Bahrain GPR Race Recap: Vettel wins scrappy race, Raikkonen leads Lotus double podium

Sebastian Vettel won the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix after dicing with pole sitter Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso on the start. Neither of the latter two would finish on the podium, as Rosberg’s Mercedes continued to eat its tyres. Instead, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean put both of their Lotus cars on the podium, the Frenchman doing so by chasing down a fading Paul di Resta in the final laps of the race. Though di Resta missed out on his first F1 podium by a single position, he managed to put Force India well into the points on a two stop strategy. Lewis Hamilton completed the top five after an almighty scrap over Mark Webber in the closing stages.

Though Alonso got a great start, his DRS became stuck open early in the race, necessitating four pit stops total and a complete shut down of his DRS system. Though he dropped down to fourteenth at one point, he charged back through the field to salvage points and finish eighth. Along the way Alonso scrapped with Perez, who would come out the final victor in their battle, having been a thorn in nearly every driver’s side throughout the race. Perez finished sixth, Webber seventh, while Rosberg and Jenson Button rounded out the top ten. Only Jean-Eric Vergne retired, with damage too severe to fix from a puncture after contact.

Rosberg (1:32.330) won pole during Saturday’s qualifying sessions with a lap even Vettel called unbeatable. The latter qualified second to start next to his countryman, with Alonso third, and myriad grid penalties bringing Massa up alongside his teammate to start fourth on the hard tyres. Though Hamilton qualified fourth, he dropped to ninth with a gearbox change grid penalty. Webber would have started eighth due to his own penalty, but moved up one with Hamilton’s to start seventh. The Australian qualified fifth. di Resta, Sutil, Raikkonen, and Button completed the top ten of qualifiers and starters.

Massa (1:34.487) led the first practice session on Friday morning, with Raikkonen (1:34.154) on top in the afternoon, and Alonso (1:33.247) in charge Saturday morning. Through those sessions, Rosberg, Vettel, di Resta, Webber, Raikkonen, and Hamilton joined the previous three drivers in the fastest five. There were no major incidents during the practices, though Hamilton suffered a delaminating rear trye that ruined his suspension and forced the gearbox change Saturday morning in the time between practice and qualifying.

Sunday started bright and sunny an quite hot, with drivers and team members scurrying to the cool and shaded side of the hot grid. Most teams looked set to go for three stops, though Force India and possibly even Lotus seemed set to go for two. There was a strong headwind on the front straight and a bit of blowing sand in the air. Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Vergne and Gutierrez looked to be starting on the hard tyres, as well as Massa. Meanwhile, drivers’ in car DRS and Safety Car information was unavailable for them.

Rosberg got away cleanly from his angled pole position. Rosberg covered Vettel, but the German had to worry about Alonso, so slid directly into second. Massa pushed through the lap to get by Sutil, leaving them to touch. In T5, Vettel snuck though on Alonso to retake second. At the end of L1, Rosberg led Vettel, Alonso, di Resta, Massa, Webber, Raikkonen, Button, Perez, and Hamilton.

Vettel continued his charge, diving through on Rosberg, only to have Rosberg hold him off. Alonso looked ready to pounce again behind as the two squabbled. Rosberg finally lost the lead as he went a bit wide on corner entry, leaving room for Vettel to nip through. Meanwhile, Sutil had pitted with a possible issue from first lap contact. Vergne pitted with a puncture on L3 and remained in the garage quite some time. Van der Garde and Gutierrez had also already pitted, the former with front wing damage.

Back on the track, Alonso had made his own move on Rosberg in the DRS zone to retake second, only to have Rosberg return the favor in the second DRS zone. Alonso took the position back again into T1 as Vettel pulled away in the lead. After than pass, Alonso looked fairly safe in second. Rosberg, however, had faded and been passed by di Resta. The Scot soon had a look at Alonso, but it was the latter’s teammate who looked ready to pass Rosberg.

Alonso pitted on L8, with what appeared to be a stuck open DRS flap. It was a fairly routine stop, though the Ferrari mechanics gave the rear wing a thump to loosen the DRS. On the track, Perez had a go at his teammate Button, dicing over fifth.

Pit Stops Begin (L9):
Webber, Grosjean, and Alonso all pitted on L9, the last with continued DRS issues. He would be unable to use DRS for the res of the race. On the track, a number of the slowest drivers were suffering collisions, all fighting. Massa managed to pass Rosberg, however, the latter, Button, Ricciardo, and Bianchi all pitted on L10.

Vettel had nearly six seconds on di Resta at the end of L10, though he pitted. Massa, Perez, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Maldonado, and Chilton all joined him. Massa rejoined behind Button, with Perez directly behind Grosjean. With Sutil’s puncture, Force India switched strategies to a three stop, though di Resta led Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, and Bottas, all who had yet to pit on L12.

Behind them, Vettel, Webber, Button, Rosberg, Massa, and Grosjean rounded out the top ten. Hulkenberg pitted on L13, though the real action was on the front straight. A posse of cars continued to fight over the latter half of the top ten, all taking separate lines at the end of the front straight into the first turn. Bottas pitted for the first time on L14 from fifth, leaving the leading di Resta and second place Raikkonen the only drivers yet to pit.

Perez looked ready to take eighth from Grosjean, but the Frenchman held him off in the continued battle over points. Di Resta pitted from the lead as L15 began. Even as the Scot gave up the lead to Raikkonen, Vettel dove through to put himself back into the lead of the race.

End L15:
Vettel led Raikkonen, Webber, Rosberg, Button, Massa, Grosjean, Perez, di Resta, and Hamilton as the top ten at the end of L15. Raikkonen made his first stop on L17, dropping from second to eleventh on a stop that saw the front jack man a bit slow to get away. Meanwhile, Gutierrez had also made another stop. Massa dropped well down the order and pitted as he suffered a right rear tyre issue. Vergne also pitted, becoming the first driver to retire from the race.

Second Pit Stops Begin (L21):
Rosberg and Perez pitted on L21, with Webber following on the next lap. That series of stops also included Button. Hamilton pitted the next time ‘round, even as Webber made his way through on Alonso for eighth. Meanwhile, Rosberg and Perez continued to fight, with Rosberg making his way back in front of the younger driver.

Maldonado pitted on L24, as did Pic and Chilton. Alonso made his third stop, but only second for tyres from ninth on L25. Vettel pitted from the lead, with more than twenty two seconds gap back to Grosjean, who had yet to stop the second time, returning to the lead after his stop.

Hulkenberg began quickly dropping down the order before he made his second stop, losing position to Perez, Button, and Rosberg before pitting on L27. Grosjean pitted on L28, losing position to di Resta, as the later stoppers shuffled back up to the front. Massa nipped into the pits for the third time on L29.

Halfway (End L29):
The running order was a bit shuffled at halfway, as Vettel (2 stops), led di Resta and Raikkonen (1 stop each), with Webber, Button, Perez, Rosberg, Grosjean, Hamilton, and Alonso completing the top ten. Meanwhile, Perez continued to fight his teammate over fifth, attempting to take the position on L30. He passed Button with the DRS, only to have the latter come back at him. They touched, leaving Perez without one of his front wing endplates.

Though they looked settled into position, Perez again tried to pass his teammate. Button pushed him wide, nearly onto the runoff area, and Perez brought a lot of dust onto the track. Button radioed incredulously back to the team. However, the fighting would not last too long as Grosjean passed Rosberg and slide between the two McLarens.

Rosberg then pitted for the third time on L34, even as Raikkonen used the DRS to make his way through on di Resta for second. Grosjean was on a tear, next passing Button for fifth. Raikkonen would not remain second for long, pitting on L35, with Button following him into the pit lane. Despite his charge against his teammate, Perez could not hold off Hamilton, who soon passed him decisively for fifth. Meanwhile, di Resta pitted from second for his second stop, rejoining in eighth. Massa also pitted on L37, for his fourth stop, and with another right rear puncture.

20 Laps Remaining:
Vettel led Webber and Grosjean as the final twenty laps began, though the Australian pitted for his third stop on L38. Vettel was fully in command of the race, leading by twenty-nine seconds over Grosjean. Raikkonen, Perez, and Hamilton completed the top five, but Hamilton soon dropped down the order on his third pit stop. Perez, Alonso, and Maldonado all pitted on L40, their third time in for tyres.

Meanwhile, Webber had pushed by Rosberg rather forcefully as the former rejoined after his pit stop, leading to a post-race investigation of his actions. Vettel pitted from the lead for his own third stop, rejoining as Grosjean pitted from second. The latter would lose positions, but Vettel had such a commanding lead, he retained it. Further back in fifteenth, Sutil also pitted on L43. At about the same time both Grosjean and Rosberg made good use of their DRS on the front straight, passing Webber and Button into T1, respectively

With just under fifteen laps to go, Vettel led Raikkonen, di Resta, Webber, Grosjean, Button, Rosberg, Hamilton, Perez, and Alonso as the top ten. Raikkonen and di Resta continued to look set for a two stop race, though their tyres would soon begin to fade. Rosberg pitted for the fourth time on L45.

Hamilton soon passed his former McLaren teammate Button for sixth, dropping Button back into the clutches of Perez, who has Alonso close behind as well. Quite quickly, both Perez and Alonso passed Button, who then pitted on L47. Perez did so surprisingly neatly at T4, with Alonso following a few corners later. Even without the DRS, Alonso next passed Perez into T1. The latter attempted to fight back, but locked up and remained eighth.

10 Laps Remaining:
Bottas pitted, for the fourth time, on L48, even as Vettel still led. Raikkonen looked fairly safe in second, though di Resta was slowly falling into Grosjean’s clutches with just under ten laps to go. Just behind the Frenchman, Webber had also fallen back a bit, with Hamilton soon a half second behind him, despite Mercedes’ continued warnings throughout the race that Hamilton must save fuel.

Hamilton made his pass first, taking fifth from Webber, while Grosjean slid into the final podium position at T1. That move would stick, whereas Webber would soon fight Hamilton again and take fifth back from the Briton. The fighting continued to be fierce, as Perez had a go at Alonso. The younger driver pushed hard and made his pass stick through the DRS zone, dropping Alonso back down to eighth. As with Hamilton at Mercedes, Ferrari had also told Alonso to save fuel, though Alonso soon complained about Perez’s passing methods.

A wee bit closer to the front, Hamilton continued to press Webber on the final lap. He again passed the Australian, this time ensuring that he remained ahead. In the end, Vettel’s commanding performance gained him another win, with Raikkonen and Grosjean safely bringing home at Lotus double podium. Di Resta and Hamilton completed the top five while in the final turns, Webber also succumbed to Perez.

Final Positions, 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix:

1. Sebastian VettelRed Bull 3
2. Kimi RaikkonenLotus9.12
3. Romain GrosjeanLotus19.53
4. Paul di RestaForce India21.72
5. Lewis HamiltonMercedes35.23
6. Sergio PerezMcLaren35.93
7. Mark WebberRed Bull37.23
8. Fernando AlonsoFerrari37.54
9. Nico RosbergMercedes41.14
10. Jenson ButtonMcLaren46.64
11. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams66.43
12. Nico HulkenbergSauber72.93
13. Adrian SutilForce India76.73
14. Valtteri BottasWilliams81.53
15. Felipe MassaFerrari86.34
16. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1 Lap3
17. Charles PicCaterham1 Lap3
18. Esteban GutierrezSauber1 Lap4
19. Jules BianchiMarussia1 Lap4
20. Max ChiltonMarussia1 Lap4
21.Giedo van der GardeCaterham2 Laps5
 Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso41 Laps2
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