World champion Sebastian Vettel left Bahrain with a weight lifted off his shoulders.
A few hours after securing his first win of the season the Red Bull driver was already en route to his home in Switzerland, relieved not only that he had won the Bahrain Grand Prix, but also that he would no longer be asked non—sporting questions about the controversial race in the Middle Eastern country.
Sunday’s race was held against the background of ongoing demonstrations in the Middle Eastern country, where the majority Shiites have been taking to the streets since early last year, demanding more rights from the ruling Sunni royal family.
Several people have been killed during the demonstrations and last year’s race was canceled as a result. There had also been calls for this year’s race to be called off, but the sport’s governing body FIA ordered it to go ahead.
“It was not easy for anybody,” Vettel said, adding: “Hopefully we can all get home peacefully.”
Formula One is hoping that the political conflict in Bahrain and the sport—political conflict that erupted around the decision to go ahead with the race will soon be forgotten.
This has prompted officials and drivers from most teams to concentrate on the sporting aspect after the opening four races.
“This season has been a total chaos,” said Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who is one of four drivers to have won a race this season.
The last time four drivers from four different teams won the opening four races was in 1983.
“You simply have no way of knowing in advance which team will be fast in a race,” Rosberg said.
Vettel is a case in point.
Having not been particularly impressive in the first three races, the German put all that behind him and moved past his main rivals into the lead in the drivers’ standings.
International media speculated that Vettel’s victory was his return to dominance.
“King Seb is back,” the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport said while Brazil’s O Globo wrote: “Vettel’s performance is reminiscent of the hegemony which he and Red Bull showed last year.”
Spanish newspaper El Pais said: “Vettel reacts like a true champion. With his victory Red Bull grabs the Formula One sceptre back.”
Vettel is not as convinced. “It is a very tight season, the cars are close to each other. Small things can make a huge difference,” the 24—year—old said.
Engineers and mechanics spent hours sorting the car after the first three races and Vettel reaped the reward in Bahrain on Sunday.
However, he still warned that he would not automatically win all races. “I am still not sure how competitive the car really is.”
It seems that Vettel is not the only driver who is not sure how fast his car is. McLaren and Mercedes were amongst the favourites ahead of the race, but both teams disappointed.
Instead, Lotus achieved a surprising result that saw both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean on the podium, prompting McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh to declare the season unpredictable.
His driver Lewis Hamilton, who finished a disappointing eighth, said that they needed to improve. “It is clear that we have to do two things: Increase the speed of the car and improve our pit stops.” Ahead of Formula One’s first race in Europa on May 13 in Barcelona, the number of teams capable of challenging for a podium place seems to have increased by at least one.
“I am sure that we can be amongst the challengers a few more times,” former world champion Raikkonen said. “We have only just started.” As it is such an open season, even Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who has had a somewhat disappointing start to the season and is currently fifth in the standings, believes that he has a good chance.
He is just 10 points behind Vettel, who at this stage of the season last year had a 34 point lead over his closest rival. “Being just 10 points behind is unthinkable. It is like a present,” the Spaniard said.
Keywords: Bahrain grand Prix