Hannah Taylor, F1 correspondent
After maintaining the lead from the start of the FIA Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix as polesitter, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was still ahead when he took the chequered flag as the winner at the end of the race. In doing so, the German has picked up his first victory in the 2012 season, and had not won a race up until today since the Indian Grand Prix last year.
"It was an incredible race, extremely tough. A good start was crucial and I was able to pull away from the pack. Kimi was very quick and so was Grosjean. But everything seemed to work well today; strategy was good and I can only say a big thank you to the whole team and the guys in the garage," Vettel said.
Despite coming under pressure from Lotus Renault’s Kimi Raikkonen in the latter stages of the Grand Prix, Vettel managed to fight off any threat to his first place from the “Iceman”. Consequently, Raikkonen had to settle for a second place finish in the end.
The Lotus Renault team had double success following the conclusion of the race, as both cars delivered a strong performance over the 57 lap marathon. However, Raikkonen had the upper hand over team mate Romain Grosjean, who took the final step on the podium to secure third place.
While Vettel appeared to be the centre of attention at the front of the field, his Australian team mate Mark Webber seemed to get through the race in the background. Other than initially battling for and losing track position to Grosjean as the race began, Webber seemed to get on with the race under his own steam and quietly complete lap after lap. Although he missed out on a podium finish Webber did enough to finish in fourth place. As a result of this, Webber has picked up this fourth place result for the fourth consecutive race so far this season.
As the race proceedings got underway for Mercedes’ driver Nico Rosberg, he suffered a similar fate to Webber and dropped down the field at the start. On the other hand, the German’s race appeared to go from bad to worse a few laps later after an incident with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. It appeared that the pair got a little too close for comfort, and Rosberg seemed to nearly nudge Hamilton off the track. Inevitably the incident caught the attention of the stewards and on lap 20 it was reported that they would look into it after the race. It has not yet been reported what their decision and course of action will be with the incident. The misfortune appeared to continue for Rosberg as a similar incident occurred between him and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso on lap 25. Just three laps later and Rosberg’s name cropped up with the stewards again. It was then reported that this incident would also be investigated after the race. Rosberg appeared to recover from these problems and in the closing stages of the race scrapped with Force India’s Paul Di Resta for position. Rosberg was running on fresher tyres and managed to pass the Scotsman. However, Di Resta did attempt to fight back but did not have enough momentum to do so. Nevertheless, Rosberg still finished ahead of Di Resta and took fifth place, despite reportedly nursing a broken exhaust which led him to abandon his car after passing the chequered flag.
Meanwhile, Di Resta appeared to be racing in unfamiliar territory, as he showed impressive form throughout the Grand Prix. With this in mind, the 26 year old did actually get to lead the proceedings on lap 12, until Vettel emerged from his pit stop to resume his lead in first place. However, Di Resta remained in one of the front runner positions and after a healthy scrap with Rosberg, completed the race after stopping just twice for a tyre change and ended up in sixth place overall.
While some of the midfield drivers led the field to have a shakeup in terms of track positions, Alonso was one of the usual front runners that had to settle for running a little further down the field. As a result of this, the Spaniard appeared to keep out of trouble with the exception of two incidents. The first incident was with Nico Rosberg who was seen to have nudged Alonso off the track. The second occurrence also led to an investigation by the stewards as with the first. It was reported on lap 39 that the former and double World Champion would be investigated due to an unsafe release in the pits. However, it has not yet been announced whether he and the Ferrari team will have to face the consequences of this incident. At the time that the problem occurred Sauber’s Sergio Perez and Schumacher were also in the mix and about to leave the pits. Despite these two issues during the race Alonso failed to let it ruin the remaining laps that he had left, and he went on to pick up a seventh place finish in the end.
Prior to the incident with Rosberg which led to an investigation by the stewards, Hamilton also suffered problems off the track during a pit stop. It appeared that there was a problem in fitting a wheel nut to the left rear wheel on his car. Consequently, this caused a delay in the 2008 World Champion getting back on track. Once there, and following the altercation with Rosberg Hamilton raced on and crossed the finish line to take eighth place.
As it seemed that Alonso took centre stage with the incidents that ended up being involved in, his Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa looked to take a back seat from the action. Nevertheless, he still drove a solid race and picked up some points from his ninth place finish.
As well as dropping out of Q3 yesterday was not enough disappointment, Mercedes’ driver Michael Schumacher faced other problems that hampered his race weekend. The German then faced a five place grid penalty following a gearbox change. Once Schumacher’s race got underway he appeared to come to life and made his way from the back towards the front of the field. Other than being caught up in Alonso’s pit lane palaver, Schumacher appeared to have a fairly hassle free race. The seven time World Champion was then rewarded by McLaren driver, Jenson Button’s unfortunate experience on lap 55. Consequently, Schumacher then went on to take 10th place in the end, and Button dropped down the field to finish in 18th place as a result of suspected engine problems.
As with Schumacher, the only excitement that appeared for Perez’s race was the altercation in the pits during Alonso’s release from his pit box. Otherwise, Perez just continued with business as usual through some midfield scraps for position. The Mexican driver finished just behind Schumacher to secure 11th place for himself.
While Di Resta appeared in the limelight his German team mate Nico Hulkenberg seemed to fade into the background. As a result of this, Hulkenberg shared a similar experience to those who were also running in a similar place to him, which left some drivers team mates towards the front of the field and others further back. Nevertheless, Hulkenberg went on to finish the race behind Perez in 12th place.
On the other hand, Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi was fortunate enough to experience some midfield action and front runner performances as well. The Japanese driver had the best of both worlds when he set the fastest lap at one stage, but towards the end of the race lost two places. After making his way to lap 52 from just two pit stop visits for a tyre change, Kobayashi sadly could not last until the end. Inevitably, he was forced to make the necessary pit stop and he ended up finishing in 13th place as a result.
Toro Rosso’s Jean- Eric Verge was another driver among those who appeared to keep out of the way in the race. However, as the proceedings got underway the Frenchman appeared to come alive. He scrapped for position with his Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo. Vergne seemed to have the upper hand and got to pass his team mate. However, Ricciardo who qualified into the top 10 yesterday, had a miserable race day and had to pit for a new front wing on lap eight. It was reported that his car had suffered some damage at the start of the race. Ricciardo’s race did not improve and he also finished behind his team mate to take 15th place.
Where the drivers at the back of the field were concerned, Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov pipped his Finnish team mate, Heikki Kovalainen to 16th place in the end. While Kovalainen suffered defeat at the end of his race, the start led him to visit the pits for a tyre change after losing one along the way.
Meanwhile, Marussia’s Timo Glock was the only one of the two to cross the finish line. The German picked up 19th place overall. In doing so, Glock pipped Hispania Racing’s Pedro de la Rosa who came next to take 20th position. The Spaniard managed to get ahead of his Indian team mate, Narain Karthikeyan in the process who had to settle for 21st place at the conclusion of the race.
On the other hand, there was the unexpected appearance of Williams’ driver Bruno Senna at the back of the field as well. The Brazilian driver spent a bit of time fighting to stay on the track, and had to make a late pit stop as the race was coming to a close. As a result of this, Senna was the 22nd and final driver to finish the Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, there was disappointment for Senna’s Venezuelan team mate, Pastor Maldonado, who had the five place grid penalty to start the race following the gearbox change. On lap 26 of the race Maldonado then spun on the track and suffered rear wheel damage. This soon led him to visit the pits and it was confirmed on lap 38, that the tyre puncture occurred before the spin which then saw him swiftly retire from the race.
The second Marussia car driven by Charles Pic also failed to finish the race. The Frenchman appeared to be going nowhere fast as he stopped on the track on lap 23. Inevitably, this spelt the end to his participation in the rest of the racing action.
Following the successful hosting of the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix, which delivered some very exciting action on the track in terms of overtaking manoeuvres, pit stop palavers and incidents for the stewards to get their teeth into. The Formula One fraternity now has around three weeks to recover from this unsettling but rewarding weekend. The next challenge that the drivers and teams face will be when they return to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix. As a result of the mix up in the grid from qualifying and the race results so far this season, it is certain that the next venue will not disappoint and is sure to deliver some nail biting action on the track.