Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton scored his third victory in four races with a commanding drive in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver was always in control at the front and yet the battle behind was thrilling. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came out on top to take his first podium of the season.
Nico Rosberg finished third, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel. The latter experiencing a tricky race – running off track and damaging his front wing.
Hamilton made a clean start from pole position, with Vettel going defensive and successfully holding on to second. That backed Rosberg up, allowing Raikkonen to snatch third place.
However, Rosberg battled his way back past Raikkonen and then took advantage of Vettel running wide at Turn 1 to close and then pass at the same corner next time around.
Ferrari successfully used the undercut to jump Rosberg at the first round of pit-stops, but Vettel was then distracted by Hamilton exiting the pit lane and Rosberg took advantage – diving down the inside of Turn 1 to retake second place.
The Scuderia repeated the undercut trick at the second round of pit-stops and yet again it worked, with Vettel jumping Rosberg. But another mistake by Vettel, this time running wide at the final corner, allowed Rosberg back through.
That error also caused front wing damage for the Malaysian Grand Prix winner and Sebastian was forced to pit for repairs.
Raikkonen then started catching Rosberg in the final stint of the race, as he was running the softer of the two compound tyres.
And The Iceman capitalised when Rosberg – who also had brake problems – ran wide at Turn 1 in the closing laps, allowing the Ferrari to grab second.
Vettel dropped to fifth with his extra pit-stop and could not get back past Bottas despite a long chase.
Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault power unit let go spectacularly out of the final corner of the last lap, but he managed to cross the finishing line to take sixth for Red Bull Racing.
Romain Grosjean scored points for the second successive race with seventh for Lotus, ahead of Sergio Perez.
The Force India driver recorded some points thanks to a two-stop strategy working well compared to the three-stopping rivals in the midfield.
Daniil Kvyat rescued some points with ninth in the Red Bull, having started in P17, with Felipe Massa completing the top ten and recovering well from a pit lane start after stalling on the grid.
The Williams driver ran eighth late on but his very long final stint on his two-stop strategy proved ambitious and his tyres faded.
Fernando Alonso equalled McLaren’s best finish of the season in P11, while his team-mate Jenson Button did not even make the start after a problem was detected with his energy recovery system.
Sauber’s Felipe Nasr was P12, one position ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg with Marcus Ericsson P13, having run in the points before losing at least twenty seconds during a pit-stop when his team struggled to fit the front-left tyre.
Pastor Maldonado was also in contention for points but he was delayed in the pits with smoke pouring from the front brakes of the Lotus and he ended up P15.
Manor got both cars to the finish for the second successive race, with Will Stevens P16 and Roberto Merhi P17.
But this was a disappointing race for Toro Rosso. Both Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen were forced to retire from the Bahrain Grand Prix.
So an entertaining race in the twilight and yet the the champions reign supreme. This was Hamilton’s 36th career victory in Formula 1 and is now 27 points ahead of his championship rival and team-mate.
Mercedes extends their lead in the constructors’ standings over the Scuderia. Formula 1 will return in three weeks time and the start of the European leg in the fascinating season.
Bahrain Grand Prix, 57 laps:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h35m05.809s
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 3.380s
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 6.033s
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 42.957s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 43.989s
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m01.751s
7 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Mercedes 1m24.763s
8 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1 Lap
9 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull-Renault 1 Lap
10 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1 Lap
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1 Lap
12 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1 Lap
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1 Lap
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1 Lap
15 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Mercedes 1 Lap
16 Will Stevens Manor-Ferrari 2 Laps
17 Roberto Merhi Manor-Ferrari 3 Laps
– Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault Retirement
– Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Renault Retirement
– Jenson Button McLaren-Honda Not started
1 Lewis Hamilton 93
2 Nico Rosberg 66
3 Sebastian Vettel 65
4 Kimi Raikkonen 42
5 Felipe Massa 31
6 Valtteri Bottas 30
7 Daniel Ricciardo 19
8 Felipe Nasr 14
9 Romain Grosjean 12
10 Nico Hulkenberg 6
11 Max Verstappen 6
12 Carlos Sainz 6
13 Sergio Perez 5
14 Marcus Ericsson 5
15 Daniil Kvyat 4
16 Fernando Alonso 0
17 Jenson Button 0
18 Roberto Merhi 0
19 Will Stevens 0
20 Pastor Maldonado 0
1 Mercedes 159
2 Ferrari 107
3 Williams-Mercedes 61
4 Red Bull-Renault 23
5 Sauber-Ferrari 19
6 Lotus-Mercedes 12
7 Toro Rosso-Renault 12
8 Force India-Mercedes 11
9 McLaren-Honda 0
10 Manor-Ferrari 0
Next race: Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona. May 8-10