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F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 4) - Invisible force // An ethical dilemma, a shunned team, and another new winner

Published by Christine Blachford

F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 4) - Invisible force audio waveform
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Hello and welcome to the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, you’re listening to the fourth in a series of short shows, highlighting the key moments of the 2012 season. We’ve looked at a couple of the races so far, and it’s time to pick up the action at another one with Day Four - Invisible force.

The Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled in 2011 due to the ongoing political troubles and civil unrest, but the race took its place back on the 2012 calendar, scheduled to go ahead in mid-April. There was plenty of discussion leading up to the event, questioning whether it was right to go to Bahrain, whether the country was ready, whether it was going to be safe, whether it was the ethical thing to do. The race itself had been singled out as a target for protestors, but the FIA and Bernie concluded that the event should go ahead and thus the teams and drivers turned up in Sakhir to race.

Reports from the circuit and the wider area varied wildly, but it was Force India that caused the most headlines as they reacted to the troubles around them. On the Wednesday before the race, several team members found themselves in the middle of a protest as they were travelling to and from the circuit. A couple of employees elected to head straight home, whilst the team themselves decided to limit their participation in the Free Practice sessions. They confirmed that they would not run in FP2 on Friday afternoon and returned to their duties on Saturday instead.

It was very intriguing to see, or not see to be more accurate, no Force India coverage during qualifying. As fans, we all assume it was FOM’s response to the team not participating in all the practice sessions, but naturally Bernie Ecclestone denied any such thing - claiming the cameras concentrate only on the front runners.

Politics aside, the weekend’s on-track action continued without a hitch. Sebastian Vettel was back on qualifying form, securing pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton and then Mark Webber. Nico Rosberg tried to keep up the pace from his race win in China, but could only manage fifth on the grid. It was still better than his teammate Michael Schumacher though, who found himself 18th in qualifying.

There was some rain ahead of the race on Sunday, but it remained dry once the cars took to the grid. Sebastian Vettel got away cleanly off the line, gaining a good lead at the start. McLaren struggled with their pit stops, losing Hamilton a lot of time with a delayed release due to wheel nut cross threading.

They weren’t the only team facing difficulties though, as Williams continued to find themselves thwarted - showing good pace but unable to see it through to the end. Pastor Maldonado spun and came into the pitlane with a puncture, then not returning to action. Bruno Senna also was forced to retire just one lap from the end, so that he was still classified, but way down in 22nd.

Meanwhile, Lotus were showing some great pace. Romain Grosjean had qualified seventh, with teammate Kimi Räikkönen eleventh. Romain managed to move forward to second, and Kimi followed him through the field, and then overtook him. It was only Räikkönen who could challenge Vettel for the lead, giving us a couple of thrilling laps to watch, but it was ultimately Sebastian Vettel who took the victory. With Red Bull on the top stop, it was a very strong finish for Lotus, seeing both drivers on the podium.

Team principal Éric Boullier was of course very happy, saying afterwards: “The first three races were very frustrating, as we knew we were capable of a result like this. Until now, small details have hindered our performance, so it's almost a relief to finally show what we are capable of.”

And race winner Vettel said: “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.” For those that are keeping count, we now have four races, four race winners and with Vettel moving into the lead of the championship, four leaders in the standings as well. How long could this bizarre streak of mixed up results continue?

That’s all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, thank you for listening. We’ll be moving on to the fifth episode next time, so I hope you can join me again when we find out whether the bizarre streak could continue!

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