x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sebastian Vettel claims Bahrain victory for Red Bull

German driver takes chequered flag from Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean as Fernando Alonso's Ferrari encounters difficulties at the Sakhir International Circuit.

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany, on his way to victory in Bahrain.
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany, on his way to victory in Bahrain.

With an index finger pointing heavenwards in celebration, Sebastian Vettel confirmed that his journey toward a fourth consecutive world championship is very much on course.

The German’s authoritative triumph at Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix means he has now taken two wins from four races in 2013 and leads the drivers’ standings by 10 points.

A finger of blame was pointing at Vettel in Malaysia last month as he disobeyed his Red Bull Racing team to to snare a controversial victory, but there were no complaints at Sakhir International Circuit as the 25 year old comfortably passed the chequered flag 9.1 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus.

Mercedes-GP’s Nico Rosberg had started the day on pole position, but his moment in the sun lasted only a couple of laps as a close, hard-fought start ended with Vettel passing him and quickly setting about building an advantage.

By the end of the sixth lap the gap stood at 3.5 seconds, and when Vettel pitted for his third and final change of tyres he led by more than half a minute.

“A faultless, seamless race from start to finish,” Vettel said. “I knew it was crucial to get into the lead and look after the tyres, the pace was phenomenal, the car was great. I could push every single lap. The pace we had, it was incredible. We surely did not expect that.”

It was as ominous a victory as this season has yet produced and all the more important as Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard who has pushed Vettel to the final race of the season twice in the past three years, finished a distant eighth.

The Ferrari driver had started in third and jumped Vettel through the opening pair of turns, but he was unable to hold on and Vettel took the position back with a brave pass on the outside of Turn Five.

Vettel called the episode “crucial” to his race.

“Once you start to settle into a rhythm it’s difficult to overtake,” Vettel said. “At the beginning, I thought if there was a small chance to get into the lead, I have to take it because then I can take care of the tyres the way I like and hopefully direct the race the way we planned beforehand. If you sit behind someone and get stuck, then you struggle, you lose grip, you start to slide and the tyres start to go off.”

Alonso was given first-hand experience as his fight for the podium ended moments later when his adjustable rear wing malfunctioned and ended up stuck open.

Forced to pit earlier than planned, he rejoined the track amid heavy traffic.

With Alonso fighting merely for points, Raikkonen – employing a two-stop strategy – was able to capitalise. The Finn had started ninth on the grid yet managed his tyres expertly to take his third podium of the year and his sixth in Bahrain. The result also limited Vettel’s advantage over him in the standings.

“Second place is obviously better than third, but we haven’t won and that’s what we try to do,” Raikkonen said. “We got good points, we didn’t lose too many to Sebastian, but obviously it doesn’t help to finish second if he’s winning all the time.”

Raikkonen’s teammate, Romain Grosjean, passed the Force India car of Paul di Resta with six laps to go to take third, his best result of the season and his first top-three finish since Hungary last summer. It also ensured the podium was a duplication of last season’s Bahrain race.

The Frenchman has endured a relatively disappointing start to the year, finishing 10th in Australia, sixth in Malaysia and ninth last week in China. Alain Prost, the former driver and four-time world champion, earlier this week questioned his compatriot’s self-confidence. Eric Boullier, the Lotus team principal, yesterday said “Romain’s season starts now”.

“The first three races have been consistent, but not what we wanted,” Grosjean added. “[Sunday] we had to do some good fights on track, but this is why we’re racing and what we enjoy. So very pleased to be on the podium, same as last year.

“The fact I’m able to come back from a very difficult situation proves [Prost] was wrong. I have a deep respect for what he did, but I think it’s easy to speak when you are not here.”

Prost may now stop pointing fingers, but Vettel, having taken his most important step yet towards equalling the Frenchman’s four titles, clearly has no intentions of curtailing his habit.

Next up is Barcelona in three weeks, when a return to the sport’s European base means each of the 11 teams are expected to arrive with major upgrades.

“We need to just look after ourselves and make sure we score points,” Vettel said. “Everything else is difficult to predict.”

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

 

Lotus find their bloom

Sebastian Vettel’s second win on the season and 28th of the German’s career overshadows a stunning showing for Lotus, considering Kimi Raikkonen started the race ninth and Romain Grosjean 11th. It was an especially heartening result for Grosjean, who a few days earlier complained about struggling with the softer tires this season and not being able to challenge the leaders.

 

Bahrain GP results

1 Vettel, Red Bull 1:36:00.498

2 Raikkonen, Lotus +9.111

Grosjean, Lotus +19.507

4 Di Resta, Force India +21.727

5 Hamilton, Mercedes +35.230

6 Perez, McLaren +35.998

7 Webber, Red Bull  +37.244

8 Alonso, Ferrari +37.574

9 Rosberg, Mercedes +41.126

10 Button, McLaren +46.631

11 Maldonado, Williams +1:06.450

12 Hulkenberg, Sauber +1:12.933

13 Sutil, Force India +1:16.719

14 Bottas, Williams +1:21.511

15 Massa, Ferrari +1:26.364

16 Ricciardo, Toro Rosso lapped

17 Pic, Caterham lapped

18 Gutierrez, Saube lapped

19 Bianchi, Marussia lapped

20 Chilton, Marussia lapped

21 Van der Garde, Caterham lapped

22 Vergne, Toro Rosso retired

 

Drivers’ championship

Sebastian Vettel, Germany 77 pts

Kimi Raikkonen, Finland 67

Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain 50

Fernando Alonso, Spain 47

Mark Webber, Australia 32

Felipe Massa, Brazil 30

Romain Grosjean, France 26

Paul di Resta, Great Britain 20

Nico Rosberg, Germany 14

Jenson Button, Great Britain 13

Sergio Perez, Mexico 10

Adrian Sutil, Germany 6

Daniel Ricciardo, Australia 6

Nico Hulkenberg, Germany 5

Jean-Eric Vergne, France 1

Charles Pic, France 0

Max Chilton, Great Britain 0

Giedo van der Garde, Holland 0

Jules Bianchi, France 0

Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico 0

Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela 0

Valtteri Bottas, Finland 0

 

Constructors’ championship

Red Bull Racing 109 pts

Lotus-Renault 93

Ferrari 77

Mercedes-GP 64

Force India-Mercedes 26

McLaren-Mercedes 23

Toro Rosso-Ferrari 7

Sauber-Ferrari 5

Williams-Renault 0

Marussia-Cosworth 0

Caterham-Renault 0

 

 

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