Sebastian Vettel (Q. 2, R. 1)
It was another textbook victory by Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain, the German cruising to a victory that could only have been lost due to unreliability. It was an important win for the reigning World Champion; he now sits ten points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, 27 ahead of Lewis Hamilton and 30 ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso going into the three-week break until the Spanish Grand Prix. Red Bull are maintaining their protest against the Pirelli compounds, mainly due to them being the fastest team at the venues where degradation has been relatively low.
Fortunately for the show, Kimi Raikkonen is holding himself strongly in second place, like Vettel recording three podiums from four races. If the Finn hadn’t been so strong, 2013 would look very much like another Vettel runaway season. Vettel’s lead over his team-mate is the third-strongest of the season, the Australian having only 41% of Sebastian’s score.
If Vettel come out of the box in Spain as strong as they were in Bahrain, the rest of the season could very much be a Vettel affair. While the German sets his sights on a fourth consecutive World Championship, his closest rivals will need to clip his wings soon if they have any hope of stealing glory for themselves. If the next four races are anything like the previous four, Sebastian’s rivals will have little hope of taking the championship lead off of him.
Romain Grosjean (Q. 11, R. 3)
Though Grosjean’s qualifying performance in Bahrain left something to be desired, the race pace of the Lotus was enough to propel both he and his team-mate onto the podium. For Kimi a podium was expected, but Romain’s chances seemed much slimmer before the cars rolled off the grid. It was an important result for the struggling Frenchman, who has the second-worst team-mate points ratio on the grid (38%, if you were curious).
Grosjean out-qualified his team-mate in Spain last season, but finished a place behind in fourth after 66 laps. For his sake, the next few races need to be a lot stronger than the first four have. Raikkonen is one of the strongest drivers on the grid and Romain will need an extra gear if he has any hope of challenging for number one position in the garage.
Paul di Resta (Q. 5, R, 4)
Once again di Resta was a leg ahead of Adrian Sutil. After a tight qualifying session you could’ve been forgiven for expecting the two to maintain close quarters in the race. Alas, it was di Resta who capitalised and ended fourth, while his team-mate fell to a lowly 13th after an incident with Felipe Massa early in the race.
It was a tough result for the German, who will be hoping to come into some fortune in the near future. Any more non-points finishes while his team-mate is battling for strong points and Sutil will be looking very second-rate against a driver not considered by many to be top-line.
Sergio Perez (Q. 12, R. 6)
Sergio Perez was reborn in Bahrain, the Mexican driver showing nothing of his former self during his quest to victory over team-mate Jenson Button.
It was an important race for Perez, who was told earlier in the week to “be more aggressive” by his team principal. He struggled in qualifying against Button, but if he can maintain similar race pace in the future, he’s looking strong to challenge Jenson in the next few races. The flyaway races were disappointing for Sergio and he’ll need everything he’s got if he hopes to challenge Jenson in Europe.
Nico Rosberg (Q. 1, R. 9)
The Bahrain Grand Prix turned out to be fairly disappointing for Rosberg, especially after securing pole so convincingly. It wasn’t the first time the Mercedes team has fallen by the wayside after qualifying strongly and their only saving grace was Hamilton’s fifth place after a very quiet first-half of the event. Nico will be very disappointed to have lost further points to his team-mate after the qualifying advantage he took into the event, but we’re through four races of 19 and Nico has plenty of time to claw back the deficit yet.
Fernando Alonso (Q. 3, R. 8)
Alonso’s strong qualifying and race start were nullified by a DRS malfunction on the third lap. Having to come in to get it fixed, the Spaniard proceeded to use the system again on the next lap and it failed once more. It was a risky move to take, but the team would’ve been more disappointed to have come out after 56 laps to find it was working fine after the first stop.
Alonso drove well to come home with points, but lost 21 to Vettel in a single blow. He claimed pre-season it was possible to take the title with consistent results, but Ferrari have failed to manage even that. If he wants to have a chance at the title this season, Ferrari are going to need to work quickly to out-develop Red Bull.
Felipe Massa (Q. 4, R. 15)
A solid performance in qualifying was nullified through a combination of poor pace and a tyre failure. Felipe was lucky that the latter happened in the final stage of the race, but never looked like pushing his original two-stop strategy enough to place him amongst the front runners. The start of the season was strong for the Brazilian and he will be kicking himself for finishing behind a team-mate who was forced to take two unnecessary pit-stops.
Mark Webber (Q. 7, R. 7)
Bahrain has never been one of Webber’s strongest tracks and 2013 was no exception. After looking half-a-second slower than his team-mate throughout qualifying, the deficit continued into the race and he fell well behind while Vettel cruised to victory. Malaysia seems so long ago now and Mark has scored only 6 points while Sebastian has secured 37. Spain, Monaco and Britain are coming up soon and Mark’ll need to perform his best at his strongest tracks if he has any hope of maintaining his image in 2013.