Bahrain GP: What a cracker!
IN A BUNCH: The crowded start of the 2013 Bahrain F1 GP with a hard fight ahead. Image: AFP
Author: Les Stephenson
No longer can the pundits moan about 'processional' racing in the Arabian wastes - Sunday's Bahrain F1 GP was a great race right to the end when Sebastian Vettel went over the line to take the flag.
He was followed home by Kimi Raikkonen and an ecstatic Romain Grosjean.
The race was hot, dusty and windy and a crowd of only about 40 000 was expected at the desert island circuit to watch Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) with his team mate Massa right behind launch into the 2013 Bahrain F1 GP.
ALONSO IN EARLY TROUBLE
Kers came into effect almost immediately as Alonso and Vettel swopped places twice by lap two before things settled down with Vettel, Rosberg and Alonso line astern.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, pushed down to start ninth after a gearbox change, fell back almost immediately to 11th as a long snake of nose-to-tail cars wound its way around the circuit.
By lap seven Alonso was in trouble, the DRS flap on his rear wing refusing to close and requiring two pit stops for the pit crew to bang it back closed – the penalty him losing huge ground and suddenly finding himself 18th though taking on new tyres as he went through the pits.
Paul di Resta, amazingly, came through by lap 14 to take the lead, followed by Kimi Raikkonen, Vettel and Mark Webber – though a pit by Resta on lap 15 dropped him back to ninth.
Alonso, fighting hard, was back up to 13th.
FIVE DRIVERS, FIVE SECONDS
As tyre changes came into play, by lap 16 the order was Vettel, Raikkonen, Webber with Rosberg now fourth and Jenson Button up to fifth. Down the field, Hamilton seemed to be cruising and well down in 10th and reporting poor grip from his Pirellis.
A third of the race gone, and the order was Vettel, Webber, Rosberg and Button with just under five seconds covering them and Alonso pretty much out of the running with Roman Grosjean now up with the leaders in fourth followed by Rosberg and Perez.
Rosberg now made his second stop and Hamilton, seemingly over his tyre problems, up to fifth but about to make his second stop and the lead order changing rapidly as more cars pitted for tyre changes and the race excitement mounting.
Halfway, and more changes to the order to show Alonso still out of the top 10 in 13th and his DRS still out. The leader order was now Vettel, clear by four seconds from Grosjean and Force India’s Resta in third with Hamilton back down where he was just after the start in 11th.
Down in fifth and sixth, the two McLarens were fighting for position, so hard that eventually Perez touched Jenson Button’s right rear wheel and lost a front-wing end plate, generating an urgent “calm down” call from the pits – though it didn’t seem to have much effect as they raced alongside each other, Button refusing to yield.
HAMILTON ON THE MOVE
Would they eventually take each other out with Perez coming perilously close to Grosjean – who came past in retaliation with superior driving? Up ahead, Raikkonen squeezed past Resta. It was lap 34 and the order now Vettel, Raikkonen, Resta and Webber with Raikkonen pitting and falling back to seventh, just ahead of a resurgent Alonso.
Meanwhile, Hamilton has started to move up and is in third, though due for a third pit stop.
Lap 40, and Vettel was now 28sec clear of the field, followed by Grosjean, Raikkonen, Perez and Resta 38sec behind Vettel with a nudge between Webber and Rosberg under stewards’ investigation.
With 10 laps to go Vettel’s lead had been cut to nine seconds with Raikkonen closest, followed by Resta and the still charging Romain Grosjean. Webber was running fifth and Hamilton up to sixth.
Three laps to go, and the fight behind the leaders is between Hamilton and Red Bull’s Mark Webber with no quarter from either and the front order now still Raikkonen, followed by Grosjean and Resta with Webber and Hamilton still battling each other but 30sec away from the leader.
...AND IT WAS VETTEL
Alonso and Perez, squabbling over seventh and eighth, touched and nearly took each other out with Perez holding on to seventh.
At the end, it was Vettel, from from (in descending order) Raikkonen,Grosjean, Resta, Hamilton, Perez, Webber, Alonso Rosberg and Button.
Result from the 2013 Bahrain F1 GP
1 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1hr36min00.498
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus +00min09.111
3 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus +00min19.507
4 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India +00min21.727
5 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes +00min35.230
6 Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren +00min35.998
7 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull +00min37.244
8 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari +00min37.574
9 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes +00min41.126
10 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren +00min46.631
11 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams +01min06.450
12 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Sauber +01min12.933
13 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India +01min16.719
14 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams +01min21.511
15 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari +01min26.364
16 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso +1 lap
17 Charles Pic (France) Caterham +1 lap
18 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber +1 lap
19 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia +1 lap
20 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia +1 lap
21 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham +2 laps
Retired: Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - 41 laps
Fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel, 1min36.961, lap 55
Drivers’ and Constructors standings after the 2013 Bahrain F1 GP
1 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull- 77
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - 67
3 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes - 50
4 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari - 47
5 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull - 32
6 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari - 30
7 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - 26
8 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - 20
9 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes - 14
10 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren - 13
11 Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren - 10
12 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - 6
13 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - 6
14 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Sauber - 5
15 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - 1
16 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - 0
17 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - 0
18 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - 0
19 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia - 0
20 Charles Pic (France) Caterham - 0
21 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham - 0
22 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - 0
1 Red Bull - Renault - 109
2 Lotus - Renault - 93
3 Ferrari - 77
4 Mercedes - 64
5 Force India - Mercedes - 26
6 McLaren - Mercedes - 23
7 Toro Rosso - Ferrari - 7
8 Sauber - Ferrari - 5
9 Williams - Renault - 0
10 Marussia - Cosworth - 0
11 Caterham - Renault - 0