Sebastian Vettel resisted huge pressure from Valtteri Bottas to win a fascinating Bahrain Grand Prix and make it two wins from two races in this season’s Formula 1 world championship.
The Ferrari driver held on in a grandstand finish as Bottas, on mediums to Vettel’s fading soft tyres, was unable to pass and steal victory.
Lewis Hamilton recovered from a five-place grid penalty to complete the podium after Kimi Raikkonen’s hopes were dashed during a pitstop that left a Ferrari mechanic hurt and forced him to retire.
Vettel held the lead at the start as Bottas nabbed Raikkonen into Turn 1, and Vettel built a lead of more than three seconds over the first stint.
Bottas began to claw back time and was just two seconds back when Ferrari brought the race leader in for a change of tyres.
Vettel switched to softs and Raikkonen pitted a lap later as Bottas continued for two more laps, with the Ferraris benefiting from the power of fresher rubber.
When Bottas finally stopped, taking on mediums, Vettel’s lead was around eight seconds and Raikkonen had closed back in on the Mercedes.
The lead trio held station for several laps, only really disrupted when Vettel caught the longer-running Hamilton – who had risen from ninth – and had to wait to pass the Mercedes.
Raikkonen then made a second stop that threatened to inject a strategic variable into the lead fight but ended up removing him from the picture.
The Iceman pulled away before the left-rear had been changed and struck a mechanic’s leg, while Raikkonen stopped in the pitlane with three new tyres and the unchanged old one on his car and retired.
On-track Vettel appeared to be preparing for a two-stop race but his commitment to a one-stop became clear as his pace held up and Bottas failed to make significant ground.
The gap dipped below five seconds heading towards the final ten laps, and suddenly Vettel’s lead began to quickly diminish.
Bottas entered DRS range with two laps to go but a half-hearted look at Turn 1 on the final lap was as close as he got.
Hamilton finished 8.5 seconds adrift of the lead duo in third, with Red Bull the only missing ingredient after both its driver’s races imploded in the first couple of laps.
Max Verstappen squeezed Hamilton too hard exiting Turn 1 after passing him at the start of the second lap damaged his left-rear wheel, which caused a puncture.
He got back to the pits and had the tyres changed, but parked up shortly after with a differential problem.
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo’s race ended shortly after Verstappen picked up a puncture when his car shut down exiting the Turn 8 hairpin.
Red Bull’s junior team afforded it reason to be cheerful though: Pierre Gasly was an incredible fourth place for Toro Rosso on only the team’s second start with Honda power.
Gasly kept clear of the squabbling Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, who clashed through Turn 2 over sixth on the opening lap but somehow escaped without damage, and was faultless for the remainder of the grand prix to bank his first points in Formula 1 in style.
Magnussen then survived a near-miss with team-mate Romain Grosjean, who was out of sync on old tyres, at Turn 2 in the second half of the race to finish fifth.
Fernando Alonso leapt from P13 to ninth on the opening lap and drove a strong race after McLaren’s “astonishing” poor performance in qualifying.
He caught Hulkenberg’s Renault in the closing stages but had to settle for seventh, ahead of team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne who used medium tyres to good effect to climb to eighth after his second stop.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson banked his first points since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix in ninth place after running an extremely long first stint on softs and switching to mediums to execute a one-stop strategy to good effect.
Carlos Sainz Jr completed the points finishers in tenth.
So a fantastic and tense Bahrain Grand Prix. The tyre strategy and overtaking made this race entertaining. Fantastic to see Sebastian Vettel winning while Pierre Gasly achieved a top result for Toro Rosso – in a Honda-powered car – with a career best fourth.
Bahrain Grand Prix, race results after 57 laps:
1 Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 57 1:32:01.940
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport Mercedes 57 +0.699s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport Mercedes 57 +6.512s
4 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda Toro Rosso-Honda 57 +62.234s
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari 57 +75.046s
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault 57 +99.024s
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren F1 Team McLaren-Renault 56 +1 lap
8 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren F1 Team McLaren-Renault 56 +1 lap
9 Marcus Ericsson Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Sauber-Ferrari 56 +1 lap
10 Esteban Ocon Sahara Force India F1 Team Force India-Mercedes 56 +1 lap
11 Carlos Sainz Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault 56 +1 lap
12 Sergio Perez Sahara Force India F1 Team Force India-Mercedes 56 +1 lap
13 Brendon Hartley Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda Toro Rosso-Honda 56 +1 lap
14 Charles Leclerc Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Sauber-Ferrari 56 +1 lap
15 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari 56 +1 lap
16 Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing Williams-Mercedes 56 +1 lap
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Martini Racing Williams-Mercedes 56 +1 lap
– Kimi Raikkonen Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 35 DNF
– Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Red Bull-Renault 3 DNF
– Daniel Ricciardo Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Red Bull-Renault 1 DNF
1 Sebastian Vettel 50
2 Lewis Hamilton 33
3 Valtteri Bottas 22
4 Fernando Alonso 16
5 Kimi Raikkonen 15
6 Nico Hulkenberg 14
7 Daniel Ricciardo 12
7 Pierre Gasly 12
9 Kevin Magnussen 10
10 Max Verstappen 8
11 Stoffel Vandoorne 6
12 Marcus Ericsson 2
13 Carlos Sainz 1
14 Esteban Ocon 1
15 Sergio Perez 0
16 Charles Leclerc 0
17 Brendon Hartley 0
18 Lance Stroll 0
19 Romain Grosjean 0
20 Sergey Sirotkin 0
1 Ferrari 65
2 Mercedes 55
3 McLaren-Renault 22
4 Red Bull-Renault 20
5 Renault 15
6 Toro Rosso-Honda 12
7 Haas-Ferrari 10
8 Sauber-Ferrari 2
9 Force India-Mercedes 1
10 Williams-Mercedes 0