SEBASTIAN Vettel returned to the top step of the podium for the first time in 2012 as he fought off a bold charge from Kimi Raikkonen to win the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The win also saw the reigning world champion return to the top of the driver’s standings, and with Mark Webber’s fourth consecutive fourth place, Red Bull returned to the top of the constructor’s championship too.
“It was an incredible race, extremely tough,” said Vettel. “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 tyres due to the fact we had used almost all of them in qualifying yesterday.
“I can only say a big thank you to the whole team and the guys in the garage. I said it yesterday, but they have done an incredible job over the last four races, the amount of work they had to do was so much. We asked them for this and for that, for tweaks here and there and they came with new parts, then old parts, then news parts again, back and forth and spent a lot of time in the garage trying to get the car to our liking. But we got there.”
Vettel’s lights-to-flag victory looked like a walk in the park for the majority as he opened a comfortable gap to the chasing pack from pole position.
Despite setting a good pace, he did come under pressure from Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen who made huge ground on the harder compound tyre. The Finn, making his F1 return this season, surged through the field from 11th on the grid with team-mate Romain Grosjean in tow and attempted a bold move on Vettel up the inside at turn 1 on lap 36, but couldn’t quite nudge ahead.
But as the pair made their last pit stops, the German opened a comfortable gap to Raikkonen and made it to the chequered flag.
Mr Consistency Mark Webber finished fourth again, but had a fairly lonely race unable to keep pace with his team-mate and the Lotus’ ahead, while keeping a healthy gap to the chasing pack behind him.
And while Vettel became the fourth different winner in 2012, Webber’s steady run has seen him rise up to third in the drivers’ championship.
“I’ve been frustratingly close to the podium on each occasion this year,” he said. “But four fourth places is better than four fifth places!
“I got some good points and both drivers and Red Bull Racing are doing well in the Championships.
“It wasn’t the most exciting race for me, but it’s been a good start to the Championship. I’m looking forward to getting back to racing in Europe.
“Overall, it’s been a good opening segment of the season for me and Red Bull Racing are now leading the constructors’ championship.”
Vettel leads the way after four rounds on 53 points. Webber is third on 48 points, but the pair are split by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton on 49 points.
A poor performance by Hamilton’s squad left the door open for Red Bull to take control in the constructors’ championship, leading the way on 101 points, nine ahead of McLaren and 44 clear of Lotus in third.