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Vettel heads Bahrain battlefest

NEWS STORY
21/04/2013

Thankfully, today's race isn't likely to be as strategic as last week's event in China, but strategy is sure to play a major part.

Unlike Shanghai, all but one driver, Jenson Button, posted a time in Q3 yesterday, leaving the McLaren driver with the luxury of being able to make his tyre choice before the start of today's race.

It is likely the Englishman will follow the example of Felipe Massa, who, contrary to all those around him, including his Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso, opted to post his Q3 time on the prime rubber.

The Brazilian has admitted that it's a gamble, however, looking back on last week, particularly in Sebastian Vettel's case, it may well be a gamble worth taking. On the other hand, it begs the question; if, in the final stages, Massa is on a stormer and comes up behind his (slower) teammate, what will happen?

Although he is starting from pole, it is highly unlikely that Nico Rosberg will be able to convert this to a win, though the German is likely to give it his best shot.

Instead one has to say that Vettel heads into the races as favourite, with Alonso his main threat.

As a result of penalties the grid has been slightly re-jigged, though on the whole the two main recipients of those penalties, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton, haven't come out of it too badly, the Australian losing two places. Hamilton and his team are very unhappy about the five-place penalty meted out for his gearbox change but this rule applies to everyone.

The big mystery, coming out of qualifying, is what happened to Kimi Raikkonen's pace. All weekend the Finn had looked super-fast, a couple of minor mistakes preventing him from dominating every session. But come qualifying it all appeared to fall apart, a mystery that even has his team flummoxed. Some say it is temperature, others balance, while some say the Finn will dig deep and pull something out of the hat this afternoon.

With the Sepang Saga having died down the media has been desperately searching for other stories in recent days. One has Hamilton being asked to leave the McLaren garage by Sam Michael when visiting his old team, while the other involves a 'feud' between the two force India drivers.

While we treat both 'stories' with the contempt they deserve, it is fair to say that Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil will be under close scrutiny at the start of today's race. There could be a generous number of points up for grabs today, therefore it is up to both drivers to be sensible and work for the benefit of their employers.

Whatever happens today, a number of teams will be glad to get away from Bahrain and head back to their HQs as preparations for the start of the European season get underway. Leading the way is McLaren, while Williams and Sauber also have a lot of work to do.

A number of drivers also need to raise their games, most notable the Mexican duo, Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez. With question marks over a couple of other drivers, is it really surprising that the 'silly season' - traditionally linked with Monza - is already underway.

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