• Bahrain Grand Prix

Vettel holds off Raikkonen in Bahrain thriller

ESPNF1 Staff
April 22, 2012

Sebastian Vettel won his first race of the 2012 season after holding off Kimi Raikkonen in an enthralling battle for victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Raikkonen came from 11th on the grid, and in the third stint was right on the gearbox of Vettel, but had to settle for second place ahead of his Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean at the chequered flag.

The Finn may have stood a better chance if he had passed team-mate Grosjean more quickly at the end of the second stint, but team principal Eric Boullier stuck by his decision to let his drivers race.

Behind the action at the front, Mark Webber took his fourth consecutive fourth-place finish of the season, while Nico Rosberg yo-yoed up and down the field to eventually finish fifth. Paul di Resta made use of a two-stop strategy to take a very well-deserved sixth place ahead of Fernando Alonso in seventh.

Two appalling pit stops meant Lewis Hamilton dropped from second at the start to eighth at the finish as McLaren had a torrid race in which Jenson Button eventually retired with a sick-sounding car and a differential problem. Felipe Massa capitalised to take his first points of the season in ninth. Michael Schumacher rounded off the podium in tenth after starting from 22nd.

Vettel got a brilliant start from pole position and pulled out a 2.2s lead on the first lap as he threatened a repeat of his 2011 dominance. Hamilton had been running second in the first stint but a sticking wheel nut meant he had a 9.9s pit stop and had to drive off the circuit along the second straight to stay ahead of Rosberg as he returned to the track.

Both Lotuses got strong starts and Raikkonen soon moved up to third before closing in on his team-mate Grosjean in the second stint. The Finn was on a fresh set of soft tyres compared to Grosjean's mediums and had the pace to reel in his team-mate on each lap. He lost crucial time to Vettel before finding his way past his team-mate, but it's hard to say whether it would have made much of a difference in the end.

Raikkonen maintained his pace in the third stint on another set of fresh soft tyres and closed in on Vettel. He had one good look down the inside on the approach to turn one, after using his KERS and DRS on the pits straight, but Vettel forced him to take to the outside in the braking zone and he couldn't make the move stick.

In the final stint Raikkonen and Vettel both took on medium tyres, but the Red Bull suddenly looked more composed and pulled out a three second lead that the reigning champion was able to hold until the flag. After crossing the line Vettel was ordered to stop his car immediately and had to run the length of the pit lane to take his position on the podium.

The victory put Vettel back in familiar territory at the top of the drivers' standings after both McLaren drivers failed to live up to expectations. Button struggled for pace throughout the race and a puncture on lap 53 scotched his chances of a points finish before he had to retire with a differential problem three laps later. Amid all the drama Hamilton's second stop was also delayed, and despite a determined fight back through the field, he only picked up four points in eighth.