Vettel Gets First Win of Season
By: James Musoke on April 22, 2012 | 9:46 A.M. EST
Vettel scored his 22nd career win. (Photo: Getty Images)
Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel found his way back into the Winner’s Circle on Sunday, earning his first victory of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The reigning Formula 1 champion, who also scored his first pole of the season, built an early lead from the start of Sunday’s race. Vettel casually went about his business until a late surge by the Lotus team put the young two-time champ under pressure.
The German narrowly escaped a steady charge from Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen, who closed the gap to under a second as the race moved into its second half. The Finn, who qualified in 11th place, carved his way through most of the top 10 and became the sole pursuer of Vettel by the 33rd lap. The leading pair ran together for several laps, but the Lotus was able to muster up the pace to pass the Red Bull, who able re-establish the gap once again after the two cars pitted on 39th lap. Vettel claimed his 22nd victory of his career, and his first since the inaugural Indian Grand Prix back in October last year.
"It was an incredible race, extremely tough,” Vettel said. “A good start was crucial and I was able to pull away from the pack, which was a big advantage as we always had to go on scrubbed tires due to the fact we had used almost all of them in qualifying yesterday. Kimi was very quick and so was Grosjean. But everything seemed to work well today; strategy was good and I can only say a big thank you to the whole team and the guys in the garage."
Raikkonen had to settle for second place, ahead of his teammate Romain Grosjean who ran an exceptional race to claim his first top-three finish of his career. Behind the Frenchman was Red Bull driver Mark Webber, who finished in fourth place for the fourth straight race this season. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg rounded out the top five, with Paul di Resta earning a sixth-place finish ahead of a Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was on his tail until the checkered flag.
“The result today is massive for us,” said di Resta. “The team did an amazing job all weekend, the strategy came together and the pit stops were perfect. We knew it would be a big ask to make only two stops and it was a close run thing at the end because my tyres completely went away on the final lap. I had Fernando [Alonso] very close behind me, but I saved a bit of KERS coming out of the final corner and managed to stay ahead.”
The McLaren drivers, who started the season on a high note, suffered multiple mishaps today that saw both drivers struggle for position for the majority of the race.
Lewis Hamilton finished in a disappointing eighth place, after suffering two poor pit stops that cost him valuable spots early in the race. The Brit qualified in second spot behind Vettel, but was unable to stay on pace with the Red Bull from the very start, and tumbled his way down the field after some costly team mistakes.
“There are good times and bad times in motor racing,” Hamilton said. “I guess this was just one of those days. By rights we should have been fighting to finish in the top four today, but it didn’t work out like that in the end. The delays in the pits were a big part of that, of course. For the driver sitting in the car, that’s always frustrating, because you’re just waiting and there’s nothing you can do to help. We lost a bit of world championship momentum today - but, on the plus side, we still picked up four world championship points, and every point you score is valuable in a season as close-fought as this one.”
Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button, who was poised to earn a top-10 finish, suffered a puncture with only three laps to go, and eventually retired on the last lap with a broken exhaust. Hamilton’s setback pushes him down a spot to second place in the championship with 49 points, losing his crown to Vettel, who now sits in first place with 53 points.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa produced his strongest performance of the season, taking ninth place ahead of the seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who converted a 22nd place grid position into a 10th-place finish.
The Formula One Championship takes a three-week break, before heading to Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix.