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Formula One

Vettel cruises to Bahrain victory, stretching lead

Defending champion Sebastian Vettel has marched to the checkered flag in Bahrain, enjoying an untroubled day as the rest of the field fought fiercely in his wake. Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean filled the podium.

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany crosses the finish line at the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit, south of Manama April 21, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)

Formel Eins Großer Preis von Bahrain 2013 Vettel

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel secured the lead within three laps in Bahrain and never really looked back. Despite running a different strategy to his closest challengers, the treble-champion had more than enough pace to build the 20-second cushion he needed to indulge in an extra pit stop for fresh tires.

Vettel also secured the fastest lap of the race to send a message to the competition as Formula One packs up to return to Spain for the start of the "European season," composing the bulk of the middle of the campaign. The German has stretched his championship lead to 10 points.

Winner Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (C) stands beside second placed Lotus Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland (L) and third placed Lotus Formula One driver Romain Grosjean of France during the victory ceremony of the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit, south of Manama April 21, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Caren Firouz)

Vettel, Raikkonen and Grosjean shared the podium

Kimi Raikkonen, second to Vettel in the overall standings, also finished second on the day at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. Raikkonen's Lotus teammate, Romain Grosjean, rounded out the top three.

Force India's Paul di Resta finished a strong fourth, equaling the best showing of his career in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton finished fifth on the day, moving up to third in the overall title race as a result. Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, starting the race from pole position for just the second time in his career, slid down the order to ninth place and was forced to make more pit stops than most runners as he struggled with rear tire wear.

McLaren's Sergio Perez finished sixth after some unusually combative intrateam battles with his new colleague Jenson Button - who picked up the last available point, in 10th place. Mark Webber was seventh and Fernando Alonso eighth on the day.

Brief battle, vanishing act

Race-winner Vettel only spent about three or four minutes in the thick of the action after starting second on the grid.

Pole-sitter Rosberg and Vettel came very close to contact off the line, with the Mercedes man forcefully defending his position at the front. By lap two, however, Vettel was again alongside the Mercedes, vying for the lead; and after sniffing several times, Vettel took the top spot early in the third tour and romped clear.

Ferrari's Alonso, tipped as most likely to challenge the Red Bull champion on race day, swiftly followed Vettel past Rosberg's Mercedes. Soon after taking second, however, Alonso twice faced a technical problem with his rear wing. The malfunctioning DRS (Drag Reduction System) on his Ferrari, a tool that allows a slot in the back wing to open allowing for extra straight-line speed, twice forced Alonso to make unscheduled stops. After opening, the flap was not closing again as it is meant to, a potentially dangerous problem that would have prompted action from the stewards if Ferrari had not struck preemptively.

Despite his disappointing eighth-placed finish, Alonso remains fourth in the overall standings. But he already lags 30 points behind Vettel.

The race in the troubled kingdom of Bahrain, the most contentious date on the F1 calendar, was again marred by public protests elsewhere in the country against the ruling royal family.