Vettel holds off Raikkonen to win in Bahrain

By on Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sebastien Vettel takes his first win of the season

Sebastian Vettel has returned to the top step of the podium after winning a highly entertaining Bahrain Grand Prix, as the reigning world champion held off returning 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen who gained ten places. Reigning GP2 Series champion Romain Grosjean came home 3rd, achieving his first podium finish of his career.

At the start, Sebastian Vettel glided away at the front as Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg suffered a less than successful start dropping several places. Heikki Kovalainen also suffered a dreadful opening lap, after a competitive qualifying the previous day. The Finn suffered contact with Maldonado and picked up a puncture, dropping him to last place.

Lotus then started their race charge, as Raikkonen retook Felipe Massa on lap 5 for 7th, whereas Romain Grosjean passed Mark Webber for 3rd and then Lewis Hamilton for 2nd a lap later. Further back Raikkonen was muscling his way passed Jenson Button, before then attacking Fernando Alonso.

By lap 9, many drivers were pitting including Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa. A lap later Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton made their stops, with the McLaren driver suffering a torrid stop after an issue with the left-rear tyre. This demoted Hamilton further down the order, as the 2008 World Champion became locked in a serious battle with Nico Rosberg. The Mercedes driver defended his position hard, forcing Hamilton momentarily off the track, albeit eventually making the move stick. The stewards then announced they would investigate the issue between Rosberg and Hamilton, with the decision to be decided after the race.

Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean then pitted within the next few laps, handing the lead down to the Force India of Paul di Resta. With the Scot on a different strategy to the leaders, Vettel and Grosjean were forced to retake their respective positions from the Force India driver several laps later. Kimi Raikkonen then continued progressing up the order, passing Mark Webber for 5th as Lewis Hamilton fought with Alonso down in 8th.

After only a short stint, the second round of pit-stops began on lap 23, with Button, Rosberg and Massa all pitting on the same lap. Kimi Raikkonen, now in 3rd place was extremely close behind his team-mate Grosjean, with question marks being raised as to whether Lotus would use team orders to swap their drivers’ around. However, these team orders failed to materialized and Raikkonen eventually made the move on Grosjean on lap 24.

Lewis Hamilton suffered yet another disastrous pit-stop with a similar issue when he pitted for the second time. The left-rear once again was slow to change for McLaren, which resulted in yet a further loss of position for the British driver.

Nico Rosberg, already under investigation from the stewards after defending hard against Hamilton, raised further eyebrows as he defended hard yet again against the Ferrari of Alonso. Whilst behind these two Pastor Maldonado was tagged by Michael Schumacher and spun on the exit of turn 3. This resulted in Williams being forced to retire the Venezuelan.

With Kimi Raikkonen now quickly reeling in Sebastian Vettel, the 2007 World Champion had a slight lunge up the inside into turn 1 on lap 36. Unfortunately the Finn was unable to capitalize on his pace, and remained in 2nd position. Lewis Hamilton made his third and final stop a lap later, without any problems for the first time during the race.

Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel made their third and final stops on lap 40, with the two rejoining the track in unchanged positions after superb stops by both teams. With 17 laps remaining, all eyes were on the Finn who was unable to challenge Vettel for the win in the closing stages. Jenson Button suffered a miserable end to his race, initially pitting with only several laps remaining due to a puncture before retiring with a mechanical issue. The McLaren driver joined Charles Pic and both Williams’ as retirees from the race.

As the checkered flag fell, Sebastian Vettel crossed the line 3.3 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Grosjean came 3rd completing a double podium finish for Lotus. Whilst further back in the pack, Felipe Massa scored his first points of 2012 with a competitive 9th place after 57 laps.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS

Pos  Driver        Team                       Time
 1.  Vettel        Red Bull-Renault           1h35:10.990
 2.  Raikkonen     Lotus-Renault              +     3.300
 3.  Grosjean      Lotus-Renault              +    10.100
 4.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault           +    38.700
 5.  Rosberg       Mercedes                   +    55.400
 6.  Di Resta      Force India-Mercedes       +    57.500
 7.  Alonso        Ferrari                    +    57.800
 8.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes           +    58.900
 9.  Massa         Ferrari                    +  1:04.900
10.  Schumacher    Mercedes                   +  1:11.400
11.  Perez         Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:12.700
12.  Hulkenberg    Force India-Mercedes       +  1:16.500
13.  Vergne        Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +  1:30.300
14.  Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari             +  1:33.700
15.  Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +     1 lap
16.  Petrov        Caterham-Renault           +     1 lap
17.  Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault           +     1 lap
18.  Button        McLaren-Mercedes           +     1 lap
19.  Glock         Marussia-Cosworth          +    2 laps
20.  De la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth               +    2 laps
21.  Karthikeyan   HRT-Cosworth               +    2 laps
22.  Senna         Williams-Renault           +    3 laps

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