Vettel Wins Bahrain Grand Prix to Extend Formula 1 Series Lead

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix to extend his lead atop the Formula One standings as he seeks a fourth straight world championship.

Vettel finished ahead of Lotus duo Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in yesterday’s 57-lap race at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, a repeat of the 2012 podium.

Vettel, who started from second on the grid, controlled the race from the third lap. The 9.1-second victory was the 25-year-old German’s second win from four events this season and the 28th of his career, lifting him into sixth place on the all-time list of F-1 victories, one ahead of Britain’s Jackie Stewart.

“I love to be in clean air, so I was pushing hard to get into the lead,” Vettel said in a team statement. “With the speed we had mid-race, it was quite comfortable. It was good fun at the beginning with some very tight wheel-to-wheel racing.”

The defending world champion had to battle in the opening two laps yesterday, seeing off the challenge of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso before getting past pole-position sitter Nico Rosberg of Mercedes to take command.

Rosberg dropped back, finally coming ninth. Raikkonen, using a two-stop strategy in contrast to Vettel’s three, moved up the field after starting in the No. 8 spot.

“You’re never really happy if you don’t win, but I suppose second place is as close as you can get,” Raikkonen said. “I drove to the maximum. We didn’t have the speed to challenge Sebastian, but we did have the pace to get both cars on the podium so I’m happy for the team.”

Paul di Resta of Force India, who finished fourth, had a spell in the lead early in the race after Vettel made a pit stop. The Scot then looked poised for the first podium position of his career, only to be overtaken by Grosjean.

‘Better and Better’

After regaining the lead following Di Resta’s pit stop, Vettel dominated the race. Such was his control that he was able to stay in first place even after making further pit stops.

“It just seemed to get better and better towards the end,” Vettel said. “It was a beautiful race where you could push every single lap. We took very good care of the tires.”

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes finished fifth, ahead of Sergio Perez of McLaren, Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Alonso. Rosberg and McLaren’s Jenson Button, on 10th place, rounded out the points-scoring positions.

Vettel, who had led by three points after the first three rounds, has 77 points atop the drivers’ standings, followed by Raikkonen (67), Hamilton (50), Alonso (47) and Webber (32). Red Bull leads the constructors’ championship with 109 points, 13 ahead of Lotus. Ferrari has 77 and Mercedes 64.

Yesterday’s race, the fourth of 19 in the 2013 world championship, passed off without disruption after clashes between police and political protesters away from the circuit in the leadup.

After its early-season swing through Australia, Asia and the Middle East, the series switches to Europe for two races, starting with the May 12 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.

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