Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix to go seven points clear at the top of the Formula One standings on Sunday, with Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton staging a late charge to finish second.
Hamilton’s Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas was third, after starting on pole position for the first time in his career.
The victory was Vettel’s second of the season after the four-times world champion won the opener in Australia. Hamilton, who won in China last weekend, crossed the finish line 6.6 seconds behind.
Vettel now has 68 points to Hamilton’s 61.
Did Hamilton’s error lose the race?
Hamilton accepted the blame for his race-wrecking penalty, imposed by the stewards after the Mercedes deliberately held up Ricciardo. Hamilton had sought to slow down the Red Bull in the knowledge that he would have to wait behind Bottas when they both pitted behind the Safety Car.
Ironically, Hamilton then exited the pits behind Ricciardo before spearing past the Red Bull when the race resumed following a crash between Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz.
“It was my fault,” said Hamilton. “We will regather as a team and come back fighting. Losing points for the team is definitely painful.”
But did the penalty cost him victory?
Ultimately, Vettel crossed the line six seconds clear of Hamilton but the Mercedes appeared to hold a strong pace advantage over the Ferrari in the final segment of the race.
“We don’t know what the outcome would’ve been if Lewis had been at the front early on,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “It’s pretty evenly matched. On a single lap we have a tiny advantage and maybe in the race, with managing tyres Ferrari have that tiny advantage.”
After splitting their drivers’ tyre strategies, the team then twice instructed Bottas – suffering from a tyre-pressure issue – to let Hamilton through.
“We tried to maintain the order and not interfere as it’s an awful call but at a certain stage you have to decide if you are losing the race or making a call,” said Wolff. “We’re three races down and we have always maintained that philosophy of [equal drivers]. I know it’s a very tough call and I don’t want to make it yet.”
Bahrain GP race result
1. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
5. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull
6. Felipe Massa, Williams
7. Sergio Perez, Force India
8. Romain Grosjean, Haas
9. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault
10. Esteban Ocon, Force India
11. Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber
12. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso
13. Jolyon Palmer, Renault