Two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel held off a charging Kimi Raikkonen to win an incident-free Bahrain Grand Prix yesterday for his first victory of the season.
Vettel started from pole for the first time this year and led from start to finish. Raikkonen worked his way up from 11th on the grid to finish 3.3 seconds behind for his first podium finish since returning to the sport this season. Raikkonen’s Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean was third, followed by Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
The race had been overshadowed most of the week by clashes between riot police and anti--government demonstrators in the divided Gulf nation, but was held without a hitch. With security checkpoints boosted ahead of the race, there were no signs of protests near the circuit yesterday.
Demonstrators hurling gasoline bombs had clashed nightly with -police during the past week, and security forces responded with teargas, rubber bullets and birdshot.
Black smoke from burning tires wafted over Budaiya yesterday morning, before the race. Budaiya, outside the capital of Manama, was the scene of mass protests on Friday.
The death of 36-year-old protester Salah Abbas Habib — found sprawled on a rooftop on Saturday after overnight clashes — provided more fuel for outrage among a Shiite Muslim majority that complains of being marginalized by ruling Sunnis. The luxury sporting event was the government’s chance to prove that life had gone back to normal in the kingdom after security concerns over anti--government demonstrations forced last year’s race to be canceled.
Bahrain is the only Gulf monarchy to have been seriously threatened by Arab Spring protests that brought down the rulers of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.