Date: 23rd April 2012 at 8:00am
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In only his eleventh Grand Prix of his fledgling Formula One career Romain Grosjean was standing tall on the podium in Bahrain.

The Lotus has shown some good pace and consistency over the first few races of the season, but in Australia and Malaysia the French driver was unable to capitalise with two early retirements.

In China he finished his first race of the season and collected some good points for a sixth place finish, giving the GP2 Series champion some confidence heading into Bahrain.

During the practice sessions Lotus virtually flew under the radar, with everyone knowing they had consistent pace, but there was few indications that they had a car capable of finishing on the podium.

In Free Practice 1, Grosjean as 1.275 behind Hamilton who was quickest, in FP2 Grosjean was 1.799 slower than Rosberg, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen a further half a second off the pace.

On Saturday morning with the focus moving towards qualifying, Grosjean remained 1.147 behind Rosberg, consistent pace that would prove to be good enough to get through to Q3 in qualifying, but not strong enough to match the second row start in Australia and in the end Romain Grosjean qualified in seventh place, out qualifying Raikkonen for the second time this season.

‘I think we can be pleased with how the car is working. If I hadn?t made a small mistake on my flying lap we could maybe be even further up the order. It?s a big contrast here to the conditions we saw in China, and I think we can be proud of how well we?ve adapted to that change as it makes finding the right setup a big challenge. Today we were maybe a bit further behind the leaders than we?d like, but our race pace looks good and it?s another close grid so tomorrow should be very interesting.? Grosjean told formula1.com after qualifying on Saturday evening.

The young driver was to be proved completely right, enjoying a good start away from the grid both Lotus drivers looked strong from the start, showing good race pace under heavy fuel loads.

For the first time ever, DRS was available in Bahrain and Grosjean used this to his full advantage, first getting passed the Red Bull of Mark Webber and then the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton to take second place on lap 7.

While they never had the pace to challenge Vettel at the front of the pack the Lotus drivers looked set for a good points return, so much so that on lap 24 Grosjean gave up second place to his team-mate, who at the time hunted down Vettel like the Kimi of old, but ultimately his chase was in vein.

That of course meant that Grosjean had to settle for third, not that the Frenchman would complain with the result.

?It?s a great feeling to get my first podium, and I?m really proud of the whole team for doing an incredible job today. We?ve known all season how quick the car can be, but with such a tight field any small mistakes can make a huge difference. Today I think we got everything right, and we?ve finally been able to prove how competitive we are. Last week I was aiming for my first points, this week I was hoping for top five, but here we are on the podium so who knows where we can go from here!’ he beamed in the post-race press conference.

Not only was it Grosjean’s first podium finish it was the first podium finish for any French driver since the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix.

 

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