Sebastian Vettel returned to the top step of an F1 podium for the first time since the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in October 2011 by leading from start to finish in a Bahrain race where the only incident came on track.
Vettel converted his first pole of the year into an early lead while the pack squabbled in his wake, but that did not prevent the German from coming under pressure from Kimi Raikkonen as the race moved into its second half. The Finn, who qualified only eleventh made his own strong getaway and, after carving his way through most of the top ten, had to put a move on Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean to take up the mantle of chief pursuer to the reigning world champion..
The lead pair ran together for several laps prior to their third and final pit-stops, with Raikkonen using the E20's DRS to close right in on his rival, but not quite being able to pass. The two cars then pitted together on lap 39 - earlier than predictions suggested - but made the harder medium Pirellis last to the end. Despite leaving equally, however, Vettel was able to re-establish his early gap, with Raikkonen dropping over three seconds behind by the chequered flag.
The final podium place was filled by Grosjean, who came home well clear of Mark Webber to claim his first top three finish in F1, while the Australian chalked up his fourth straight fourth place finish of 2012. Nico Rosberg, who faces two stewards enquiries for driving standards, rounded out the top five, but only executing a late pass on the stubborn Paul di Resta who ensured television coverage for Force India with a spirited two-stop drive to sixth.
Fernando Alonso was right on the Scot's tail at the flag, but could not find a way through, but was comfortably ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who suffered two poor pit-stops, Felipe Massa, who finally opened his 2012 account and Michael Schumacher, who converted 22nd on the grid into tenth and the final point.
Full race report
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