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. Anti-RBR (@matt2208) said on 23rd April 2012, 1:52

    Mclaren will NOT win a championship with Jenson.
    Mclaren can keep trying to get jenson ahead.
    Lewis is the better driver it aint gunna happen mr Whitmarsh.
    Its funny Everytime lewis is infront of Jenson something goes wrong with lewis. it’s not just this year its the past 3 years. They keep making mistakes because they’ve gotta get jenson out ahead of lewis.

  2. Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 23rd April 2012, 2:14

    Doesn’t the pic of Vettle look like someone has just pulled his finger?

  3. JohnBt said on 23rd April 2012, 2:24

    Fantastic season, four different winners from 4 races. This will be a great season, I suspect it will be better than 2010. Coverage of the race was well done by masking the empty grandstands helped a lot. I sought of forgot about the protests and threats. And watching Kimi gaining positions to 2nd was the best part.

  4. toddjamin (@toddjamin) said on 23rd April 2012, 3:59

    I have steered clear of all f1 coverage this week as a personal boycott. interesting result, just still think it shouldnt have h
    appened at all

  5. EricInUSA (@ericinusa) said on 23rd April 2012, 4:53

    I have to say, it was a fun race to watch – and a competitive season so far, but kind of scripted by the powers that be. In addition to the millimeter precise regulations, I’m not sure I’m fond of Pirelli having such a big say in the outcome of the race. It seems like the same tires at each race are different from the race before. Pretty much a crap-shoot. I know that race conditions are different, but look how the top 10 has tip-toed through Q3 to preserve their rubber so far. At home with 3 announcers filling my ear with the minute details of why, I understand. If I was sitting in my $350+ seat in the stands I’d probably be muttering “what the ****” – why didn’t xyz take to the track?

    Since following F1 since 1975-ish, I guess I’d just like to see the boys drive balls-out using each of their unique skills and not have to worry about nursing their tires or some other arcane stragegy because of some artificially injected rules. I know I’ve contradicted myself a little here – and this has been covered before, but wouldn’t it be great if Seb, Kimi, Lewis, Jensen, Roman, Fernando, et al. could just drive the crap out of each lap instead of worrying about that their tires will drop off in a few more laps?

    Maybe my first sentence said it all. “it was fun to watch” and that’s where the money is.
    Just my 2 cents…

    • Nara (@narazdache) said on 23rd April 2012, 9:07

      I do understand you point. But I think many people missing following thing:

      If we allow drivers to be on the limit with regards to tyres all the time. This makes aerodynamics extremely important, this will automatically be a step backwards and suddenly drivers wont be able to closely follow cars in front. Thats scenario from 10 years ago, when most overtaking happens in pits.
      As you noticed cars for some reason can follow very close behind this year, and maybe that is one of the things drivers need to think about. It’s very complicated. Tyres that are more stable and durable wont change a thing.

      I think Heikki Kovolainen said it best, they should race these cars without front and rear wings :)

  6. Rahim.RG (@rahim-rg) said on 23rd April 2012, 6:25

    Spain is gonna be awesome….Lotus is very good..

  7. BaKano (@bakano) said on 23rd April 2012, 10:01

    I have to admit I am amazed to see so many bad comments on Pirelli. Some time ago people were praising the tires for allowing proper racing and overtaking and now Schumacher complains and “everyone” agrees its bad?
    It may be that people need to carefully manage the tires, but still everyone is on the same page, except the teams that cannot manage the tires well, but that’s a problem with car and set-up not the tires!
    Probably it’s the human nature, that we need to complain about something because something is always wrong!

    About the race, I think Kimi lost it mainly to the times spent on the pit-stops. Lotus is slower than the top teams more than 1s in average, and this prevented Kimi to really be closer to Vettel. Even if he had passed on the 3rd stint, I think he would have dropped back around 2s after the last stop. That would mean a smaller gap to narrow done in the end but Vettel had new tires and was fast in the last stint.
    If Lotus can qualify better and keep the race pace, they will be hard to beat in Spain as they were clearly the strongest team in terms of race pace.
    And this brings me to McLaren. No doubt Lewis lost a huge amount of time due to the pit errors, but still McLaren’s race pace is disappointing considering they had the fastest car at season start. And again Lewis seems not to have a good race pace. He lost a lot of time to Vettel and was clearly slower than Grosjean even before the pit error, so I don’t think he would ever be a podium contender. I don’t think he could have kept Webber behind even if everything ran smoothly in the pit-stops.

    • Nara (@narazdache) said on 23rd April 2012, 11:30

      Good summary.

      I also think that Kimi would have much easier time getting and staying in front. If Lotus stuck with their original strategy being putting Kimi on softs on their second pit stop. That would have allowed Kimi being in clear air to catch up Grosjean and then unleash his controlled anger on Vettel, instead they changed their mind and wasted soft tyres to gain 5seconds.

    • DaveW (@dmw) said on 23rd April 2012, 18:05

      Good summary but there is the thing about the Raikkonen and Hamilton races, contingencies have intervened to mask true pace and performance thus far this year. I think we don’t know much at all to this point. In Bahrain, Vettel and RBR were supreme, but they were nearly run down by a man starting 11th, in a Lotus, which finished 14th last time on pace. If you look at where they were respectively on lap 2, you have to conclude that the Lotus, in the race, was by far the superior car/driver on the day. Where did that come from? In any case, the tire issues prevented Lotus and RBR from lining up for a straigth fight on Sunday to let us know. If Kimi had started on the front row, maybe he buries the field as Rosberg did last week. And lets look at the man last seen dropping 20s on the field—where was he? way off the podium, swerving around the track trying in vain to keep people behind. And this after he swore to the press that his lack of Q3 speed was down to a “race” set up. As for Hamilton, we are left with another enigma. He had no major pace but would have have finised behind Webber, Rosberg, a FI and a Ferrari? He lost about 15s straight up in the pits. Then he lost more battling Rosberg and Massa and others as a result of his poor stops. Give him 20-25s back, he comes out of this looking as good as Webber or better, in the “control” RBR, so to speak. If we go back to China, where did the Mercedes pace come from? We don’t know how it measured up to McLaren because the quicker of them started in 7th and nonetheless finished 3rd after epic battles for that position. In China, in the dry, the Sauber and Ferrari were likely the class of the field. Where were they Sunday?

      This season remains a complete enigma. The best we can say is that the null of McLaren performance advantage has been falsified. However, the Sauber and Mercedes threats have not been confirmed and possibly debunked. RBR appears to have come to the fore but the Lotus performance suggests that Vettel really profited from Kimi starting so far back, and from clear air to run a managed pace. Next race no one could really be shocked to see Force India or Ferrari beat down the field by 20 seconds.

      This would all be really exciting, but for the nagging feeling that, as MSC suggests, we are really seeing the result, not of tire wear, but of tire uncertainty. It is as if every driver leaves the grid not knowing how much fuel he has on board. You can’t “manage” uncertainty, only risk. The uncertainty looks exciting, bue at some point you wonder if you just watching a kind of lottery.

  8. Ash (@zodman) said on 23rd April 2012, 10:33

    It’s about time people started to complain about the gimmicks in f1, it’s not pirelli’s fault they have built a tyre to the specification that was required by the FIA, but the are degrading far to fast most drivers were suffering after lap 8 yesterday, and they are having to conserve their tyres from the start of all their stints. HELLO this is supposed to be F1 motor racing the pinnacle of the sport but instead we are subjected to watch all the drivers being careful, in the Bridgestone days at least the drivers were going around flat out. Instead we have 22 tyre managers and the person who gets out in the front first will more than likely win as any following cars can’t follow them for too long as their tyres will become useless as the dirty air lowers the grip levels and cause the tyres to wear out faster(as per Kimi vs Vettel)I could not imagine NASCAR telling their drivers to take it easy on their tyres as they want them to last 10 laps the Americans would spit their corn dogs out in disgust. While the Pirelli tyres were a good change last season the introduction of the false overtaking system and the equalisation of the regulations have negated the need for silly clown car tyres. So can Pirelli please build some decent tyres which are going to make F1 the pinnacle of Motorsport?

    • Aled Davies (@aledinho) said on 23rd April 2012, 11:28

      @zodman I think its a difficult balancing act. The tires have definitely been the biggest reason for the increase in overtaking the last 2 years. The problem is it seems to be a bit of a lottery to me. Jenson “The Tyre Saver” Button was complaining after only 8 laps yesterday which speaks volumes. There seems to be an extremely narrow operating window for the tires, Lotus hit the sweet spot yesterday and they could have won the race even though Kimi started 11th. In china, it was Rosberg who got the tires hooked up perfectly. It just seems to me that any of the top 6 teams could win a race if they get the tires within that window which to me isn’t what f1 is about. There is an element of endurance to F1 but I just think its been taken a little too far with these Pirelli’s. If I wanted to see a load of people driving cars well within its limit on a Sunday id park up next to a dual carriage way and watch that. I want to see drivers pushing their machinery and themselves to the limit not at 85% because the tires cant take any more than that.,

      There is the benefit now that there is more overtaking and it’s easy to forget how boring the races could be a few years back (2010 in my opinion was a complete snore fest) but there also needs to be some balance because F1 is supposed to be the Pinnacle of Motorsport, the best team/car/combination on the day coming out on top, and yes on occasion that will bore some people because there will be the same winner, but F1 is a sport not a soap opera and on occasion someone will do a better job consistently (Vettel in 2011, Schumacher 2002/2004) Its the same in other sports, Football is dominated by the same clubs all the time that’s what sports all about, the pursuit of excellence.

      To me, the balance of performance has switched too far from driver/car to tires now, I dont think Lotus know what they did yesterday to get them working so well, it just seems to be a complete lottery.

      The ironic thing is I’ve enjoyed all the races this year, but it isn’t what made me fall in love with the sport in the 1st place.

      Just my 2 cents.

  9. Neel Jani (@neelv27) said on 23rd April 2012, 11:22

    I know it is early to comment on this but I haven’t seen anything different from the current STR drivers than what I saw from it’s drivers in 2011.

    • BaKano (@bakano) said on 23rd April 2012, 14:10

      Yeap. If it keeps going this way, they are going out at the end of the season.
      Maybe Helmut Marko and Red Bull can decide to stage a kind of Reality TV show: “The Toro Rosso Survivor” where 2 young drivers have to endure difficult chalenges in order to survive and continue driving for the team another week…

  10. DaveW (@dmw) said on 23rd April 2012, 18:22

    I think Keith’s choice of picture is a bit cruel. Let’s be honest, he looks like a doofus there, or my toddler after a vigorous self-examination of her nose. There are more flattering images, even those including the cocked finger. I have a fear that kids in kart leagues around the world are at this moment brandishing a Vettelfinger for their parents’ post race snapshots, which will soon flood Flickr as some kind of terrible meme.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd April 2012, 20:34

      I honestly don’t share that view – if I thought it made him look stupid I wouldn’t have used it, at least not for an article like this. The Caption Competition, on the other hand…

  11. katederby said on 23rd April 2012, 19:20

    How did the floor of Webber’s RB8 get damaged “during the race” as has been stated in Autosport? I didn’t see him have any contact or incident not since the Chinese Wheelie… which can’t be the cause because surely that would have been noticed beforehand.

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