Sebastian Vettel confirmed Ferrari’s championship credentials with a commanding victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The four-time world champion made the most of a slick pit stop strategy to earn track position over the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, which paved the way for his second win of the season.
Vettel faced a challenge from a charging Hamilton in the closing stages of the 57 lap journey, but the latter ultimately ran out of laps.
Hamilton was left to settle for second crossing the line 6.6 s adrift of Vettel, while pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas came home in third.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo ran as high as third but once the strategies played out, the Australian finished fifth behind the sister Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
Bottas had led the way at the start from pole as Vettel jumped Hamilton on the run to Turn 1.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was the biggest mover as he climbed from sixth to fourth ahead of Ricciardo and Raikkonen.
The complexion of the race changed when Vettel elected to pit early on lap 11.
Rejoining in clear air the German was able to lap faster than Bottas and Hamilton, which allowed him to undercut the Silver Arrows.
The introduction of the Safety Car provided a twist as marshals retrieved Verstappen’s Red Bull, which suffered a brake failure, and the stranded Williams of Lance Stroll at Turn 1 after being taken out by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz.
Stewards issued Sainz a three-place grid penalty to be take at the Russian Grand Prix for his role in the incident.
The Mercedes pair chose to pit under Safety Car, double stacking in the process.
Hamilton deliberately backed Ricciardo up while entering the pits which saw the stewards issue a five-second penalty to the Brit.
Vettel’s pace was enough to emerge in the lead and he was able to extend as the race progressed before making his second stop.
This saw Hamilton inherit the lead but he was unable to nurse his tyres to the flag, which forced him to pit and take his time penalty on lap 42.
He came out behind Bottas who eventually let his faster three-time world champion team-mate through to chase down Vettel.
However, Vettel proved too strong as he went on to take the victory.
Williams Felipe Massa finished sixth after a strong race from the Brazilian that saw him run in fourth during the early stages of the race.
Sergio Perez produced the arguably the drive of the day from 18th to seventh, while Romain Grosjean (Haas F1), Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) and Estaban Ocon (Force India completed the top 10.
Pascal Wehrlein was 11th on his return to F1 ahead of Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Jolyon Palmer (Renault) who were the remaining classified finishers.
Fernando Alonso retired with two laps remaining after a loss of power while his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne failed to start the race due to an engine issue.
The list of retirements was completed by Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas F1).
Vettel leads the championship standings by seven points from Hamilton ahead of the fourth round in Russia from April 28-30.
Result: Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||57||39.346s|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||57||1:02.606s|
|10||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||57||1:35.711s|
|11||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber/Ferrari||56||1 Lap|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Renault||56||1 Lap|
|13||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||56||1 Lap|
|14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren/Honda||54||3 Laps|
|DNF||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||12||Collision|
|DNF||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||11||Brakes|
|DNF||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren/Honda||0||Not started|