x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Normal service resumed for Sebastian Vettel

The Formula One world champion's victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix saw him become the fourth different driver to secure victory in this year's opening four races.

Formula One drivers comete around the Sakhir international Circuit in Bahrain.
Formula One drivers comete around the Sakhir international Circuit in Bahrain.

SAKHIR // And regular service is resumed. Sebastian Vettel, the young German who broke countless records on route to a second successive world championship title last year, won his first race of the season at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

In doing so, the Red Bull Racing driver ensured the fourth race of the new season has produced a fourth triumphant constructor, a feat unseen since 1983.

Vettel, much to the delight of competitive racing fans, has struggled in the early races of 2012 with an 11th-place finish in Malaysia and a disastrous qualifying session last week in China.

However, on a weekend when protests against the Gulf kingdom’s controversial race overshadowed the main event, Vettel repeated a trick he managed nine times last year by securing pole position on the Saturday and converting it into a maximum points haul on the Sunday.

The result at Bahrain International Circuit takes the 24-year-old German to the top of the drivers’ standings.

“It was an incredible race; extremely tough,” Vettel said after holding off the threatening figure of former world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

“I knew with Kimi behind me there would be no mistakes allowed – a big strain all the way through.”

Jenson Button of McLaren-Mercedes won the season-opening race in Australia, before Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Mercedes-GP’s Nico Rosberg claimed unexpected wins in Malaysia and China.

Unlike last year when Vettel was dominant, the Red Bull victory under a gloomy sky in the Gulf has only served to fuel optimism that this season could be one of the most closely fought and fascinating in recent memory.

“It’s a very tight season, cars are very close to each other and small things can make a huge difference on a Sunday,” he said.

“We started the season saying that the McLaren is the best car by far, by quite a bit, then it was Mercedes, but we’ve seen that [on race day] it can be a different picture.”

Vettel and teammate Mark Webber ran different set-ups in China in a bid to analyse where their problems lay and it appeared to have paid off yesterday. Not without many hours in the garage, though, said the champion.

“I owe this one to the team,” Vettel added. “They’ve been working so hard, [I’ve been] giving them an extremely hard time here at the circuit. I don’t want you to look in the back of our garage, it’s pretty busy and pretty messy: a lot of work, a lot of parts. We try to get the best package together.”

It proved enough to cross the finish line 3.3 seconds before Raikkonen, who has returned to the sport this season with Lotus after a two-year hiatus.

The Finn started in 11th after qualifying poorly, but utilising the fresh tyres he saved from sitting out the final stint on Saturday, was able to fight his way through the field and come, at one stage, within 0.7 seconds of Vettel.

“It took me some time to overtake the cars between Sebastian and me and by the time I caught him, I’d used up a lot of the tyres,” Raikkonen said. “I had one go at getting past, but unfortunately I chose the wrong side. After that I didn’t have the speed. It’s a bit disappointing.”

His team were far from disappointed, however, as Romain Grosjean, Raikkonen’s teammate, finished third to secure the storied marque two drivers on the podium for the first time since 1979. Team principal Eric Boullier said he was “immensely proud of what we have achieved”.

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