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.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.