The Setup

Just one week after the Chinese GP, the F1 crowd has found its way to the desert of Bahrain. Just like one week ago there is a Mercedes on pole, but this time it's the Silver Arrow of Nico Rosberg with defending race and title champion Sebastian Vettel lined up next to him on the front row and last week's winner Fernando Alonso right behind.

After a bumper crop of grind penalties were applied the field lined up like this:

Rosberg, Vettel;

Alonso, Massa;

Di Resta, Sutil;

Webber, Raikkonen;

Hamilton, Button;

Grosjean, Perez;

Ricciardo, Hulkenberg;

Bottas, Vergne;

Maldonado, Pic;

Bianchi, Van der Garde;

Chilton, Gutierrez.

Last week we saw Hamilton's P1 Mercedes swarmed by the Ferraris and eventually finish on the podium in 3rd. Can Nico convert Mercedes' first back to back poles since 1955 into a better result this time out? Let's find out!

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Here be spoilers!

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The Race

When the lights went out Nico came across hard on Vettel and held his lead into turn one. Alonso took advantage of this and managed to briefly drive around the outside and into P2. Vettel quickly was able to get back past though in short order.

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Nico was leading, but just like Hamilton last week though he was clearly driving over the car's head and was absolutely swarmed by the cars from behind. Vettel was past by the middle of the 3rd lap.

Further back Sutil and Massa clashed on the first lap resulting in a damaged front wing for Massa and a puncture for the Force India. The wing damage didn't seem to hurt Massa much, but Sutil had to limp all the way around the track and his weekend was essentially done. We also saw Kimi and Perez get into it again and once again the Finn lost a few bits off of the pointy end of his Lotus against the back of the McLaren.

Back at the front Rosberg continued his trip backwards from his starting position as the pack fought their way past him one by one. Nico put up a mighty fight though with a lot of smart defensive driving. By lap 7 though both Alonso and Di Resta had both found their way past as well.

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Lap 7 though was where Ferrari's weekend started to unravel. Alonso's DRS flap opened up beyond normal and was then forced upward by the air pressure. Once this happened it would no longer close and he was forced to stop from 3rd to have it pushed back down. On his very next lap though it repeated the issue and he had to stop again to have it pushed back down. From this point on Alonso had a long day ahead of him with no DRS and a total of four stops to everyone else's two or three.

With the first round of stops done the running order was an unfamiliar one with Di Resta, Raikkonen, Hulkenburg, Vettel, and Bottas making the top 5. When the two-stop guys came in for service the order was further shuffled and the top five now seemed a bit more normal with Vettel, Raikkonen, Webber, Rosberg, and Button showing the way. This was mostly an illusion though as Kimi was yet to stop and everyone was super close and battling.

Kimi finally stopped on lap 17, nearly taking the front jack with him on the way out. This dropped him back to 11th.

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On lap 18 Ferrari's weekend went from bad to worse as Massa suffered a right rear tire failure. This meant that his gamble of starting on the hard tire was lost and he was forced to put for a fresh set after limping around for half a lap.

In contrast to Rosberg's slow slide backwards, Hamilton was now starting to make up some places and found himself back inside the top 10 and eyeing a few points to take from his otherwise forgettable weekend so far.

Also in contrast to Rosberg's strongly defensive afternoon, Perez was a wild man on both offense and defense. After China, Checo had been told to stop being so nice on track and boy did he take it to heart with some incredibly aggressive driving. There was an issue with his newfound vigor though in that he was fighting with Button for most of the afternoon!

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Perez and Button were locked in a titanic battle that saw cars off track, wings clipped, and wheels banging. Jenson called into the pits at least twice to ask them to tell Perez to calm down, but since McLaren is a "no team orders" sort of place, no call to Perez was made. In the grand scheme of things though the fight was fun, but it forced both the McLaren boys to eat up their tires fighting amongst themselves.

Webber carried on in a frustrating afternoon that saw him run as high as 2nd, but also saw him bump with a few different folks including Rosberg as the afternoon carried on.

Up at the front Di Resta was mirroring Sutil's performance from Australia, leading the race for a while, running in the top 3, and generally putting Sutil into the shade on yet another weekend. His more conservative tire strategy though meant that he wasn't able to hold off the Lotus of Raikkonen for 2nd and then the other Lotus of a rejuvenated Grosjean for the final podium step.

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As the race came to a close though we still had some spectacular racing in the last few laps. Webber, Hamilton, Perez, and Alonso were all quickly converging on one section of racetrack as their tires all wore down and the laps dwindled. Webber put up a heroic fight against Hamilton as they passed and re-passed multiple times per lap. Eventually Hamilton was able to get by and make it stick as Mark's tires fell off the cliff. The free falling tires on the Red Bull also allowed the McLaren of Perez to slip by on the final lap.

While everyone in positions 3-21 were in the wars with each other the man in P1, Vettel, had a pretty boring weekend. He went out front early and just controlled his pace all day, without a serious challenge from anyone, to dominate the proceedings. The only drama to be had was when the team radioed in to tell him to knock it off after he went for fastest lap time that was the only race lap in the 1:36 range.

Analysis

The final podium was a mirror image of last year of Vettel, Raikkonen, and Grosjean. Paul di Resta had to settle for 4th, just off the podium, but after his tough season so far he still had every reason to celebrate.

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Lotus as certainly upped their game with the 2-3 finish as Grosjean finally delivered a performance that was near that of his more accomplished teammate. Both Mercedes and Ferrari were in disarray with lack of race pace and mechanical problems respectively. They are both looking forward to the break before the european season kicks off to regroup.

McLaren finished far better than their qualifying would have led you to expect and after being told to take the kid gloves off, Perez drove a hard charging race to soundly beat his world champion teammate.

Out front though Vettel turned in a flawless performance that must have the rest of the field worrying about the potential of a 4th consecutive title for the 25 year old Wunderkind. With his 28th victory he passes Sir Jackie Stewart for 5th place on the all-time wins list in only his 5th full season of F1.

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The somewhat boring Bahrain track gave us an explosive race with drivers able to pass all over the place. Inside, outside, DRS or without, everyone seemed to be able to find lines that let them fight when they wanted to fight and not just wait for KERS and DRS to enable an easy overtake.

We now have another three week break before the European season kicks off in Spain where Alonso's fans will be out in force to see if he can shake the bad luck and take the fight back to Red Bull and Lotus.

Team by Team

Red Bull

At one point Red Bull looked ominous while running 1-2 today. In the end Vettel's dominant victory was tempered with Webber's tire woes that saw him finish in 7th place, exactly where he had started the day on the grid following his 3 place penalty.

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Lotus

Lotus was the big winner today with a 2-3 finish. Kimi continued with the consistently high finishes from poor qualifying and a new chassis seems to have solved Grosjean's pace issues from earlier in the season. A double podium points finish vaults them into 2nd in the constructor standings and Raikkonen is still only 10 points behind Vettel in the title chase.

Force India

Paul di Resta equaled his career best finish in F1 with 4th as Force India once again managed to punch above their weight at the sharp end of the pack. Sutil was unlucky again to end up so far back as a result of on-track contact, but he also wasn't able to make up much ground from the back.

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Mercedes

Once again, Mercedes was unable to convert a pole position into a win as Rosberg simply lacked the pace to compete on his slide from P1 at the start to P9 at the finish. Hamilton shone brighter making up positions from P9 to P5, but it was a disappointing weekend overall for the Silver Arrows who have started to become accustomed to Lewis' podium finishes.

McLaren

After his pep talk from the team about not being so nice in the race, Perez went a bit overboard and drove like an F1 driver from the 1980s. He was super aggressive to all comers on both offense and defense and it didn't matter who he was fighting with. Button was a bit put off by his young teammate's aggression against him, but said that he knows Checo is fast and tough. Button used up all his tires in the intrasquad battle and ended up 10th after a late stop for fresh rubber.

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Ferrari

Ferrari had a disaster of a weekend coming from the great victory only a week earlier. Even with his wing damage, Massa was running well but TWO right rear tire failures meant that he ended up down in 15th place. Alonso was perhaps the only driver that could have challenged Vettel today, but his extra stops and lack of DRS for most of the race ended the challenge before it began. Even with four stops and no DRS though Alonso was able to drag his injured F138 back through the field to claim a few needed points in 8th.

Williams

Williams continued it's scoreless run of points with Maldonado in 11th and Bottas in 14th. At one point Bottas was into the top 5 during the race and his speed is promising if Williams is able to get the car sorted out.

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Sauber

Sauber again showed promise this weekend, but again fluttered out when it came to finishing in the points. The Hulk managed to eek 12th place out at the end, which was one lower than he started, after running well in the points for part of the day. Gutierrez ended up in 18th place a lap down from the leaders.

Torro Rosso

STR had a forgettable weekend. Ricciardo had a distinct lack of his normal pace, while Vergne was turned around in front of a Caterham which then had nowhere to go except into the back of his car. He was the weekend's only retirement with damage from the accident.

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Caterham

With the return of Konlevein as a reserve driver the race day guys at Caterham seemed to up their game a bit. Pic improved from 20th on the grid to finish 17th; ahead of the Sauber of Gutierrez and both Marrusias. After his clash with Vergne, Van der Garde ended up as the last runner in 21st and 2 laps down.

Marussia

The balance of their fight with Caterham shifted a bit this weekend as both Bianchi and Chilton were out qualified by the Caterham boys. In the race they were only able to beat the battle torn car of Van der Garde with Bianchi in 19th and Chilton in 20th.

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Special Awards for Bahrain

The Skydiving Award

Goes to Nico Rosberg for deploying a parachute that dragged him back from P1 to P9.

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The Running with Scissors Award

Goes to Sebastian Vettel for gunning for fastest laps while leading a race in the closing stages.

The Jeremy Clarkson Power Award

Goes to Felipe Massa for demolishing not one, but two right rear tires on his Ferrari.

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The NASCAR Pit Crew Award

Goes to Ferrari for having three guys bang on Alonso's rear wing flap with their fists and send him back out.

BRING ON VALENCIA!