Unexpected pace makes life easier for Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel may have made the win look easy at the front in Bahrain, but the defending world champion has admitted that he did not expect to be so strong today.

The Red Bull driver took the lead from Nico Rosberg early on before pulling away from the rest of the field to win the race by around 10 seconds, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.

“I surely did not expect that. I think it was pretty dominant today, which was certainly not the expectation,” Vettel said on the podium after the race.

The Red Bull driver admitted that he knew he had to get ahead of Rosberg, and that from then on it would be his race to lose.

“It the beginning it was quite tight racing. I knew it was crucial to get in the lead if I could as then I could have a margin to look after and manage the tires from there. I felt I could pull away. Once you settle in, it is difficult to overtake.”

The need to pull away was increased by the high winds in Bahrain, which accentuated the use of DRS.

“There was a strong headwind down the straight so the advantage for DRS was bigger than usual.

“I think we could have had a strong race even if I had not been in the lead immediately. But I preferred it that way for sure.”

The win sees Vettel surpass three-time world champion Jackie Stewart’s total of 27 wins, and he is now just three behind Fernando Alonso and Nigel Mansell, both of whom have graced the top step of the podium 31 times.

Vettel also increases his lead in the drivers’ championship to 10 points, with Kimi Raikkonen currently being his closest challenger. Lewis Hamilton, in third, is 27 points behind the Red Bull.

Recapping the 2018 Dakar Rally with “best of” video highlights

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

As it has done so for four decades, the 40th annual Dakar Rally – the most grueling test of man and machine anywhere – produced a number of surprise finishes and also several disappointments for drivers or riders who were expected to do well in the nearly 5,600-mile trek that began in Peru and continued through Bolivia and ending in Argentina.

NBCSN has aired highlights from all 14 stages (actually 13, because one stage was completely rained out) during the Rally’s two-week run, which concluded Saturday.

Here’s some of the “best of” highlights from the overall Rally highlights, followed by a quick guide that gives you wrapups to all 14 stages.

So, without further adieu, here’s NBCSN’s “best of” the 2018 Dakar Rally:

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of cars

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of bikes

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of trucks

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of quads

Lastly, here’s a day-by-day wrapup of how the Rally played out.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 14 overall Rally wrapup

MORE: Stage 13 wrapup

MORE: Stage 12 wrapup

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup