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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Vettel cashes in on Alonso’s misfortune (again) // Sebastian dominates but a Flying Scot takes the acclaim

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I thought Bahrain was an excuse for Bernie Ecclestone to reap money out of the Middle East, but Sunday’s Grand Prix proved that Bahrain can provide an action-packed Grand Prix as well. However, even after all of the exciting racing, it appears that Formula One has not changed in the past 12 months. Still the F1 circus arrives in the Gulf region to scenes of protest and British politicians desperate for the race to be called off at the last minute. And still Sebastian Vettel leads home the Loti/Lotuses of Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean (in that order). Sense of déjà vu perhaps?

Di Resta falls just short

Di Resta in the VJM06 cockpit
Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team

I remember twelve months ago in my first post on Sidepodcast where Paul di Resta was the headline act as he flew to sixth on a difficult weekend for the team. This year he was even more impressive. After showing good pace through the practice sessions, Di Resta, as did Adrian Sutil to be fair to him, shone. He qualified seventh, but started a career best fifth after Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton took their respective penalties.

In the race there was no doubt which of the Force India drivers was on form. While Di Resta jumped Felipe Massa at the start, Adrian Sutil clashed with the Brazilian and got a puncture, ending his chances of points as he crawled back to the pits.

Di Resta stuck with the leaders through the first few laps, in fact he was held up if anything. He flew past Nico Rosberg and took advantage when Ferrari pulled Fernando Alonso in to ‘fix’ his rear wing. From there, Di Resta showed great pace, he really looked like he belonged as he ran in second. He even led for a few laps as everyone else pulled into the pits while the Scot continued on the medium tyres to try and make a two stop strategy work. At that point, it looked like he might be able to put up some fight against Vettel, but he came in a little earlier than the strategy ideally required and thus needed to save tyres more for the rest of the race.

In reality the early stop probably didn’t cost Di Resta a podium, judging by Grosjean’s pace on a three stop strategy. A fourth placed finish for Di Resta is a terrific result, but was it just me whose heart sank when they realised that Grosjean had plenty of pace in order to catch up? The Scotsman has a lot to be proud of and can only build on this result through the rest of 2013.

Back to business for Vettel

It never looked it over the course of the weekend but Sebastian Vettel absolutely dominated in Bahrain. Red Bull sandbagged through Friday and were then usurped by Mercedes in qualifying. But, after Vettel passed compatriot Rosberg on lap three, Vettel was truly untouchable. So untouchable that he made an extra stop than his tyres required and set the fastest lap of the race. And yet he could have gone even faster.

Vettel fends off Alonso in Bahrain
Credit: Mason/Getty

Now I don’t like to put the race winner in my column because they get enough acclaim in the media, but you simply have to sit up and take notice when a driver is that dominant, having been in the pack just a week earlier; particularly when you consider that going into the weekend everyone thought it was going to be a battle between Lotus and Ferrari, due to their superior tyre wear - so much for that theory. It was great to see Sebastian Vettel show how good a driver he is, including a brave overtake on Fernando Alonso, the hardest man to pass in F1, as well as Nico Rosberg. That said, I hope it doesn’t continue for the rest of the year.

Alonso recovery impressive, though overlooked

No one thought anything of it, but a great drive by the Spaniard may be the difference when it comes to the final reckoning in Brazil in November. The DRS had failed several laps before it was recognised on TV, and I have to say, I don’t know how Alonso kept it on the track, let alone at full speed. So far this year, Alonso has proved that he can do competitive laps with a damaged front wing and a damaged rear wing, does this guy need downforce?

I don’t know how Alonso kept it on the track, let alone at full speed

But, of course, as soon as the fault was noticed, Alonso had to pit, denting his chances as it was just before the pit window opened. There was still a chance he could fight his way back through, that was until he tried to use DRS on his outlap and the same fault occurred. Game over? Not for Fernando!

Alonso managed to go from the back of the pack with a compromised strategy. Without DRS. On a track that doesn’t encourage overtaking (well until 2013 anyway). And yet he still managed to fight his way back to eighth, just behind Mark Webber.

Pérez proves me wrong

Sergio talks to the media in Sakhir
Credit: VMM

I’m happy to admit that I called Checo out on my blog last week, but he really stepped up to the plate, and may even have overstepped the line as he fought with teammate Jenson Button, damaging his front wing and wheelbanging, which Jenson was not too pleased about.

I have to say I found it interesting that Martin Whitmarsh made a point of complaining about the contact that damaged Sergio’s front wing, where it was a clear mistake as he outbraked himself, but was happy to encourage the aggressive driving and ‘wheelbanging’ as Jenson described it. In fact, from the camera angles I’ve seen, I can’t see Pérez steering into Button, was Jenson more guilty than he made out?

As Martin Brundle said, this race was a statement, and Jenson wanted to come out on top, and prove that he was number one. I would almost equate it to Button’s Melbourne win in 2010, causing Lewis Hamilton to realise that McLaren may not be built completely around him.

That said, it was good to see the real ‘Checo’ back as he beat his teammate and perhaps even outperformed the McLaren. It’ll be interesting to see if he can continue this good form, particularly as Catalunya is being built up as a make or break race for McLaren.