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Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) took pole position, the second of his career and the first back-to-back Mercedes P1 starts since 1956, Lewis Hamilton having started from the front in China. Force India, meanwhile, acquitted itself very well by locking down Row 3 (Paul di Resta P5, Adrian Sutil P6), its best-ever qualifying effort. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Ferrari teammates Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were sandwiched between in P2, 3, and 4 respectively. Massa was the sole front-runner starting on the harder tire compound.
Vettel made and aggressive move at the start in an effort to pass Rosberg, but was effectively defended and surrendered P2 to Alonso instead. Vettel retook second later in the lap as Rosberg began to pull away. By the end of Lap 1, however, Vettel had closed the gap and was in hot pursuit of Rosberg. Vettel executed the pass early in Lap 2, but Rosberg retook the position. Vettel made it past again in Lap 3, with the pass holding this time, as Alonso took P2 from the Mercedes on the main straight at the end of the lap, but surrendered it early in Lap 4. Alonso made the pass for second again during Lap 5 and held the position.
Di Resta took P3 from Rosberg in Lap 6, damaging the Mercedes in the process. Alonso’s rear-wing DRS flap failed, forcing him to pit. But attempts at repairs were not immediately effective. Rosberg pitted during Lap 10, leaving the Top 3 as Vettel (5.8 sec in front), di Resta, and Massa.
Vettel pitted one lap later and changed from the medium to the hard compound. It only took until Lap 15, however, for Vettel to have regained the lead, with Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) second and Mark Webber (Red Bull) third. Raikkonen made his first pit stop on Lap 17, with the Top 3 shifting to Vettel, Webber, and Rosberg as a result.
Rosberg started to be overtaken by the field, with both Jenson Button (McLaren) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus) both passing him on track. Button hit the pits one lap later, moving Grosjean to P2 and di Resta to P3.
Vettel pitted from the lead on Lap 25, retaining P1. Di Resta passed Grosjean for P2 during Lap 27. When Grosjean pitted Raikkonen moved up to P3. Raikkonen made the pass on di Resta for second during Lap 34 (of 57), but pitted one lap later, moving Webber to third. Di Resta pitted on Lap 37.
The Lap 38 Top 3 stood as Vettel, Webber, and Grosjean. A Webber pit stop had Raikkonen back to P3 not too long after. Vettel and Grosjean both pitted during Lap 44, with Vettel retaining the lead and Grosjean leaving the pits in P5 but quickly passing Webber to take fourth. Di Resta retained P3.
Grosjean passed di Resta for P3 on Lap 52 and held the position to the end, moving into seventh in the championship standings along the way. Vettel took his second straight Bahrain victory, with Raikkonen finishing second. The combined Lotus result moved the team into second in the manufacturer’s standings behind Red Bull.
Driver standings - Top 10
77 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
67 – Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) – Lotus-Renault
50 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) – Mercedes
43 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Ferrari
32 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
30 – Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
26 – Romain Grosjean (France) – Lotus-Renault
20 – Paul di Resta (Scotland) – Force India-Mercedes
14 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) – Mercedes
13 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
109 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
93 - Lotus-Renault – Raikkonen, Grosjean
77 – Ferrari – Massa, Alonso
64 – Mercedes – Hamilton, Rosberg
26 – Force India-Mercedes – Adrian Sutil, di Resta
23 – McLaren-Mercedes – Button, Sergio Perez
7 – STR-Ferrari – Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne
5 – Sauber-Ferrari – Nico Hulkenberg, Estaban Gutierrez
Next event: Gran Premio de Espana – Circuit de Catalunya – May 10-12, 2013