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Bahrain 2012 - Red Bull return to race winning form // Vettel's victory leads a race of mixed results for teams

Published by Christine

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Credit: Red Bull Racing

Regardless of the furore surrounding the Bahrain Grand Prix, I don't think anyone was expecting too much from the race itself.

Traditionally, the BIC hasn't delivered when it comes to on-track action, but this year things were a lot better.

I did find the latter stages of the race quite dull but up to, and including, Kimi's attempt on taking Vettel for the lead, things were very exciting. Here's my thoughts on each team's performance in Bahrain.

Red Bull

Whilst the rest of us were distracted with whether Formula One should even be in Bahrain or not, Red Bull grabbed the opportunity to return to their former supremacy - as though the last few races had never happened.

Sebastian Vettel took pole position, although it wasn’t as dominant as we have seen him before. Continuing the form of close competition from China, the top six in qualifying were separated by just half a second. Mark Webber had a glimpse of pole position but lost out to both Vettel and Hamilton, lining up on the grid third.

We’re used to seeing Webber outshone by Vettel, and although for a moment it looked as though he might be able to match him - he certainly has done so far this year - it was not to be. Vettel took pole position and left Webber for dust in the race as well.

Sebastian shot off the start line to create an early lead, and thanks to his own team’s pit stop prowess coupled with the misfortune of other garage crews, he kept out front as much as possible. There was just one moment of trouble, when Kimi Räikkönen attempted a pass for the lead, but once that attempt failed, Vettel was allowed to comfortably proceed towards victory. He became the fourth different winner of the year so far, and moved himself up to the top of the championship standings. On the podium, he looked genuinely moved and grateful for the victory - perhaps it means more when it has been a struggle rather than a breeze.

Meanwhile, Webber finished fourth, after struggling with his KERS for the first few laps and found himself in something of a lonely race.

9/10

Lotus

Lotus have been showing us glimpses of potential so far this season, but in Bahrain it all came together for the Enstone team. Fresh from the disappointment of Räikkönen’s drastic fall from a podium position in China, the team were prepared to turn it all around this weekend. Unfortunately, qualifying wasn’t quite the start they wanted with Kimi finding himself 11th, and Romain Grosjean 7th.

Both drivers had a fantastic start to the Grand Prix, though. Romain could be spotted overtaking cars left, right and centre to make his way up to second place. Kimi followed in his footsteps and then went one better - bumping his teammate down to third.

Räikkönen was the only driver with a chance of halting Seb’s day of domination, and he was certainly looking back to his former fighting fitness as he closed down the gap to the leader. The battle between the two provided the entertainment for the middle part of the race, and there was some good clean racing from both parties. At the end of the race, Kimi admitted he had been on the wrong side of Vettel which meant he could not get by. The thwarted attempt then saw Kimi drop back and seemingly settle for second place.

Grosjean remained in third, providing the Lotus team with a bumper crop of points to take with them. They moved from sixth to third in the constructor’s championship, and, more importantly, have given themselves a boost of motivation to keep on improving the car.

8/10

Mercedes

Everyone, including the Mercedes team, were surprised at their success in China, and thus everyone, including the Mercedes team, were not expecting them to repeat the feat in Bahrain. For a start, the temperatures in the desert would be far different to those in Shanghai, and thus, we assumed Mercedes’ issue with their tyres would be back with a vengeance.

As it turned out, they didn’t suffer quite as much as I thought they would and it looks as though they might have got a handle on what is causing the issues at least. Nico Rosberg was one of those drivers in the tight qualifying top ten - eventually coming to rest in fifth place. Michael Schumacher had a less successful Saturday, dropping out of the first session of qualifying after a mistake on his lap, some mechanical issues, and the hope that his tenth place time was good enough. It wasn’t, and he fell down the order, only to find the team changing his gearbox to drop him a further five places.

Both drivers had a relatively solid race, although compared to their own now-much-higher standards, it was likely a bit of a disappointment. Rosberg finished where he started, in fifth place. Schumacher managed to climb up to tenth and gather himself another point. Unfortunately for the seven-times champion, that brings his total points tally for 2012 to two, making him the last of the drivers with points on the board.

There’s still a long way to go for the team as a whole, but specifically on Michael’s side of the garage.

7/10

Force India

Considering the fact that Force India were banished from the coverage on Saturday, it is almost ironic that they were the team most talked about throughout the entire weekend. The Force India crew were one of the first to report sightings of trouble in Bahrain, a couple of their team members went home, and they chose to miss FP2 in favour of going home early.

Regardless of the temporary punishment on Saturday, the team did actually qualify. Paul di Resta scraped through into the top ten, but opted not to set a time in that final session. Nico Hülkenberg wasn’t that far behind him, lining up on the grid 13th. Their Sunday strategy improved the positions somewhat. Nico moved up a place to 12th.

Di Resta, however, flew up the order, and having yet to take his first pit stop, found himself leading the race. It was shortlived glory, as Vettel came and resumed his rightful position, but the strong performance by both Paul and his team saw them come in sixth place - their best result this year. Some sorely needed points were gathered, keeping Force India in contention with Williams for 7th place in the championship.

The strong points finish led to Di Resta coming out in favour of his decision to sit out Q3, which is not something I’d like to encourage. Tyre saving is all part of the game now, and it’s not as though we would have seen the Force India anyway, but more laps are always better for fans.

6/10

Ferrari

Before the Bahrain weekend, Fernando Alonso was sure that the team would face another uphill battle. Ferrari have been struggling so far this year, with everyone from the drivers to the team boss admitting that they need to turn things around. Alonso didn’t think that Bahrain would be the place this would happen.

And he was right, although it’s fair to say that the race weekend wasn’t as much of a disaster as it could have been. Fernando thought getting into Q3 would be a challenge in itself, but he did manage to get to the third session of qualifying, lining up on the grid 9th. Felipe Massa didn’t do quite so well on his flying laps and finished Saturday in 14th place.

Come race day, and the Ferrari found some pace. The team believe they have their pit stop procedure sussed so that it is as fast as it can possible be. That, along with the trouble McLaren had, allowed Alonso and Massa to finish in the points, sandwiching Lewis Hamilton. Massa’s ninth place saw his first two points of the year, whilst Alonso settled for seventh position.

As the former champion noted, the close nature of the championship, with four different winners so far, mean he is just ten points off the lead - and considering the state of the car he is working with, that is not to be taken for granted.

6/10

McLaren

When McLaren had a pitstop problem during the Chinese Grand Prix, it seemed like an unfortunate occurrence for Button - one of those things that happens when a team wins and loses together. The left rear wheel gun was not functioning properly, delayed Button and halted his progress to challenge Nico Rosberg for the win.

When exactly the same problem happened again in Bahrain, this time on Hamilton’s car, it raised eyebrows. When it happened a third time, still on Hamilton’s car, then it became clear there’s a serious problem that McLaren need to look at. Martin Whitmarsh has already said they are evaluating both the pit stop process, the equipment and the personnel involved to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

With Lewis scuppered by the pit stop problems, Button should have been the team's

hopes for points, but he had mechanical troubles of his own. A handful of issues, including a puncture, culminated in the engine sounding horribly sick as Button trundled back into the garage and retired from the race right at the very end. It's a testament to how slow some of the other cars go that he was still classified 18th, with drivers who were still out on track finishing behind him.

A terrible weekend for McLaren, compounded with the spectre of Red Bull's return

to winning form. They'll need to brush this one off quickly and come back strong

again in Spain.

5/10

Sauber

Sauber have been notoriously good at keeping their car light on the tyres and adjusting the strategy to compensate for any lack of pace the car may display. Two stopping usually helps them finish in the points when those around them are coming in to the pits more often. In Bahrain, that wasn’t going to be the case.

Sergio Pérez believed the track was going to be a difficult one for them from the start, but he still managed to qualifying in eighth place. Teammate Kamui Kobayashi was a little lower, starting the race from 12th on the grid. Sauber were another team to suffer with pitstop problems, but even so, they couldn’t rely on their usual strategic advantage to help them out this weekend.

Their tyre degradation was higher than they had anticipated and, as Kobayashi puts it, they had a “general lack of speed.” There’s no much you can do if your tyres aren’t holding up, you don’t have the pace, and you come in for the same amount of stops as everyone around you. Pérez just missed out on points, finishing the race 11th, with Kobayashi 13th.

5/10

Toro Rosso

Jean-Éric Vergne has made it three qualifying sessions in a row where he has dropped out in Q1. Usually, it can be excused with his rookie status and the fact that Daniel Ricciardo is usually only a place or two ahead of him - albeit by means of another qualifying session. In Bahrain, however, Ricciardo drove for his life and managed to get his Toro Rosso through to the third session of qualifying. Not only that, he didn’t sit back and ponder a tyre saving strategy, he went all out and managed to get the Toro Rosso sixth on the grid. An absolutely stunning drive on Saturday.

Unfortunately, it all went wrong for the Australian on race day. He lost two places off the start lane and had no pace around the next few corners. He was losing positions and then reported to the team that there was something damaged on his front wing, forcing a pit stop for a new nose. There may have been contact with another car, but even the team say they’re not sure which one.

As the race unfolded, the lack of pace was ever more obvious so that Ricciardo eventually finished 15th, crucially one place behind his teammate! Vergne had a relatively clean race but needs to find the pace in qualifying to help him start higher and get into the mix on Sundays.

Boss Franz Tost is correct when he says that Daniel’s qualifying was the highlight of a race weekend they’d rather forget.

3/10

Caterham

Kovalainen put in a really strong qualifying lap to get Caterham into Q2 for the first time this year (and the first time since Belgium 2011 for Team Lotus). He also managed to drop Schumacher out of qualifying, which was probably something of an added bonus. Petrov remained firmly in the new team zone, however, qualifying 20th, only ahead of the two Marussia and HRT cars.

For the race, Heikki found himself in contact with a car behind and was forced to pit with a puncture. It put him on the back foot initially, although the pace of the Caterham compared to the others at the rear of the field was clear when he was soon back to where you would expect him to be. Kovalainen finished the race 17th, one place behind Petrov.

Vitaly had a great fight with Ricciardo throughout the race, and feels the weekend was positive as a whole.

2/10

Marussia

Neither Marussia driver was particularly impressed after qualifying - Timo Glock was very vocal about the balance of the car and how it just wasn’t working. He also admitted to making a big mistake on one of his flying laps, though, so it wasn’t all the car’s fault. With 20th and 23rd on the grid, Charles Pic outqualified his teammate for the first time this year.

In the race, however, Pic was forced to retire less than halfway through with engine trouble. The AVS issue may cause damage to the engine that comes back to haunt him in future races. Glock remained unhappy with the balance of the car, and found the tyre degradation unmanageable, so that 19th was the best he could do. Post-race, the team said that Glock’s car had the same engine issue was Pic’s but they’re on the case with Cosworth.

1/10

HRT

Once again, HRT qualified within the 107% cutoff point, hopefully putting that problem firmly in the past for them. The pace on the car is still nowhere near where they want it to be, and where it needs to be for them to have any sort of impact on the race.

However, the team have had three races in a row where both cars have got to the finish, and in the Bahrain climate of pit stop problems, it’s worth noting that Narain Karthikeyan completed a four stop strategy with no issue.

De la Rosa puts it perfectly, saying they are now in the position they should have been at Australia, so the only way is up. If they turn up to the Mugello testing, that may help them close the gap a little.

1/10

Williams

Bruno Senna qualified his Williams in 15th place, whilst Pastor Maldonado finished the session 17th. Both drivers managed to get through to Q2, but Pastor opted not to run as he knew he would be facing a five place grid penalty for changing his gearbox anyway.

Their efforts were in vain, however, as the team found themselves looking at a double DNF come Sunday. Senna found himself with some vicious vibration under braking, and after sticking out on track as long as he can, he was called in so as not to risk an accident.

Maldonado suffered a puncture which forced him into a 360 degree spin, followed by a swift retirement from the race. Fresh from their double points finish in China, these two retirements are even more of a disappointment. However, the team have plenty to work with to move on and look ahead to Spain.

1/10

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