Bahrain Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Fans could be forgiven today for thinking they were watching a re-run of last season’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel claimed his second consecutive victory at the circuit, while Raikkonen and Grosjean followed the German home to make it an identical podium to the one just twelve months ago. A case of Deja Vu for all involved. Vettel was unbeatable this afternoon, after making some spectacular maneuvers early on too secure his place at the head of the field. Who says Sebastian cannot race?

Vettel has significantly extended his current stranglehold on the Drivers Championship after becoming the first driver this season to win two races. This victory, was attained with relative ease; stark contrast to the events of Malaysia last month. After initially falling to third, Vettel immediately scythed his way back past Fernando Alonso heading into the high speed apex of turn five. Just a few laps later, he performed a similar overtake on a struggling Nico Rosberg to take a lead, which he was never to concede.
Red Bull had impressive race pace and were able to maintain tyre performance well throughout the race. While teams around them were forced into three and four stop strategies, Vettel managed to stick to a predicted two stop strategy, after a composed middle stint on the hard tyres gave him a mammoth advantage over the opposition. “It was a beautiful race where we could push on every lap,” enthused Vettel. “The pace was phenomenal, the car was very quick, it just seemed to get better and better towards the end.” It was certainly an ominous performance from the team, who will hope to take the momentum into the fast approaching European season. 
The German also analysed his early overtakes, which were completed in sublime fashion. He stated, “It was obviously very tight into the first corner with Fernando on the outside. I had to give way – I wanted to line it up to get Nico probably on the next straight, but Fernando squeezed in. But then I got him back, it was crucial. I saved some KERS and I could out-accelerate him into turn six. Then Nico was a tough one. I really had to think for a while because he was quite quick down the straights. The headwind today helped the cars behind but it still wasn’t as straightforward as I was hoping for. So again quite tight and out of turn four I managed again to a little bit KERS up and I got him on the inside. Then the track was clear and we could unfold the true pace of the car.”
Meanwhile, Ferrari experienced a disastrous race, with both Alonso and Massa experiencing mysterious failures, which the team are struggling to understand. Fernando Alonso was forced to make two unscheduled pit stops during the first stint of the race, as his DRS jammed open. While the Spaniard was miraculously maintaining control over the car despite the loss in downforce, since the DRS was illegally open, the team were left with no choice but to call a disgruntled Alonso in. Both times the team managed to replace the flap and Fernando recovered to a respectable P8. “It was very difficult,” he told Sky Sports F1. “We stopped two times in two laps so you are at the back of the group and with no DRS to pass the race becomes very difficult. But it’s the way it went today. A very unlucky race again so in four races two very unlucky moments. It will come for the others and we will take the opportunity in that moment.”
Meanwhile, Felipe Massa’s afternoon was equally disappointing, as he suffered a puncture on lap 17. This followed an early skirmish with Adrian Sutil which had damaged his front wing. To further compound the issues, Massa had to make another unscheduled stop later in the race with another puncture in similar circumstances. Stefano Domenicalli explained, “It was not the day for us because Felipe had contact at the beginning and then two problems with the tyres that we need to understand. We need to understand because one came suddenly at the last corner and one came on the backstraight. So not a good day for us, let’s move ahead. Big shame, but that’s racing.”
The issues for the Ferrari’s significantly aided the Lotus’ charge to another double podium. Raikkonen and Grosjean began with a mediocre opening stint, yet managed to impress with their pace in the middle part of the race. Raikkonen inherited second place, while Romain Grosjean closed down Paul Di Resta on the medium compound, to snatch the final spot on the podium in the final stint. If Raikkonen had managed to Qualify closer to Sebastian, it is highly likely that he would have challenged the German in similar fashion to last season’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Nevertheless, Lotus will undoubtedly be pleased with the result. Grosjean has managed to perform well in a race for the first time this season, bagging 15 valuable points. Meanwhile, he maintains his 100% points scoring record so far in 2013.
Sergio Perez drove a fantastic race, responding to the criticisms he has received throughout the week, with aggressive defending. Despite this, Whitmarsh and McLaren have stolen headlines following the race, as Jenson Button complained that Perez was “too aggressive”. The two battled throughout the middle stint, with Perez colliding with the right rear tyre of Button’s car on lap 30. The damage caused did not hamper either driver, however, Button expressed his displeasure with the Mexican’s tactics. “I was vocal on the radio and emotions were running high but I will say exactly what I said then: the racing out there and was great fun but Checo was too aggressive,” Button complained to Sky Sports F1. “At 300 kilometres an hour you don’t expect your team-mate to come alongside and bang wheels with you. So that was a bit of a surprise and I’m probably not the only one feels like that.” It is McLaren policy that team orders will only be issued in severe circumstances, (the likes of which are unprecedented). Consequently, their drivers are given the opportunity to fight on the circuit. However, the policy cost the team a Drivers World Championship in 2007 and could have easily cost them significant points today. Despite this, the battle was fantastic to watch; undoubtedly, the kind of fight which fans will relish.
While Adrian Sutil’s race was severely hampered by his early collision with Massa, which resulted in a puncture, Paul Di Resta equaled his career best finish with a solid P4. However, the Scot completed much of the race within the podium positions, losing out to a fast charging Romain Grosjean, in the closing stages. Force India narrowly missed out on a podium, yet gained significant ground on McLaren in the constructors championship. Paul’s result should not be underestimated. He stated, “it was very close, but we were always going to be vulnerable on the strategy we were on. Grosjean, with two fresh sets of mediums was always going to be strong. Had he got caught behind Mark and the rest of them, it may have been different.” Looking ahead, Paul exclaimed, “We will go away from here positively. We had a strong weekend throughout, and we can get on the podium one day.”
An unbelievable race concluded in familiar fashion. It was action packed, however, Sebastian Vettel escaped  from the chasing pack early on to secure a typical victory. He now has a 10 point lead over Raikkonen in the championship, with Ferrari slipping down to third in the constructors after a bad day at the office. They will hope to bounce back in Barcelona.
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