Reigning champion Vettel holds off Raikkonen for first win of season in Bahrain
14:40 GMT, 22 April 2012
Sebastian Vettel became the fourth different winner of a grand prix this year by taking the chequered flag in Bahrain.
Not since 2006 has F1 witnessed such a start to a campaign, with the reigning world champion claiming his 22nd career victory.
Behind the German, Lotus enjoyed their best race of the season as Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean joined Vettel on the podium.
Sealed with a kiss: Sebastian Vettell celebrates winning the Bahrain Grand Prix
BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX RESULT
1 S Vettel Red Bull
2 K Raikkonen Lotus
3 R Grosjean Lotus
4 M Webber Red Bull
5 N Rosberg Mercedes
6 P Di Resta Force India
7 F Alonso Ferrari
8 L Hamilton McLaren
9 F Massa Ferrari
10 M Schumacher Mercedes
It was a disastrous race for McLaren,
though, with Lewis Hamilton eighth after two pit-stop issues, whilst
Jenson Button retired a lap from home.
It was a race, though, many felt should never have taken place, not given the unrest in the Gulf island in the build-up, and the escalation in demonstrations that have occurred this week.
So to have reached the chequered flag will be seen as a triumph of sorts for the ruling al-Khalifa royal family and King Hamad, against whom many of the protests are being staged.
Top of the tree: Vettel (centre) celebrates on the podium with Kimi Raikkonen (left) and Romain Grosjean
F1 DRIVERS STANDINGS
1 S Vettel Red Bull 53
2 L Hamilton McLaren 49
3 M Webber Red Bull 48
4 J Button McLaren 43
5 F Alonso Ferrari 43
6 N Rosberg Mercedes 35
7 K Raikkonen Lotus 34
8 R Grosjean Lotus 23
9 S Perez Sauber 22
10 P Di Resta Force India 15
In the end the race itself passed
peacefully, despite rumours leading opposition party al-Wefaq had
purchased tickets and had planned a protest inside the track.
In front of a half-full main
grandstand, and with every other stand empty, polesitter Vettel crushed
his rivals after starting at the front for the 31st time in his career.
Alongside him on the grid Hamilton had
no answer, and although he managed to hold second in the opening
stages, that was soon given up to Grosjean at the start of lap seven.
Leading the chase: The two Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean chased Vettel in vain
Hamilton's problems, though, were only
just beginning because at his first pit stop after nine laps he
suffered the same problem as befell team-mate Button in China last week,
a slow stop due to an issue with the left rear.
If that was not bad enough, at his
second stop after another 14 laps, a rear jack problem caused another
delay, pitching the 27-year-old down to 11th.
Hamilton only managed to claw back
three places through the second half of the race, costing him his
championship lead, dropping him to second and four points behind Vettel.
Storming start: Vettel was quickest off the blocks and kept his lead until the chequered flag
Ahead of him the 24-year-old German
appeared comfortable en route to his latest success, that was until
after the 30-lap mark as he found himself reeled in by Raikkonen.
The Finn, however, could not find a
way past over the following laps, and when the two leaders pitted at the
same time, it was Raikkonen's fourth and final set of tyres that were
not as strong as his third.
Although told over the radio Vettel
would suffer from degradation towards the end, it failed to materialise,
instead winning by a 3.3secs cushion come the conclusion of the 57
laps, with Grosjean a further 6.8secs adrift.
Blunder: Lewis Hamilton's chances of victory in Bahrain were ruined by a botched pit-stop
Remarkably, Vettel's team-mate in Mark
Webber finished fourth for the fourth consecutive race, yet despite
that only finds himself five points behind in the standings.
Nico Rosberg grabbed fifth, although
could lose that as stewards are to investigate two dangerous moves,
swerving violently to try and keep Hamilton and Alonso behind him at two
On a superb two-stop strategy,
compared to three for the leaders, Paul di Resta was sixth in a Force
India that today received some TV coverage after the blank of Saturday.
Out on his own: Sebastian Vettel led from start to finish to win in Bahrain
Behind Alonso in seventh and Hamilton,
Ferrari's Felipe Massa picked up his first points of the season, with
Mercedes' Michael Schumacher 10th after starting 22nd.
Vettel conceded to enduring 'a difficult race, in particular given his fuel situation towards the end.
Vettel was relieved the strategy worked, adding: 'As I said yesterday, a tremendous thank you to the boys who have done a great job to get the car to my liking.
'It all came together for the first time this weekend. All in all I'm extremely happy.'
Trouble brewing: Smoke is seen on the horizon during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix
Achieving his best result since winning in Belgium in 2009, Raikkonen said: 'We've both gained podiums and the team deserve what we achieved.
'It's a positive result for the team and an important step.'
Celebrating his first podium in F1, Grosjean said: 'I'm very proud of the team.
'We've shown our car is very competitive, in what has so far been a very tight season. Overall we can be very happy with what we've done.'