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Bahrain 2013 - Red Bull dominate in the desert // Vettel wins another race, as Lotus take two steps on the podium

Published by Christine

Red Bull make light work of the Pirelli's
Credit: Mark Thompson

We've complained endlessly in the past about the lack of racing action provided in Bahrain, and although it is by no means the worst track on the calendar, it has failed to deliver. That was all swept under the carpet for 2013, with an incredible race with action from lights to flag - overtaking, incidents, teammate rivalries, and just the one retirement.

Red Bull took the top honours, although Lotus had the most presence on the podium, but it was actually a good weekend for most of the teams, as they started to see progress even before the return to the European race tracks.

Red Bull

Driver positions - Red Bull
DriverQualifyingRace
S Vettel2nd1st
M Webber5th7th

Red Bull didn't have the pace they, and we, might have expected in China, and as Free Practice proceeded in Bahrain, it looked like they may be in for a repeat weekend. The Austrian squad have been very vocal about their dissatisfaction with the tyres, and there was no reason to assume they'd have got on top of their troubles in seven short days.

Whatever the Free Practice timesheets said, the reality was much different. Sebastian Vettel would have nabbed himself another pole position if it weren't for a pesky Mercedes, and he went on to cruise to a dominant victory on race day. In the end, the gap to second place Kimi Räikkönen was under ten seconds, but it could easily have been a lot more.

On the other side of the garage, Mark Webber was forced down from his fifth place qualifying spot by a penalty hanging over his head from China. From eighth on the grid, the Australian fought hard to gain several positions, but spent so long doing battle with other drivers that the tyres were unable to remain competitive for their required stints. It may not have been what the driver wanted, but it was certainly entertaining!

If you race people hard then you run out of tyres, but if you don't then they come through. In the end it was a pretty good battle with Lewis for both of us; neither of us had any tyres left, but we were trying to race as best we could.

- Mark Webber, F1 driver, Red Bull Racing

Lotus

Driver positions - Lotus
DriverQualifyingRace
K Räikkönen9th2nd
R Grosjean11th3rd

Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Lotus gave Romain Grosjean a brand new chassis to play with, reportedly to rule out any problems with the car when it comes to his lacking performance. Rather than placing the blame squarely on the driver's shoulders, the new chassis made all the difference, and Romain Grosjean was suddenly a contender. Although he was still beaten by his teammate in both sessions, it was a lot closer.

The pace on the Lotus appeared to be lacking on Saturday, and Grosjean just missed out on getting into the final session, gaining the benefit of starting on whichever tyres he so desired. Räikkönen gained a small boost from Lewis Hamilton's grid penalty, and he kept on moving forward in the race. The team split their strategy, with Grosjean on a three-stop and Räikkönen taking just two stops as the race unfolded. The car appeared to be light on its tyres, and allowed the drivers to push for position, do battle with those around them, and still remain on the pace when required.

After the race, Kimi aired his views that the team probably wouldn't have been fast enough to catch the Red Bull disappearing in the distance, even if they had managed to do better on a Saturday - but as ever, qualifying performance is holding the Enstone squad back.

Force India

Driver positions - Force India
DriverQualifyingRace
P Di Resta7th4th
A Sutil8th13th

Paul di Resta showed a glimpse of what was to come in Free Practice when he finished both Friday sessions in fifth position. Practice times are almost meaningless, but the Scot went on to take that place on the grid as well, his teammate just behind him. The Force India pair were flattered by the penalties that saw two drivers move down behind them, but they were there to capitalise when it mattered.

In the race, Adrian Sutil was scuppered almost immediately by a collision with Felipe Massa that saw him slow to a crawl and dive into the pit lane after a painful lap. At the back of the grid, his race strategy was ruined, and it was a matter of pushing through the field as best as possible from there.

Di Resta was having a much better time of it out front - he kept himself in contention with the leaders, even leading a race for the first time in his F1 career. It never quite looked like a win was on the cards, but a third place was certainly possible until a flying Grosjean exited the pits on fresh rubber and with a target in mind. The Force India held off the Lotus for as long as possible, but it wasn't to be. Despite that, Di Resta isn't disappointed with missing out, taking great heart from the pace on display. His boss is of the same opinion.

Although we missed out on third, the twelve points scored keep us up in fifth place in the championship and give us every reason to be optimistic for the coming races. The contact with Massa proved very costly because Adrian's race pace was on a par with Paul's and we should have brought both cars home in the points.

- Vijay Mallya, Team Principal, Force India

Mercedes

Driver positions - Mercedes
DriverQualifyingRace
N Rosberg1st9th
L Hamilton4th5th

No one was expecting Nico Rosberg to take pole position, not even the driver or the team principal themselves. Raised eyebrows and big smiles all round at Mercedes on Saturday, with Rosberg proclaiming this as the start of an upswing, kick-starting his season where the previous weekends have failed to deliver. Unfortunately for the German on Sunday, things took a tumble again, as he fell rapidly through the field. His defensive moves were impressive but ultimately failed to keep anyone behind him as the car lacked any pace at all.

Saturday was good for both cars, although Hamilton's five place gearbox-related grid drop hid the best he had to offer in qualifying. The cooler, windier temperatures during qualifying helped the cars towards the front of the grid, but they suffered on race day when the sun was doing its worst.

Hamilton's car had little to offer during the first half of the race, and he suffered a similar fate to his teammate, fighting to keep any kind of position in the field. Suddenly, however, the car came to life and in the final stint, Hamilton started making his way through the field again. He passed his teammate and continued onwards to grab a handful of very useful points. The Mercedes car was completely inconsistent in the warmer temperatures, and although we're heading into Europe now, where it's probably going to be raining each and every weekend, this'll be something the team need to look at very closely indeed.

McLaren

Driver positions - McLaren
DriverQualifyingRace
J Button10th10th
S Pérez12th6th

Where Red Bull's teammate fallout continued for several weeks after the event earlier this year, McLaren have managed to patch theirs up within 24 hours. Having instructed new driver Sergio Pérez to up his game, the team weren't too impressed to see their drivers fighting for track position in a heart-stopping fashion. Button's overly-defensive moves didn't help and Pérez's eagerness to get through saw a small collision between a rear wheel and an endplate. There was no major damage done, words were had afterwards, and all has been patched up.

In terms of race pace, Button said that the Bahrain circuit highlighted all their flaws - track design and temperature both working against the new car. Considering they went on to finish with both cars in the points (just), this is probably good news for the rest of the season.

Qualifying on Saturday was nip and tuck for Button, he just managed to get through to the top ten shootout and then opted not to set a time in the final session, preferring to save the tyres. The strategy didn't work out so well in the race, with Pérez able to move past his teammate and finish higher up in the points - but a double points finish for both is still progress for the team at this stage.

Ferrari

Driver positions - Ferrari
DriverQualifyingRace
F Alonso3rd8th
F Massa6th15th

Ferrari suffered the rather embarrassing problem of a DRS failure on Fernando Alonso's car during Sunday's race, with the rear wing flap getting stuck open. They brought forward his pit stop to rectify the situation, sent him back out for another lap, in which the DRS got stuck open again. A second pit stop meant the potential for a race win was ruined, and it was a simple fight through the field to limit the damage as much as possible.

Felipe Massa wasn't having a particularly good time of it either, after the early collision with Adrian Sutil, and not one, but two punctures forced him ever backwards. It was even more disappointing after gaining from the penalties of others on the grid. The two Ferrari cars lined up third and fourth but ended the race with just four points.

The entire team have since been talking about their bad luck this race, and it's clear to see that Alonso could have been in with a shout for the victory - particularly when you consider his pace through the field with broken DRS. He didn't make as much progress as he would have liked but to bring home any points in that condition is good. Massa's pace continues to be better than last year, but not quite as good as his teammates, and thus it's all about when they can turn things around and get on fate's good side again.

I am sure that without the problems me and Felipe had, we would have finished higher up, because the car responds very well and it is definitely our best of the last four years. But having a good race involves a lot of factors, including a bit of luck.

- Fernando Alonso, F1 driver, Ferrari

Williams

Driver positions - Williams
DriverQualifyingRace
P Maldonado17th11th
V Bottas15th14th

If Williams were in that Bahrain race, I don't recall seeing them. However, an anonymous race is actually a step up for the team, considering how visible Pastor Maldonado has been in the past. He's managed two successive race finishes now, and didn't spin off drastically throughout the weekend. The worst part of the weekend for Pastor was qualifying, as he dropped out in the first session whilst his teammate managed to squeeze through to Q2. The pair showed how evenly matched they are, though, by setting exactly the same qualifying time in that first session. It was only that Bottas had set his first that he made the cut.

The team were expecting the drivers to end up racing each other on Sunday as well, but a problem with Bottas' pit stop separated them and allowed Maldonado to get ahead. In the end, he missed out on points by just one place - so that the team go away from another race weekend with zero on the team standings.

Sauber

Driver positions - Sauber
DriverQualifyingRace
N Hülkenberg14th12th
E Gutiérrez18th18th

Esteban Gutiérrez managed to have his worst race so far in Bahrain, and that is after crashing into Adrian Sutil in China and getting a five place grid penalty for his trouble. Having qualified 18th, the drop saw him start last on the grid. He managed to survive a small collision during the first lap, but then went on to be out-classed by Charles Pic in a Caterham. Esteban admitted he was expecting a difficult weekend but when your teammate is chasing down points, it reflects even more on your own performance.

For his part, Hülkenberg also expected a difficult time of it on Sunday, and was actually taken aback when things weren't as bad as they feared. Looking back on his strategy, the German believes they could have taken their last stop earlier as the car was behaving itself on low fuel better than anticipated. The team as a whole aren't impressed with their weekend's work and are pinning their hopes on upgrades that should hopefully improve things for Spain.

Toro Rosso

Driver positions - Toro Rosso
DriverQualifyingRace
JE Vergne16thDNF
D Ricciardo13th16th

We've talked often about Jean-Éric Vergne and the fact that he is often one of the drivers dropping out of qualifying in the first session. In Bahrain, he managed to follow his teammate up and out and into the second session, although couldn't make much more progress than 16th. Ricciardo, meanwhile, wasn't quite as strong as the last race in China, but pushed the car to its limit to secure 13th.

Vergne was rewarded for his hard work on Saturday by an early exit during the race - the only driver to retire during the Grand Prix. He pins the blame on being pushed wide by Bottas which in turn pushed him into Giedo van der Garde. The damage brought him into the pits and although the team patched him up as best as possible, it wasn't long before they decided to end his race. The hopes of the team rested on Ricciardo's shoulders but he couldn't get the tyres to work properly, without being able to pinpoint why.

Daniel did everything he could and we also tried to make some changes during the pit stops, but that did not work. As soon as we can, we will have a look at the car, because we assume there is some fairly significant problem with it, which will be the obvious cause of our poor performance today. As for Jean-Éric, he was unlucky to be pushed into the path of a Caterham by a Williams.

- Franz Tost, Team Principal, Toro Rosso

Caterham

Driver positions - Caterham
DriverQualifyingRace
C Pic19th17th
G Van der Garde21st21st

The other side of Vergne's accident was Giedo van der Garde, who lost a significant amount of time and a front wing to boot. After an unscheduled stop early on in the race, plus a puncture towards the end, it was no surprise to see Van der Garde start and finish in the same position - essentially last.

Pic, meanwhile, was having a much better time of it. After qualifying well, he managed to keep pace with, and easily get the better of, the two Marussia drivers, and was doing battle with a Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso. Two of those cars were significantly out of place, but weren't making enormous amounts of progress on passing the Caterham. Finishing 17th isn't going to help them in the backmarker battle, but is a boost for the team who were beginning to look a few steps behind Marussia.

Marussia

Driver positions - Marussia
DriverQualifyingRace
J Bianchi20th19th
M Chilton22nd20th

I found it fascinating to see Jules Bianchi struggling in qualifying - having been the golden boy of the rear of the field for the first three races, he finally found himself outqualified by a Caterham. It wasn't clear at first if it was just a bad track for the team, or if Bianchi was the worse for having given up his car in Friday practice. Eventually, it became clear the track wasn't suited to the Marussia car on either side of the garage.

It was disappointment all round on Sunday, although Max Chilton takes great comfort from the fact that he could finally match the pace of his teammate during the race. He was in front of both Caterham drivers for a while, but the tyres weren't behaving as well as hoped. Bianchi had been on a three-stop strategy but had to complete an extra stop towards the end of the race after running out of rubber.

As with everyone in front of them, Marussia are putting these first four races behind them and concentrating on bringing the best updates they can over the next three weeks. When things get going in Spain again, we could see yet another shake-up in the order of things.

All content in the series Bahrain 2013