Vettel powers to victory in Bahrain

F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Race

Sebastian Vettel achieved his 28th victory in Formula 1 with an impeccable performance in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The triple world champion pushed his Red Bull to the front of the pack following a spectacular early dicing with his rivals. After that, Sebastian just pulled away and earned his second win of 2013.

In a carbon copy of last year’s podium result, the Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean made it through the field to second and third, with the latter denying Paul di Resta a maiden podium with just six laps to the flag.

Vettel was in a hurry to hit the front from the off. The German forced polesitter Nico Rosberg to defend heavily off the line, and although Fernando Alonso managed to get his Ferrari between them around the outside, the triple world champion surged back into second with a bold move at Turn 5.

Vettel then pounced on Rosberg’s Mercedes into Turn 4 on the second lap, only to run wide. Next time around he made the move stick, and thereafter inched away towards an ever more certain victory.

Alonso was soon up to second but his DRS flap was jammed open. The Spaniard made an emergency pitstop to fix it, but the problem reoccurred. By lap nine, he was P19, had made two pitstops but without the use of DRS, it became a difficult race for the Chinese Grand Prix winner.

With Alonso out of contention, the best of the rest battle became a contest between di Resta and Raikkonen, both two-stopping compared to the front runners who made most three.

Di Resta looked to be best-placed until his final pitstop, when Raikkonen vaulted him having stopped sooner.

Force India remained on course for third for a while, but Grosjean was coming up fast. The three-stopping Frenchman saved his medium tyres for the final stint and was able to hunt down and pass the Scotsman, who had to settle for fourth position.

The rest of the top ten featured wild racing, with plenty of wheel-to-wheel action as different strategies unfolded and different cars found pace at various stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton was able to progress through the field despite a low-key start and in the end, took fifth for Mercedes.

Sergio Perez produced by far his most combative performance for McLaren yet. He was involved in a long duel with team-mate Jenson Button and the fading Rosberg, which featured contact between the pair and anxious radio messages on more than one occasion.

Despite losing a front wing endplate against his team-mate, Perez finished sixth, joining Hamilton in passing Mark Webber on the final lap.

Webber had been a podium threat for Red Bull, but in the end fell back on his final set of tyres.

Alonso fought through to eighth despite his lack of DRS, with Rosberg and Button forced to make four pitstops and ending up ninth and tenth.

Felipe Massa suffered two right rear punctures and was only P15. He had also made contact with Adrian Sutil on the opening lap, causing a puncture for the Force India driver, who made it back up to P13.

So a fantastic result for Sebastian Vettel. The German edges ahead of Sir Jackie Stewart record with 28 victories.

Vettel extends his points score to 77, ten points ahead of Raikkonen on 67, while Hamilton moves up to third on 50 from Alonso on 47. Webber is fifth on 32 from Massa on 30, Grosjean on 26, Di Resta on 20, Rosberg on 14 and Button on 13.

Red Bull have 109 points in the constructors’ championship, with Lotus moving to second on 93 from Ferrari on 77. Mercedes are still in play with 64, with Force India fifth on 26 and McLaren on 23.

Bahrain Grand Prix race results after 57 laps:

1.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault           1h36:00.498s
2.  Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault              +9.111s
3.  Grosjean       Lotus-Renault             +19.507s
4.  Di Resta       Force India-Mercedes      +21.727s
5.  Hamilton       Mercedes                  +35.230s
6.  Perez          McLaren-Mercedes          +35.998s
7.  Webber         Red Bull-Renault          +37.244s
8.  Alonso         Ferrari                   +37.574s
9.  Rosberg        Mercedes                  +41.126s
10.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes          +46.631s
11.  Maldonado      Williams-Renault        +1m06.450s
12.  Hulkenberg     Sauber-Ferrari          +1m12.933s
13.  Sutil          Force India-Mercedes    +1m16.719s
14.  Bottas         Williams-Renault        +1m21.511s
15.  Massa          Ferrari                 +1m26.364s
16.  Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari        +1 lap
17.  Pic            Caterham-Renault          +1 lap
18.  Gutierrez      Sauber-Ferrari            +1 lap
19.  Bianchi        Marussia-Cosworth         +1 lap
20.  Chilton        Marussia-Cosworth         +1 lap
21.  van der Garde  Caterham-Renault         +2 laps

Not classified/retirement:

Vergne         Toro Rosso-Ferrari          39 laps

World Championship standings, round 4:

1.  Vettel         77
2.  Raikkonen      67
3.  Hamilton       50
4.  Alonso         47
5.  Webber         32
6.  Massa          30
7.  Grosjean       26
8.  Di Resta       20
9.  Rosberg        14
10.  Button         13
11.  Perez          10
12.  Ricciardo       6
13.  Sutil           6
14.  Hulkenberg      5
15.  Vergne          1

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

Next race: Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catalunya. May 10-12.

Back-to-back pole for Mercedes as Rosberg leads the way in Bahrain

Rosberg Bahrain 2013

Nico Rosberg achieved his second career pole position and the Mercedes F1 team’s first back-to-back since 1955 following an exciting qualifying session at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Silver Arrows had not looked like an outright front row contender during practice but when Rosberg recorded a lap of one minute, 32.4 seconds at the start of Q3, his rivals were unable to match it.

Sebastian Vettel came close for Red Bull Racing with a time of one minute, 32.584 seconds. He will start ahead of last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.

Rosberg then made his pole position absolutely certain, improving with a time of one minute, 32.330 seconds to grab the top spot by over 0.2 seconds.

His Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton was 0.4 seconds slower in fourth position. However, he will lose five places on the grid for having a gearbox change prior to qualifying.

A left-rear tyre failure damaged the rear suspension, which also included the gearbox. So the team was forced to replace it, hence the grid penalty.

Fifth position will also change post-session. Mark Webber took the place for Red Bull, but faces a three-place penalty himself after last weekend’s collision with Jean-Eric Vergne in China.

Ferrari put Felipe Massa on hard tyres for Q3 and he took sixth position, followed by the Force India pair of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil. The latter only just made it into Q3 with a late charge.

After setting the pace in Friday practice, Kimi Raikkonen was only ninth in his Lotus.

McLaren was ecstatic to see Jenson Button reach Q3 against expectations with a last-gasp lap. The 2009 world champion chose not to do a flying lap in the top ten shootout.

The late Q2 improvements pushed Romain Grosjean’s Lotus down to P11. The Frenchman was back in the pits at the end of the session with his first lap not been suitable enough to make it through.

Both Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado set identical times in the Williams during Q1. However, since Bottas recorded the one minute, 34.425 seconds lap first, meaning he made it to Q2 that became P15, his team-mate was left out with P17.

Esteban Gutierrez’s troubles continued as he only managed P18 in qualifying, which will become last when his five-place penalty for crashing into Adrian Sutil in China is applied.

There was a change in form at the back. Driving the upgraded Caterham, Charles Pic got his team ahead of Marussia for the first time this season, as he beat Jules Bianchi by a full 0.9 seconds.

Giedo van der Garde, in the older-spec Caterham, also outqualified a Marussia, pushing Max Chilton down to P22.

So a great pole position by Nico Rosberg. The first for Mercedes since Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio at the British and Italian Grands Prix in 1955. This is also the Brackley-based team first back-to back, when it was Brawn GP, since Jenson Button in 2009 Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix.

Grid positions for the Bahrain Grand Prix:

1.  Nico Rosberg         Mercedes              1m32.330s
2.  Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull-Renault      1m32.584s
3.  Fernando Alonso      Ferrari               1m32.667s
4.  Felipe Massa         Ferrari               1m33.207s
5.  Paul di Resta        Force India-Mercedes  1m33.235s
6.  Adrian Sutil         Force India-Mercedes  1m33.246s
7.  Mark Webber          Red Bull-Renault      1m33.078s*
8.  Kimi Raikkonen       Lotus-Renault         1m33.327s
9.  Lewis Hamilton       Mercedes              1m32.762s*
10.  Jenson Button        McLaren-Mercedes     No time
11.  Romain Grosjean      Lotus-Renault         1m33.762s
12.  Sergio Perez         McLaren-Mercedes      1m33.914s
13.  Daniel Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m33.974s
14.  Nico Hulkenberg      Sauber-Ferrari        1m33.976s
15.  Valtteri Bottas      Williams-Renault      1m34.105s
16.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m34.284s
17.  Pastor Maldonado     Williams-Renault      1m34.425s
18.  Charles Pic          Caterham-Renault      1m35.283s
19.  Jules Bianchi        Marussia-Cosworth     1m36.178s
20.  Giedo van der Garde  Caterham-Renault      1m36.304s
21.  Max Chilton          Marussia-Cosworth     1m36.476s
22.  Esteban Gutierrez    Sauber-Ferrari        1m34.730s*

*Grid penalty

107 per cent time: 1m39.379s

Alonso victorious for Ferrari in China

Alonso Ferrari China winner 2013

Fernando Alonso scored his 31st victory in Formula 1 with a gritty drive in the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver made some great passes on his rivals and thanks to the tactics on starting on the soft compound tyre, he made this plan worked out perfectly to win in Shanghai.

Kimi Raikkonen recovered from a poor getaway at the start to finish in second position for Lotus while pole sitter Lewis Hamilton had to settle for third.

Both drivers used the same tyre strategy as the race winner to fill the podium, while championship leader Sebastian Vettel was giving chase throughout the race following his low grid position.

Vettel’s tactics on running the medium set could only give him fourth position and the Red Bull driver was right behind the Mercedes in a thrilling finish.

The race unfolded as two parallel contests between those who started on softs, briefly burst clear and then pitted early and dropped into traffic, and those who started on mediums, emerged up front, but would face soft tyre degradation later.

Alonso quickly thrust himself to the front of the first group. A slow start from Raikkonen meant the Ferraris were into second and third by Turn 1, and both Alonso and Felipe Massa overtook Hamilton on lap five as the Mercedes’ soft tyres faded quicker.

Massa stayed out one lap longer than most on soft and subsequently faded away from the lead battle, while Alonso’s speed at hacking through traffic on alternative strategies once he was on mediums gave him an advantage over everyone else on the same strategy.

Vettel left his softs until the final five laps.

But by then, Alonso’s strategy was the correct one. The Ferrari’s shorter stints meant Alonso caught Vettel on track on lap 42 on fresher tyres at a time when both had one more pitstop to go.

Alonso swiftly passed the Red Bull and cruised away, knowing Vettel would still have to take on softs.

While the Ferrari was out of reach, Vettel still had a chance to attack Raikkonen’s Lotus and Hamilton’s Mercedes, which had been battling all race.

The defending champion caught his two rivals at a rate of three seconds per lap after his late pitstop and started the final lap with Hamilton in sight.

The Mercedes hung on by just 0.2 seconds, with Raikkonen staying just far enough ahead to claim second. The Lotus was sporting a dramatic tear in its nose section after an early brush with the defensive Sergio Perez’s McLaren.

Jenson Button pulled off a two-stop strategy in the other McLaren, allowing him to lead for a while and finish in fifth place ahead of Massa.

Daniel Ricciardo converted his impressive qualifying result into seventh for Toro Rosso, despite an early front wing change.

Paul di Resta and Romain Grosjean were eighth and ninth for Force India and Lotus respectively.

Nico Hulkenberg played a major role in the early stages. Running the same strategy as Vettel, he got ahead of the Red Bull early on and led as the strategies unfolded.

A slow pitstop meant he lost out to Vettel, and Sauber’s strategy of a very short middle stint on softs did not work out, leaving him tenth.

Mark Webber’s troubled weekend got even worse in the race. Clearing the soft tyres on the opening lap and instantly taking mediums gave him a shot at getting up with the leaders, but he smashed his front wing in a tangle with Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso then retired when his right rear wheel fell off after a subsequent pitstop for repairs.

Nico Rosberg was troubled by an apparent suspension problem from the outset and retired his Mercedes soon after his second pitstop.

Esteban Gutierrez crashed out after ploughing into the back of Adrian Sutil. The Force India driver had earlier clashed with his team-mate di Resta.

The stewards were investigating several drivers for possible use of DRS under yellow flags – notably Vettel, Webber, Raikkonen, Bottas, Ricciardo and Chilton.

And yet in the end, no action was taken. However, both Mark Webber and Esteban Gutierrez received grid drops in the next race at Bahrain for crashing into cars.

So a fantastic race for Ferrari and Fernando Alonso. He matches Nigel Mansell’s record of 31 wins in the sport. It was his 200th race start too.

After three rounds, Vettel still leads the title chase with 52 points, from Raikkonen on 49, Alonso on 43, Hamilton on 40, Massa on 30 and Webber on 26. In the constructors’ stakes, Red Bull have 78, Ferrari 73, Lotus 60, Mercedes 52, and McLaren and Force India 14.

Bahrain plays hosts to round four of an exciting Formula 1 season next weekend. With three different winners in the first three races, will we see a new winner? Just like the tyre strategy and action on track, it’s going to be unpredictable.

Race results from Shanghai International Circuit:

1.  Alonso         Ferrari                    1h36:26.945
2.  Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault              +10.168s
3.  Hamilton       Mercedes                   +12.322s
4.  Vettel         Red Bull-Renault           +12.525s
5.  Button         McLaren-Mercedes           +35.285s
6.  Massa          Ferrari                    +40.827s
7.  Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +42.691s
8.  Di Resta       Force India-Mercedes       +51.084s
9.  Grosjean       Lotus-Renault              +53.423s
10.  Hulkenberg     Sauber-Ferrari             +56.598s
11.  Perez          McLaren-Mercedes           +1m03.860s
12.  Vergne         Toro Rosso-Ferrari         +1m12.604s
13.  Bottas      Williams-Renault           +1m33.861s
14.  Maldonado         Williams-Renault           +1m35.453s
15.  Bianchi        Marussia-Cosworth          +1 lap
16.  Pic            Caterham-Renault           +1 lap
17.  Chilton        Marussia-Cosworth          +1 lap
18.  van der Garde  Caterham-Renault           +1 lap

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1m36.808s

Not classified/retirements:
Rosberg        Mercedes                     22 laps
Webber         Red Bull-Renault             16 laps
Sutil          Force India-Mercedes         6 laps
Gutierrez      Sauber-Ferrari               5 laps

World Championship standings, round 3:                

1.  Vettel         52
2.  Raikkonen      49
3.  Alonso         43
4.  Hamilton       40
5.  Massa          30
6.  Webber         26
7.  Button         12
8.  Rosberg        12
9.  Grosjean       11
10.  Di Resta        8
11.  Ricciardo       6
12.  Sutil           6
13.  Hulkenberg      5
14.  Perez           2
15.  Vergne          1

1.  Red Bull-Renault           78
2.  Ferrari                    73
3.  Lotus-Renault              60
4.  Mercedes                   52
5.  Force India-Mercedes       14
6.  McLaren-Mercedes           14
7.  Toro Rosso-Ferrari          7
8.  Sauber-Ferrari              5

Next race: Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit. April 19-21.

Hamilton scores his first pole for Mercedes in China

Lewis Hamilton China 2013

Lewis Hamilton achieved his 27th career pole position in Formula 1 and his first for the Mercedes AMG team.

However, the proceedings to the qualifying session at the Shanghai International Circuit was dominated by tyre strategy, with a lack of track action from the drivers.

Conserving tyres is now the important issue this year with Pirelli pushing the limits of tyre wear in order to provide more entertainment  – pitstops and mixed strategies – and it was not a surprise to see so few qualifying runs as the drivers saved the tyres for the race instead.

Hamilton set his impressive lap time of one minute, 34.484 seconds on the soft compound while Kimi Raikkonen qualified his Lotus in second place, 0.277 seconds off the flying Silver Arrows.

Fernando Alonso will start third for Ferrari.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel will start in ninth position after making the decision not to set a time in Q3. Despite the low grid order, the Red Bull driver will have the advantage in the first stint of the race thanks to running the medium tyre.

His Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber had a disastrous session, as a fuel pressure problem stranded the Australian in Q2. He will now start the Chinese Grand Prix right at the back of the grid.

With the soft tyres only good for one flying lap and expected to quickly fade away in the main race, qualifying was all about rubber conservation.

Q3 duly became a one-lap shootout in the final minute as all ten contenders poured onto the track at once.

Raikkonen was first to take provisional pole with a time of one minute, 34.761 seconds.

Several likely challengers were unable to match that benchmark, but Hamilton came through on a one minute, 34.484 seconds to give Mercedes pole at Shanghai for a second consecutive year.

Alonso ended his run of being outqualified by Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa as he took third, two positions ahead of the Brazilian.

Nico Rosberg split them in the other Mercedes.

Romain Grosjean was sixth for Lotus, followed by Daniel Ricciardo.

The Australian was one of the stars of qualifying as he got Toro Rosso into Q3 for the first time this season, beating team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne by 0.9 seconds in Q2.

Jenson Button joined Vettel in opting for medium and did a slow lap for eighth, while Vettel and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg chose not to do Q3 flying laps at all.

Webber ended qualifying in P14 after a fuel pressure problem forced him to park his car on the circuit in Q2.He will now start Sunday’s race in P22 as the team was unable to provide the mandatory fuel sample for the FIA.

Both Force Indias narrowly missed out on the top ten, with Paul di Resta just 0.029s off in P11. Team-mate Adrian Sutil was behind Sergio Perez’s McLaren in P13.

The tyre issue even neutered Q1, which did not feature any track action until halfway through.

Toro Rosso attempted to get through on mediums, but had to make a late switch to softs as both drivers were at risk of missing the cut.

Vergne and Ricciardo’s improvements meant Valtteri Bottas’s Williams and Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber were the two midfield cars that got knocked out.

Jules Bianchi had been ahead of the Toro Rossos before they moved to softs, but had to settle for his usual P19 for Marussia, still comfortably faster than his back-of-the-grid rivals.

So a fantastic achievement by Lewis Hamilton. His first pole for Mercedes. Can Lewis win his first race for the team and repeat their performance just like year with Nico Rosberg? We shall find out on race day in China.

Qualifying times from the Shanghai International Circuit:

1. Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes             1m34.484s
2. Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m34.761s
3. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m34.788s
4. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m34.861s
5. Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m34.933s
6. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        1m35.364s
7. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m35.998s
8. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     2m05.673s
9. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     no time
10. Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber-Ferrari       no time
11. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m36.287s
12. Sergio Perez          McLaren-Mercedes     1m36.314s
13. Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes 1m36.405s
14. Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m37.139s
15. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m37.199s
16. Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault     1m37.769s
17. Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber-Ferrari       1m37.990s
18. Jules Bianchi         Marussia-Cosworth    1m38.780s
19. Max Chilton           Marussia-Cosworth    1m39.537s
20. Charles Pic           Caterham-Renault     1m39.614s
21. Giedo van der Garde   Caterham-Renault     1m39.660s
22. Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m36.679s*

*Excluded from qualifying after running out of fuel

107 per cent time: 1m42.489s

Vettel reveals he will disobey team orders again

F1 Grand Prix of China - Previews

Following the fallout between the Red Bull drivers over the team order controversy that dominated last month’s Malaysian Grand Prix, the defending world champion has said he would ignore the instructions from the team to hold station again.

Sebastian Vettel attracted widespread criticisms from the media and fans, while team-mate Mark Webber was left feeling outrage when the German overtook the Australian to win at Sepang.

The pair had been ordered to maintain track position with Webber ahead after the final pitstops, but Vettel mounted an aggressive attack and snatched the race victory.

He later apologised to the team and to Webber, but when faced towards the media again three weeks after the event, Vettel was asked if he would repeat his actions.

The triple world champion said: “I’m not sure I can give a proper answer because in the moment it might be different but I would probably do the same.”

Vettel argued that he had misunderstood the team’s message, yet admitted that even if he had comprehended, his actions would likely not have changed.

“Had I understood the message and had I thought about it, reflected on it, thought what the team wanted to do, to leave Mark in first place and me finishing second… I think I would have thought about it and I would probably have done the same thing.

“He didn’t deserve it.

“There is quite a conflict, because on the one hand I am the kind of guy who respects team decisions and the other hand, probably Mark is not the one who deserved it at the time.”

Sebastian added his move was “indirectly” a form of payback for what he said was a lack of past support from Webber.

“I never had support from his side. I have a lot of support from the team, and the team has supported both of us the same way.

“But in terms of the relationship to Mark, I respect him a lot as a racing driver, but I think there was more than one occasion in the past where he could have helped the team and he didn’t.”

Despite not regretting his actions, Vettel said he stood by his decision to apologise to Red Bull.

“I was racing, and as a racing driver I was solely focused on winning the race and I got a call on the radio, which I heard, but I didn’t understand at the time,” he said.

“I should have understood, that is why I apologised to the team – because in my action I put myself above the team. Whether you believe me or not is up to you.”

But he shrugged off suggestions that he should have received a formal punishment from Red Bull.

“Maybe it is a little bit of a dreamland that you all live in, but what do you expect to happen?” said Vettel. “Make a suggestion!”

Reading into this, Sebastian Vettel has revealed his darker, more ruthless side to his character. After charming his way with countless press interviews and winning worldwide fans thanks to his supreme driving talent and world title victories, his action at Sepang shows how competitive and determined he wants to be in order to become successful.

In many ways, he is just like his childhood idol, the seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher. Both pushed the absolute limit in terms of achieving success – by whatever means necessary – and yet the public perception will change from being a nice and popular driver to a damn right ruthless one.

It’s going to be fascinating whether team boss Christian Horner can maintain control over his two ultra competitive race drivers, as it seems the pair no longer trust each other… What is interesting is that Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz is not a fan of team orders meaning the pair will need to settle the score by racing one another. The ideal situation for fans and media alike.