SAKHIR, Bahrain -- Bahrain got exactly the type of incident-free Formula One race it wanted Sunday, and Sebastian Vettel got exactly the result he needed to help his bid for a third straight championship title.
On a day when F1 could again focus more on racing than politics, the Bahrain Grand Prix was held without a hitch as Vettel completed a wire-to-wire victory in a race that was unaffected by the ongoing anti-government protests that escalated last week.
Vettel, the two-time defending champion who had struggled with the pace of his Red Bull car at the start of the season, held off a charging Kimi Raikkonen to secure his first victory of the year in an event that was relatively free of on-track incidents as well.
"It was an incredible race," said Vettel, who pumped his fist as he crossed the finish line. "We had a very good start, which was crucial. I was able to pull away from the pack, which turned out to be a big advantage."
But the bigger victory may have been for organizers, who were able to put on a globally televised sporting event without disruptions.
With layers of security checkpoints around the Bahrain International Circuit, there was no sign of protesters anywhere near the track during the 95-minute race, though smoke from burning tires several kilometers away drifted over the circuit at one point.
At least 50 people have been killed since unrest erupted in Bahrain in February 2011 in the longest-running street battles of the Arab Spring.
"The excitement and quality of the racing is a fitting conclusion to another enthralling weekend of racing," BIC Chairman Zayed Al Zayani said. "There are very few countries that can claim that almost 10 percent of its population attends its Grand Prix. There can be no doubt in my mind of what Bahrain thinks about F1."