Vettel leads home Raikkonen to take first win of 2012

2012 Bahrain Grand Prix review

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Bahrain, 2012Sebastian Vettel claimed his first victory of 2012 in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

He came under brief pressure from Kimi Raikkonen in the middle part of the race, but eased ahead in the final stint to win by 3.3 seconds.

Romain Grosjean made it two Lotuses on the podium, taking third place.

Vettel pulls ahead

Vettel’s start looked much like one of his 2011 getaways – he pulled effortlessly clear of the pack on the first lap.

Behind him Hamilton and Webber held their positions at the start, but Grosjean made a superb getaway to take up fourth behind the Red Bull.

It quickly became clear the Lotuses had strong pace. Grosjean passed Webber for third place then caught and passed Hamilton for second. But he couldn’t make much impression on Vettel, who was already almost five seconds ahead.

Meanwhile Raikkonen, who had slipped behind Felipe Massa at the start, re-passed the Ferrari and started to make progress of his own. He took a second per lap off the other Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, and passed him easily in the DRS zone.

Early pit stops

Despite the cooler temperatures on race day, drivers found their tyres dropping off quickly. On lap eight Button radioed his pits and warned them his tyres had gone off – he came in at the end of the lap, accompanied by Massa and Rosberg.

Next time by the pits were packed with Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Perez, Senna, Schumacher and Hulkenberg all making stops. Hamilton fell behind many of them as he suffered the first of two slow pit stops due to a problem at the left-rear of the car.

He emerged behind Rosberg’s Mercedes and tried to go up the inside of him heading to turn four. Despite being squeezed off the track, Hamilton kept his foot in and took the place.

Meanwhile Vettel was in the happy position of being able to pit after most of his pursuers – with one exception. Paul di Resta stayed out and led a lap before Vettel took the lead back.

Grosjean also passed the Force India shortly before Di Resta headed for the pits. The gap between him and Vettel remained little changed after the first pit stops, Grosjean now 5.2s behind Vettel.

Raikkonen emerges from the midfield

But Raikkonen was coming on strong. On lap 13 he got down the inside of Mark Webber at turn 11 for third place.

He now set about reducing the gap to his team mate, who was 2.9s up the road. By lap 21 the gap was down to a second and Raikkonen prepared to attack his team mate using DRS.

Grosjean held on for a couple of laps while Raikkonen urged his team to take action, telling them “I have to get past”. By lap 24 he was through, Grosjean not fighting him for the place at turn one.

The next time by Vettel came into the pits. Grosjean came in on the same lap but Red Bull’s turnaround was quick enough to have Vettel on his way again before the Lotus had come to a stop.

Raikkonen began making inroads on Vettel’s lead after he pitted. Over the course of the third stint he edged a tenth here, a tenth there, and cut Vettel’s lead from 2.2s on lap 27 to just a few tenths by lap 34.

On the next two laps Raikkonen attacked the Red Bull driver using DRS, but couldn’t get by. At the second time of asking Vettel made a late move to cover the inside of turn one, obliging Raikkonen to switch to the outside, from where he couldn’t make a move stick.

That was the closest Raikkonen came to wresting the lead from Vettel. From then on he slipped back slowly.

Hamilton hits trouble again

Hamilton’s second pit stop went more or less as badly as his first and left him outside of the top ten for several laps.

Meanwhile Alonso was the latest driver to come up against Rosberg, who repeated his robust defensive move on the approach to turn four. A furious Alonso criticised Rosberg on the radio afterwards, and the stewards declared they would investigate Rosberg’s driving against Hamilton and Alonso after the race.

He wasn’t the only frustrated driver. Di Resta had criticised Pastor Maldonado’s defensive moves earlier on, before taking advantage of the scrap between the Williams driver and Sergio Perez to pass the pair of them at turn four.

As di Resta gambled on making two pit stops while others preferred three, he came under pressure from those who had just pitted. Webber passed him easily for fourth place.

Maldonado, however, picked up a puncture and suffered a violent spin at the exit of turn three. He later retired.

Vettel pulls clear to win

Vettel and Raikkonen came in together on lap 40 for their final pit stop. They left in the same order.

As they returned to the track Vettel reeled off a new fastest lap and began to edge away. Raikkonen, perhaps remembering the degradation that dropped him from second to 14th in China, saw the RB8 draw further ahead with each passing lap.

Raikkonen’s engineer told him Vettel would have worse tyre degradation but it didn’t come to pass. However, Red Bull were cutting it fine on fuel.

As Vettel crossed the line to win, he was instructed to pull over and stop immediately. He won by 3.3 seconds, Raikkonen followed home by team mate Grosjean.

In the points

Webber continued his run of finishing fourth in every race this year. Rosberg made a late pass on di Resta to claim fifth.

As di Resta coaxed his tyres to the end he came under pressure from Alonso – which he resisted. “The tyres were gone at the end” he told his team after finishing sixth.

He might have had a more difficult time had Jenson Button not hit trouble late in the race. He had to make a pit stop with a puncture and shortly afterwards an apparent engine problem forced his retirement.

That left Alonso seventh ahead of Hamilton, who was left to rue McLaren’s disastrous performance in the pits.

Massa picked up his first points of the season with ninth place, while Michael Schumacher took a single point for tenth.

Final finishers

Sauber failed to score points as Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi came home 11th and 13th – the latter abandoning his attempt to finish the race with two pit stops. Nico Hulkenberg finished between the pair.

Daniel Ricciardo plummeted down the order after starting sixth. He ended the first lap behind team mate Jean-Eric Vergne – who had lined up 17th – and concerned about front wing damage.

The Toro Rosso pair finished in that order, Vergne 14th ahead of Ricciardo.

Vitaly Petrov led home team mate Heikki Kovalainen who picked up a puncture on the first lap. Glock, de la Rosa and Karthikeyan were the remaining finishers, with Button and Senna classified despite having stopped.

A race to forget

The Bahrain Grand Prix is history for this year. The annals of motor racing will remember Sebastian Vettel as its winner.

But this weekend the sport was a sideshow. Formula 1 allowed those with a political agenda to exploit it, and brought shame on itself by holding this race.

2012 Bahrain Grand Prix


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127 comments on Vettel leads home Raikkonen to take first win of 2012

  1. When was the last time we had 4 different winners in the first four races? I sat this one out however, Sounds like a great race. Hats off to Keith for mixing in the politics and sport in a very sensibly balanced way. We all need to be reminded that however great this great race, it should not have happened. F1 has few morals left now.

  2. OOliver said on 22nd April 2012, 17:58

    Vettel might just win a third championship simply by participating.
    No doubt he has the skill, and the Redbulls have been the most consistent team by law of averages. Mclaren seem to be trying to take themselves out of contention with their rotating car strategy and pitstops that are making HRT look very professional.
    The Ferraris are not yet fast enough to be a threat.
    Lotus-black are finding their true form, and may become serious challengers for podiums in Barcelona.
    Mercedes are still the big unknown in the equation.

  3. JUGNU (@jugnu) said on 22nd April 2012, 18:03

    Consistent errors during pitstops and strategy by Mclaren are almost unacceptable considering they are such an experienced team. They are making these errors for 2 years in a row now, last year as well Redbull was much stronger in strategies and pitstops.
    The pit stop errors cannot continue especially when you are consistently doing 3 pitstops and the field is so close together. Every second lost or gained in pits will play a bigger role than ever in the outcome of the race. Also i think Mclaren are quick in qualifying but not the quickest in race trim. At best they are second quickest in race trim. Today they let down Lewis a lot and also JB was unfortunate.

    • Libellula (@ladyf1fanatic) said on 22nd April 2012, 19:11

      Problem is everyone now has acknowledged Lewis is being letting down in every race, bad strategy, awful pit-stop, they never gave him some help this season to gain position, avoid back-markers or pull a decent lead…like he’s getting the second driver service and always released in the traffic just to eat his tires after. I’m waiting for the press and people to start a serious talk about McLaren’s issues this year, i don’t understand how a team principal has the balls to defend the pit crew in these conditions. Both drivers have been perfect minus Jenson in Malaysia, since Australia things are only going backwards…Hope for a change , I’m so fed up!

      • dirgegirl (@dirgegirl) said on 22nd April 2012, 19:47

        @ladyf1fanatic – Everyone has not now acknowledged that Lewis is being let down in every race – speak for yourself! You make it sound like McLaren are doing it all deliberately to hurt Hamilton’s chances, which is patent nonsense. And what’s this about “second driver service”? Didn’t Button have a poor pitstop last week?

        I thought Martin Whitmarsh dealt with questions about the pitstop blunders very well. What’s he meant to do – point the finger of blame at someone who’s probably beating himself up already? Blamestorming in public doesn’t take “balls”. It’s a sign of poor management.

        If anything your earlier comment about Sam Michael’s responsibility as head of trackside operations is more on the mark. If he was brought in to improve McLaren’s fortunes in this department, he doesn’t seem to be succeeding so far. I didn’t see him achieve much at Williams either. But that might have been budget related rather than his personal failings. Wait and see, I guess – it’s early in the season.

  4. spacák (@spacak) said on 22nd April 2012, 18:11

    I wonder what they will do with those repeated Rosberg’s blocks. They were almost worse than that of Schumi on Barrichello in Hungary.

  5. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 22nd April 2012, 18:17

    Strange that nothing has been heard from the stewards yet. With the Rosberg-Hamilton incident, my first reaction was: Ok, that’s the end of Hamilton’s race. The way I saw it, Rosberg was almost at the edge of the track already when Hamilton (no doubt with pent-up frustration of struggling for pace and having been stationary for 10 seconds too long in the pits) appeared from underneath his rear wing.

    The Rosberg-Alonso might prove to be a blessing for Hamilton, because it doesn’t put Rosberg in a good light (and Alonso already had a wheel alongside Rosberg when Rosberg kept moving right).

    I missed the post-race discussions on Sky, and haven’t seen many reports on Autosport yet. Have Hamilton, Button, Webber, etc. made any noteworthy comments?

    • timi (@timi) said on 22nd April 2012, 18:19

      According to Lee Mckenzie on her twitter, and the BBC website there will be no penalties for the incidents regarding Rosberg, Alonso and Hamilton

    • timi (@timi) said on 22nd April 2012, 18:20

      oh, and check out GP Update. they’re usually the quickest with driver quotes.

      • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 22nd April 2012, 19:25

        @timi thanks for the tip, they did have some more driver quotes. As it turned out, Schumacher did have something interesting to say:

        I just question whether the tyres should play such a big importance, or whether they should last a bit longer – and that you can drive at normal racing car speed and not cruise around like we have a safety car.

        Wow. On the one hand, I agree with him; on the other hand, I have to acknowledge that the Pirelli tyres have significantly spiced up the racing.

        • timi (@timi) said on 22nd April 2012, 21:59

          no worries @adrianmorse

          Yeah I read that as well, very interesting stuff there. I strongly agree with him. In my opinion there are 3 (maybe 4) key elements to exciting racing with overtakes;
          the track
          the regulations regarding car aerodynamics
          the tyres
          (and possibly engines, but there’s no way a limit on hp will be lifted especially with the 4cylinder turbos coming in)

          In my view the pirellis are just a tad extreme, add 5 or 6 laps to each compound, else every race will just be a standard 3 stopper. It’s pretty clear now that only a fool would do a 2 stopper, the tyres have gone off at the end of all 4 races now! It’s sort of like watching an adult take candy from a baby,- note Raikonnen at the end of the Chinese GP. Sure, there are increased overtakes but they’re pretty boring, with little defending. Same with DRS. The fundamentals of today’s age of F1 are flawed with regards to excitement and overtaking.

          So many tracks are just plain bad for a race to be held on, such as Bahrain. Change the tracks, simple. Monza always produces great races, as does silverstone. Tilke shouldn’t have a monopoly over the tracks being designed and used in F1.
          The other solution,- change the aero rules. I personally suggest any set of aero rules from 2000-2008. Obviously with tweaks to allow for the new longer chassis due to no refuelling. The problem with the current regs is the turbulent air left in the wake of a car, thus the following car has to be either very grippy or just substantially faster to get close enough to pass. That way we can eliminate DRS as well.

          So basically, my plan is to re-write the regs, get rid of tracks such as both Spanish GPs, Bahrain, Monaco, maybe Singapore. Add 5 or 6 laps to each tyre, and then boom get rid of DRS.

          Sorry for the rant haha!!

  6. jpowell (@jpowell) said on 22nd April 2012, 18:32

    So fantastic result….., at last MSC. gives us his TRUE.opinion on F1. Some of you may say sour grapes, and I have no doubt your opinion will concern the 7 times world champion.

    • Interesting to see Alonso’s comments now. If Ferrari don’t get quick enough with the updates, I reckon Alonso will get reckless and put in moves since he has got absolutely nothing to lose.

      I hope he does it, for he has been at the wrong end of stewards decision for many times now. We have to see how consistent the stewards are then.

  7. dcjohnson (@dcjohnson) said on 22nd April 2012, 18:54

    Damned if do, damned if you don’t…Rosberg’s defending was very harsh today, but maybe he has been passed to easily in the past…Luckily there was plenty of run off….!! I agree with MSC, the tyres are turning the drivers into tyre management pilots…personally I want to see the best drivers making a difference…at the moment its a tyre lottery…with “Drivin Miss Daisy” skills on show…sure tyre management is a skill, but forcing drivers to drive smooth and slow, afraid to overtake from fear of ruining tyre, is not what its all about… we now have fake tyre overtakes that are worse than DRS overtakes !!!

  8. BasCB (@bascb) said on 22nd April 2012, 19:18

    I must say, it seems it was quite a good race from what I see here in the report.

    For me, I take that last lines from Keith as the most important ones in this instance, after having been avoiding any news on the race or footage from it (i.e. boycotting the coverage).

  9. katederby said on 22nd April 2012, 19:45

    I said before the race that knowing Ricciardo’s luck he’d finish behind JEV.
    Shame for Pic to have an engine failure when he was leading the “new car race” at one point.
    Webber held position at the start and that was without KERS which only came back “a little bit” after the first few laps, when Webber lost out to the 2 Lotius’.
    Seriously, RBR you need to sort this out.

  10. Shimks (@shimks) said on 22nd April 2012, 20:05

    A couple of you have mentioned tyres in the comments and Schumi made the post-race comment that there’s far too much tyre management necessary. I totally agree. I was watching RAI behind VET on about lap 49 and I was thinking to myself: “This guy’s not pushing. He’s waiting and hoping VET’s tyres go”. Because if Rai had had a go too early, he’d have squandered his rubber and had no chance at all.

    This is really ridiculous. It’s not proper racing.

    However … great race!

    I can complain about the tyres. I can complain about DRS. I can complain about the technical rules hindering any great advancement by one single team. But look at how close the field is this year. It’s great fun!! So you see, I’m completely on the fence at the moment.

    • DMC (@dmc) said on 22nd April 2012, 21:39

      When schumacher says “Its like racing behind the saftey car” you know something is wrong. Personally i feel f1 is becoming a fake formula full of boost buttons and fragile tyres that neuter the real racers.

      • JUGNU (@jugnu) said on 23rd April 2012, 5:59

        Schumacher is right. The tyres are now getting frustrating. All the drivers and teams are only talking about tyres and the races are all about tyres. While watching races you always think about tyres that ‘he is got newer tyres, the other guy cannot defend, he saved a new set yesterday….blah blah’.

        I think this should change, F1 has become 85-90% about tyres and i think this should be reduced to 50%. Now i think with DRS, F1 can go back to Bridgestone like durable tyres. DRS+Bridgestone tyres will still produce exiting races with plenty of overtakes because drivers will be pushing to the limit and then we will see overtakes and mistakes from them. Now drivers are not pushing 100% of their’s and car’s capabilities just to prolong the life of tyres.

        FIA please do something, ask Pirelli to make better and durable tyres and with DRS there are still going to be plenty of overtakes so no worries about the ‘show’. We are missing on the limit racing and on the limit racers like Hamilton, Schumacher, Kobyashi…etc becuase of these tyres.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd April 2012, 23:20

      @shimks

      This is really ridiculous. It’s not proper racing.

      However … great race!

      That’s quite a contradiction! Are you feeling a bit conflicted about this?

      • Shimks (@shimks) said on 23rd April 2012, 8:50

        I am indeed in conflict, Keith! It’s confusing because the last couple of F1 years have been the most exciting for a long time. No more leading car far far ahead of everyone else, which was incredibly boring.

        And Michael Schumacher is 37 seconds ahead, so he can refuel the car, change all four wheels, take off his helmet, have a smoke and a cup of tea, and rejoin in first.

        Murray Walker

        Less Trulli trains because faster cars can negate all that bad air flow from following an F1 car by using DRS and KERS. And equally fuelled calls which has made a big positive difference too, I think.

        So the spectacle has improved and I am definitely enjoying the racing now more than a few years ago. Even with a dominant Vettel in 2010/11, it was still a great couple of years of racing. Which is remarkable, really.

        The problem is that lying just below that renewed enjoyment is the knowledge that there is now a sense of artificiality and manipulation for the benefit of the spectacle. The main culprits are DRS, tyre degradation and homologous car designs as a result of the tight technical rules. Pure racing at the top level is suffering in two major areas:

        For one, F1 is no longer about design innovation pushed to the limits – at this rate, we’ll never again be surprised by a 6 wheel Tyrrell P34 or a turbo Renault RS01. We do still see some surprises, though, like the Brawn double-diffuser. But this is more about designers picking through the technical restrictions to find a beneficial loophole rather than pure blank-piece-of-paper innovative design.

        The second and even worse problem is that you can really feel that drivers are no longer pushing to the limit. What was the point of returning to slicks? Just because they look nice and make us all feel warm and gooey about by-gone eras? Slicks are supposed to allow racers to drive faster, harder, tackle corners and overtaking with greater confidence. Instead, it’s all about tyre management. If you don’t look after your tyres, you’re screwed: look at Raikkonen in China – from 2nd to 14th in one or two laps.

        But this is not the only reason drivers aren’t pushing to the limits. The new points system was chosen to encourage drivers to fight for the win at the closing stages of the race but I don’t see this often happening – at least not to a do-or-die level. There is now a policy of bagging the points from 2nd or 3rd place and not taking too many risks. “It’s a long season” we hear again and again. Where have the days gone when nothing mattered except the win? I miss them.

        There is the lack of pure speed nowadays too. For safety reasons, there are limits to how fast an F1 car can be designed. You can really feel this. Everything has slowed down. When I watch old footage on youtube of classic F1 scraps such as Gilles Villeneuve vs. Didier Pironi at San Marino in 1982, you really can feel a difference of speed between then and now. And what the hell is going to happen to F1 racing when we switch to V6 engines in 2014?

        Saying all this – and going back your original question, Keith – if the FIA listened to me and reverted the rules back so that I was watching a procession of cars following each other for 50+ laps with almost no overtaking and the leading car a minute ahead of the rest of the field, I think I’d be damn sorry I’d opened my big pie hole.

        It really is a tough one!

  11. nivek252 (@nivek252) said on 22nd April 2012, 21:25

    Does anyone know what was Alonso’s reason for swerving towards the pits and serving back onto the track during the race today?

  12. AlexNK said on 22nd April 2012, 21:35

    Re Michael’s comment on the tyres, obviously there’s some frustration from poor results so far, but certainly rubber is getting so much attention doesn’t feel quite right. Tyre management has always been a necessary skill, even with bulletproof Bridgestones there were problems with graining etc., but this year it’s much more than that. This year’s Pirellis are not only wearing fast, they are also quite unpredictable because of their extremely narrow performance range. I mean, drivers & teams are working two days to find the best setups, and on Sunday all this work goes to the dogs just because the temperature has dropped a couple of degrees. If you add the parc ferme conditions and the lack of morning warmup to correct setups, this turns into a complete game of chance – which may be fun to watch, but obviously far less fun to participate in. Yes, today Lotuses looked the fastest cars on the track, but it is quite obvious that the team itself does not really know why and what to do to get the same speed next time. Same thing with McLaren, they definitely had the first-row capable car on Saturday and yet finished a minute behind the leader on Sunday.

    At the moment the sporting aspect of racing is affected too strongly by chance. It’s out of balance and should be corrected by Pirellis bringing somewhat more predictable tyres.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 22nd April 2012, 23:21

      Here, here, I like the variety of cars on the podium but do not want to watch a game of chance, I want to see a display of skill and engineering excellence. My main criticism of Indy-cars is the that winning is a lottery created by the constant full course yellows, this necessitated by the one design car, hopefully their new regulations will improve the racing and encourage further loosening of the design restrictions.We need an alternative to keep F1 honest.

  13. HoHum (@hohum) said on 22nd April 2012, 23:41

    MEA CULPA : I was so wrong when I said Mclaren had the faster car, Hamilton qualified only a tenth slower than Vettel , a tenth faster than Webber and had a 10kph top speed advantage, what went wrong in the first few laps?
    How did Vettel manage to get so far ahead that Hamilton could not use his top speed advantage in the first DRS zone?
    Pit stops and tyre wear aside why wasn’t Hamilton leading at some stage in the first stint?
    The Loti made the lower downforce higher top speed strategy work, why couldn’t Mclaren?
    Finally congratulations to the RedBullRacing team, Seb ( and his fans ) and Mark ( decent start, decent finish ).

  14. me262 said on 23rd April 2012, 1:05

    were blown diffusers allowed for this race?

    • Alex said on 23rd April 2012, 6:09

      Thought crossed my mind :) Red Bull and Lotus were so much more solid entering and exiting corners.

      Also noticed Kimi had different end bodywork (between exhaust pipes at the end), wonder if it’s because he was running different floor.

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