Bull. He’d be much more in his place there. He always strikes me as the “extreme sports” kinda guy that Red Bull wants to project for their brand.

    2. no to mention the fact that he loves his peg!!! RED BULL mixed with VODKA certainly gives u wings!!!

  10. Brawn4Constructors
    26th April 2009, 18:16

    Lovely leg up for Brawn in Constructors.

    It’s Rubens that will make the difference as Webber and Glock will not be able to do their share for their team.

    Button and Barrichello for Brawn.

    The killer Bees!!

  11. People say that Vettel was held up by Hamilton, but was he really? Hamilton could quite comfortably follow Vettel after Vettel got in front during the pit stops (because Rosberg had held up Hamilton)

    I’d say Vettel got in front of hamilton and Trulli with a better strategy and by being marginally faster. There really wasn’t that much difference in pace. Not as much as you would expect anyway.

    BTW why did the reporters on the BBC claim that Raikkonen was napping when Glock passed him after coming out of the pits? Isn’t it pretty common that drivers on their out lap on cold tyres get passed by the drivers on warm tyres? We’ve seen this so often by now, they really should be used to that.

    I was actually amazed how quickly Raikkonen was on the pace again to retake Glock so quickly. The driver coming out of the pits loses quite a lot of ground in his first lap and usually even the second lap is half a second slower. Guess it takes some time to get the tyres up to speed.

    1. Vettel got stuck behind Trulli, who’s on medium tyres, between the first and second stops. So it’s hard to say whether he’d have been able to pull away from Hamilton or not, in clear air.

  12. Vettel made what he can make.All other cars surrounding him have double diffuser and/or Kers.Red Bull must supply double diffuser before Manoco .

  13. Laps 25 to 35 Trulli leading Vettel lapping in the 1:35.422 to 1:36.100 range. Laps 45 to 55 Vettel leading Trulli lapping in the 1:35.100 to 1:36.200 VIRTUALLY THE SAME !!!!!! In both instances the leading car was on the harder (“slower”) tyre holding up the other …… or you could say the softer (“faster”) tyre hasn’t ENOUGH adbantage to make a pass! Vettel couldn’t pass Trulli in the early stages and he couldn’t run away in the later stages. Vettel beat Trulli with a better placed pit stop, just like the old days!

  14. Its about time we stop saying that lewis has a slow car. The car is no longer slow, its top 4.

    I think one of the Toyota’s could have won the race if they had not tried an extremely random Tyre strategy.

    1. This track doesn’t require a lot of downforce though. So indeed here the standard diffuser cars were at less of an advantage.

      Besides, during Q2 qualifying both Alonso and Raikkonen were faster than Hamilton. Hamilton was only on P4 because he had a reasonably low fuel load and because Alonso screwed up his Q3 lap (while on the same fuel load).

      The McLaren is still pretty much off on pace from the front runners though. Easily 4 to 5 tenths off of the Red Bull.

    2. This track doesn’t require a lot of downforce though. So indeed here the standard diffuser cars were at less of an advantage.

      Besides, during Q2 qualifying both Alonso and Raikkonen were faster than Hamilton. Hamilton was only on P4 because he had a reasonably low fuel load and because Alonso screwed up his Q3 lap (while on the same fuel load).

      The McLaren is still pretty much off on pace from the front runners though. Easily 4 to 5 tenths off of the Red Bull.

    3. It’s a slow car with the best driver. Following the race on live timing Lewis consistently matched Vettel and the Toyotas in sectors 1 & 3 but was always 2 or 3 tenths down in sector 2. The faster corners.
      The McLaren seems therefore to have ok mechanical grip but is losing it on the downforce. Which we already know.
      Lewis impressed me yet again, allowing his skill to use that mechanical grip as much as possible – this time without destroying his tires as well using his KERS to keep that tiny advantage for S2. A WDC quality drive.
      On the other hand, Jenson, brilliant driver in a brilliant car. I so hope that they can carry this through for Jenson’s WDC!

  15. SuperVet2win
    26th April 2009, 20:33

    The driver I was most impressed by today was surprisingly Nelson Piquet Jnr. I’ve often questioned whether or not he is good enough for the job at Renault and the 22-0 (i think) from qualifying to Alonso would suggest otherwise, but I have to say that keeping the supremely quick Red Bull behind him, and finishing just 2 spots behind his teammate who is argueably the best F1 driver at the moment , was no mean feat. I really hope he builds on that

  16. Pete_Firestarter
    26th April 2009, 20:57

    This season is shapping up nicely. 4 dangeerous diffusers enroute to Barcelona – McLaren, Renault, Ferrari and Red Bull. Combine that with the powerful (but legal) Mclaren KERS and also Ferrari’s not forgeting Renaults. OMG!!

  17. Im not trying to be negative about the new regs but I thought there was supposed to be overtaking galore apart from the first handfull of laps the kers cars had a obvious advantage on the straight’s ala piquet holding off ruben’s kimi on glock but it did turn into a procession.They may be running visable closer on the track but not close enough to have ago or are they to scared to rub off those snow ploughs.Once these kers cars sort out the aero packages they will be untouchable.

  18. The Sri Lankan
    26th April 2009, 21:55

    the tyre stratergy cost Toyota Dearly. i think Bahrain was their last chance ever to win an f1 reace. i think they will be heading outta f1 without anything. especially that win.

  19. From a technical point of view this race was an interesting reflection of what the Trick Diffuser provides. Hamilton, with a standard diffuser, was losing 4-5 Tenths in the high speed sector 2 alone, but was able to qualify within a few tenths of the best cars and run with them in the race, at least on the good tires. The Red Bull was able to contend with the brawns and toyotas easily and could have won if not for aforementioned railway traffic. I conclude that the Brawns/Toyotas have no mechanical grip or chassis advantage at all and live by their diffuser. In terms of mechanical grip, clearly the McLaren was the class of the field, as Hamilton was consistentlu winning sector 1 with grossly subpar aerodynamics. I predict that after 2-3 European races, and certainly after Monaco, the Brawns are going to be getting smoked by the Newey cars with the McLarens and Ferraris right up their tailpipes.

  20. It was the Rubens show with Piquet and Webber as the support acts for my viewing attention. Great race too by Kimi with what he had available to him. But these Tilke tracks are shockers aren’t they? The relatively high amount of dirty air generated by the Renault surely means that it was one of their design priorities. I’m off to look to see some decent words from Briatore for Piquet.

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