The Lotus name returned to the Formula One podium in style as Kimi Räikkönen pushed defending champion Sebastian Vettel all the way in Bahrain.

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The Finn had to make do with second despite for long spells looking destined to get the better of Vettel’s Red Bull, which the German managed to take from pole to flag in trademark fashion.

But Hethel-backed Lotus’ delight did not stop at the efforts of 2007 world champion Räikkönen, who picked up the first podium of his F1 comeback from 11th on the grid.

Team-mate Romain Grosjean also excellent on a controversial Formula One weekend, turning seventh into third at the chequered flag to double Lotus’ presence on the podium and strengthen their position in the fledgling constructors’ championship standings.

“It’s a great result for the team and we deserve it as everyone has been working very hard,” said Räikkönen. “To be honest, I’m slightly disappointed we didn’t take the win because we had the pace. I only had one chance to overtake Sebastian and unfortunately I chose the wrong side to try and get past.

“If I hadn’t made a small mistake at the start and allowed Felipe (Massa) to get through then maybe it would have been a different story, as we spent quite a lot of time fighting with him. At the end of the day, it’s good to have both cars on the podium, especially after last race which didn’t go to plan, but I honestly think we could have taken the victory today.”

Lotus’ decision to allow Grosjean and Räikkönen to battle it out early on, rather than impose team orders to allow the Finn to pursue Vettel, may also have cost Räikkönen more opportunities to battle for the lead.

But team principal Eric Boullier was “immensely proud” of Lotus’ achievements at the weekend.

“It was a great team performance today and I’m delighted for everyone, both here in the paddock and back at Enstone,” said the Frenchman. “The first three races were very frustrating, as we knew we were capable of a result like this. Until now, small details have hindered our performance, so it’s almost a relief to finally show what we are capable of.

“Both drivers put in a fantastic performance, and to have two cars not just on the podium but so closely matched all through the race demonstrates what a strong line-up we have.”

Grosjean added: “It’s a great feeling to get my first podium, and I’m really proud of the whole team for doing an incredible job. 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.”

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