Lotus technical director James Allison has pointed to a couple of key moments in the Bahrain Grand Prix that probably determined whether or not Kimi Raikkonen had a real shot at claiming the victory that eventually went the way of Sebastian Vettel.
Raikkonen, despite starting eleventh, quickly made his way through the top ten to be leading the pursuit of Vettel, even closing onto to the tail of the world champion and taking a look at passing him into turn one before deciding that, on that occasion, discretion was the better part of impetuosity.
Sadly, with tyre wear a key component of any race at the Bahrain International Circuit, it proved to be the only shot Raikkonen got at challenging for the lead, although Allison reckons that the chances of victory had been determined well before then.
“When Kimi got past [team-mate] Romain [Grosjean], he was visibly faster than Sebastian thanks to having new tyres versus Vettel's scrubbed set,” the tech chief explained, “It was quite enthralling watching him close the gap, and he came very close to pulling off a pass, but it was not quite enough.
“With slightly better grid slots and no front wing damage for Kimi, then the victory could well have been ours. As it was we had to settle for a really dominant P2 and P3. We will have to wait for the E20 to score a maiden win, but I think we can do it.”
The front wing damage was largely overlooked during the race, but occurred in the opening lap skirmishes and, according to Allison, had a definite effect on Raikkonen's ability to challenge.
“Kimi gave us a scare in the opening laps when he lost a place to a much slower Felipe [Massa] and, in doing so, also damaged his front wing,” he confirmed to the Lotus team's official website, “We could see from the data that this impact lost us some aerodynamic performance, which Kimi then had to carry for the remainder of the race.”
It wasn't only the Finn who out pressure on Vettel, either, as Grosjean, in only his fourth race back in the top flight, led the initial chase and, despite briefly battling with his team-mate, claimed an impressive maiden podium.
“The battle between our own drivers [is] never an easy thing to watch from the pitwall!” Allison admitted, “As expected, with new rubber on every stint, Kimi was devastatingly fast and was able to close down both Romain and Sebastian, [but] Romain was doing an extremely good job, only [running] slower as a result of running scrubbed tyres to Kimi's new rubber.