Sebastian Vettel won the Malaysian Grand Prix under a ton of controversy. Then he finished fourth in China and didn't get the pole for today's Bahrain Grand Prix. This could be considered a "slump" for the triple world champion. But have no fear, he was on the ball today in Bahrain. And there is no controversy.
The Bahrain Grand Prix has been the center of political scandal for the last few seasons. It was even cancelled in 2011 due to political strife. Protests in the last few days leading up to the grand prix were a cause for concern, but everything seems to have gone off without a hitch. At least as far as we know.
Grid penalties for Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton shook up the grid, and it was cause for a few people to be quite optimistic. Ferrari took a risk and started Felipe Massa on the harder compound tires, aiming for a two stop strategy. The Sahara Force India team qualified fifth and sixth, their best effort ever. It looked like they could all be podium spoilers.
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg started the race from the point, but he didn't stay there long at all. Even with some dubious blocking moves, Vettel dispatched of Rosberg rather quickly, which started an incredible backwards tumble through the order for Rosberg.
The opening laps also made mincemeat of early optimists at Ferrari and Force India. A dynamite start from Fernando Alonso got him into second early on, but then the rear wing's DRS system failed, keeping the wing slot open and forcing multiple stops for the Ferrari driver, effectively taking him out of the running for the win. He recovered to score points in eighth.
And poor, poor, Felipe Massa. That guy cannot catch a break. A brief come together with Adrian Sutil broke his front wing and ruined the team's strategy. The broken wing induced understeer, ruining tires way quicker than they should. It also put Sutil to the back of the pack with a punctured tire. Sutil ended up 13th, Massa in 14th. Not the day they expected.
But the Force India of Paul di Resta was there to benefit. He slotted into second and even led early on. After pit stops, he settled into third and it looked like it could be the team's first podium finish since Spa 2009.
That's why di Resta must hate Lotus right now.
Kimi "LeavemealoneIknowwhatI'mdoing" Raikkonen worked his way up from ninth to second while his teammate Romain "Big John" Grosjean also had very strong pace. With just laps to go Grosjean, on fresher and softer tires, easily passed di Resta. To his credit, di Resta didn't try and block Grosjean and gave him plenty of racing room.
If only we could say the same for the rest of the pack. Sergio Perez, Nico Rosberg, and Mark Webber took the blocking rules right to the limit. Perez took the fight to Jenson Button — his own teammate — at one point hitting the wing endplate with Button's rear wheel. Button was angry on the radio, but McLaren lets their drivers race, and that certainly happened. On one occasion, Perez nearly turned into Lewis Hamilton on the straight in a blocking attempt.
But credit where credit's due, Perez fought hard and earned his sixth place finish with some really aggressive moves. And for all his complaints, Button ended up with some tire difficulties and finished tenth.
This was also Mark Webber's 200th race, and he was hoping to celebrate with a big finish. Hope he likes finishing seventh. Webbo was running fifth right up until the final lap. That's when Hamilton finally got by after a number of laps being blocked into turn one, while Perez made a simply brilliant pass to get Webber just before the end of the lap.
But at the front, Vettel simply ran away, beating Raikkonen to the line by nine seconds with RoGro a further 10 seconds behind. A great double podium finish for Lotus. And even though di Resta didn't get the podium he wanted, he did finish fourth. Great job.
The podium ceremony also netted this quote from Vettel on a good luck charm that he keeps on his race boot. When David Coulthard asked him to show it off, Vettel explained why he couldn't: "I don't get my legs so high because I am not a woman."
So yeah... maybe there will be some controversy. F1 returns in three weeks for the Spanish Grand Prix.