Kimi Räikkönen, E20-03
- Grid: P11
- Race: P2
- Best Lap: 1:37.116
Romain Grosjean, E20-04
- Grid: P7
- Race: P3
- Best Lap: 1:36.928
The heat of the desert was broken only by a smattering of rain drops as the teams lined up on the grid for the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix. The pair of E20s began the race on the yellow marked soft compound tyres, a fresh set for Kimi after his unorthodox qualifying strategy and a scrubbed set for Romain.
As the green lights went out, both drivers got off to a flying start. Romain moved to the outside of the slow starting Rosberg, moving up to P4 by the end of the first few corners. Kimi also jumped 3 places to P8, quickly taking yet another position through the middle sector with a brilliant move to hold off Rosberg whilst making a move past Massa and up to P7.
The Finn would then be re-passed by the Brazilian at the first turn on lap 3, as the Ferrari man used his KERS to pull down the inside. A tight battle then ensued through the following few bends, as Kimi eventually got squeezed out and had to concede the place.
By lap 4, Romain had moved up to the podium places by pulling off a fine pass on Webber down the straight, and the proceeded to hunt down Hamilton in P2, closing the gap by almost half a second in that same lap. Kimi meanwhile continued his tussle with Massa, passing his former team-mate on lap 5 and setting off after Button in P6.
The flying Frenchman was in fantastic form in the early stages, surging past Hamilton with a DRS-assisted pass on the pit straight on lap 7 to take P2. Kimi then used the same method to oust Button from P6 just a short distance behind. Quickly pulling away from the Brit, the Finn was quickly onto the back of Alonso and pulled another pass at the same place a lap later to move into P5.
Romain pulled in for his first pit stop of the day on lap 10, opting for a set of the white marked medium compound tyres and re-joining well in front of closest rival Hamilton who had suffered from a slow stop. Kimi followed suit on lap 11, and emerged sporting another set of the soft compound. Both drivers easily maintained their places during the stops, with Kimi moving in front of Hamilton.
On lap 13, Webber became the Finn’s next victim as he sliced up the inside into the left-handed turn 11 to take P4 from the Australian. Romain meanwhile was closing in on Di Resta at between 1-2 seconds per lap, the Scot having yet to stop. Passing through the final turn, the Frenchman regained his rightful P2 position.
On lap 15 Kimi set the fastest time of the day so far, as both drivers continued their impressive charge around the 5.4km circuit. By this stage, Romain occupied P2 with his team-mate close behind in P3.
The field then settled down for a few laps, with both Lotus F1 Team drivers holding station in podium positions; keeping a steady distance behind leader Vettel and edging clear of Webber in P4. By lap 22, the extra pace of Kimi’s soft tyres started to tell, as he closed down on the back of his team-mate (running the slower medium compound), passing the Frenchman on lap 24 using the familiar DRS overtake technique down the pit straight.
No sooner had he got into clean air, than the Finn dived into the pits for his first stint of the day using the medium tyres. Romain followed one lap later on lap 25, taking on another set of the same compound.
Despite now running the theoretically slower white marked tyres, Kimi immediately punched in another fastest lap of the race; closing the gap to Vettel (sporting the soft compound) down to just over 2 seconds. By lap 34 the Finn was within the 1 second DRS zone, and unsettling the German with dummy moves through lap 35.
On the following lap, Kimi made a move down the inside into the first corner, but Vettel defended well as the pair went wheel to wheel and remained in their respective positions. With all the dicing going on ahead Romain had started to close the gap in P3, with less than 10 seconds now covering the trio.
The leading pair dived in for their final stops on lap 40, both electing for a set of medium compound tyres. It was the Red Bull driver who maintained the lead, with Kimi in hot pursuit as they charged out of the pit lane. Romain followed a lap later for the same rubber, and immediately started to pull further in front of closest challenger Webber over the subsequent laps.
With 10 laps to go Romain was running a lonely race in P3, while Kimi maintained the gap to Vettel. As the laps ticked away, the tension in the garage was unbearable until the drivers finally crossed the line; the first podium for the team since Malaysia last year, and the first double podium in over 5 years.
A well-earned break for the team next week before we head off to the Mugello test on May 1-3.