Lewis Hamilton was handed a five-second penalty for deliberately slowing down Daniel Ricciardo, one of several controversial moments in a Bahrain Grand Prix won by Sebastian Vettel – by 6.6sec.
Mercedes did everything they could to help Hamilton, even asking their other driver Valtteri Bottas to let their star man through. Bottas, who started on pole, followed the instruction obligingly.
Whether that was in the interests of free racing – as Mercedes have always claimed to be – is questionable.
Regardless, Vettel now takes a seven-point lead into the next round in Russia as Hamilton finished second, a place ahead of Bottas.
Sebastian Vettel celebrates taking his second victory of the season for Ferrari at the Bahrain Grand Prix
Vettel leaps on the spot as his Ferrari team greet with him with the team’s prancing horse flags and the Italian national flag
Vettel and Bottas spray each other with champagne on the podium following a pulsating race at the Sakhir Circuit
Sebastian Vettel claimed his second win in just three races this season as he steered his way to victory in Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton took the lead in the race but received a five-second penalty for holding up Daniel Ricciardo in the pit lane
Which meant Vettel only had to finish within five seconds of the Brit to claim his second win of the season
Hamilton served his five-second penalty in the pit lane during the 41st lap and lost the lead to the Ferrari driver
BAHRAIN GARND PRIX RESULTS AND STANDINGS
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1hr 33mins 53.373secs
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 1:34:00.033
3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 1:34:13.770
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:34:15.848
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:34:32.719
6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 1:34:47.699
7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:34:55.979
8 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas 1:35:08.238
9 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:35:13.561
10 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:35:29.084
11 Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Sauber at 1 Lap
12 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso at 1 Lap
13 Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault at 1 Lap
14 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren at 3 Laps
15 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber 50 Laps completed, 16 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Toro Rosso 12 Laps completed, 17 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 12 Laps completed, 18 Max Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 11 Laps completed, 19 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 8 Laps completed, 20 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 0 Laps completed
Lewis Hamilton 1min 32.798secs on Lap 46
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 68pts
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 61
3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 38
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 34
5 Max Verstappen (Hol) Red Bull 25
6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 22
7 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 16
8 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 14
9 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Toro Rosso 10
10 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas 4
11 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 4
12 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 3
13 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 2
14 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso 2
15 Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Sauber 0
16 Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Sauber 0
17 Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault 0
18 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 0
19 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber 0
20 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 0
21 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 0
Manufacturers: 1 Ferrari 102pts, 2 Mercedes GP 99, 3 Red Bull 47, 4 Force India 17, 5 Williams 16, 6 Scuderia Toro Rosso 12, 7 Haas F1 8, 8 Renault 2, 9 Sauber-Ferrari 0, 10 McLaren 0
It could not be said that Vettel did not deserve it. He and Ferrari were perfect in the desert night. Starting third, the German zipped straight up round the outside of the first corner to pass Hamilton. First bit of the job done.
He came in with just 11 laps of the 57 completed to be reshod. Now the next part of the story fell Ferrari’s way as cars banged and stopped. First, Max Verstappen had brake failure and ended up in the gravel, angrily plucking his gloves off as his impressive night’s work ended prematurely. He was effectively fourth at the time.
Then Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’s Lance Stroll collided and parked up. It was like an NCP out there when the safety car came out.
It was now that Hamilton boobed, dawdling as he entered the pit lane because he wanted to negate the disadvantage he had by needing to double park as Bottas was first attended to in the pits. He blocked Ricciardo’s Red Bull, attempting not to cede any advantage to him.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel prepares on the starting grid ahead of the race as the German driver talks tactics with his team
Bottas dons the helmet in the pits as the Finn begins to focus ahead of the third Grand Prix of the season
The Finn peers through the visor of his Mercedes helmet as he gears up for the start of the race at the Sakhir Circuit
A light wind was blowing over what had been the previous few days’ cathedral still of Bahrain and the cars wobbled in the slings as the cranes lifted them off the road.
Vettel was getting way in the mid-third of the race. Bottas could not match him. Hamilton could have. Bottas was told to let Hamilton through, an order briefly rescinded. But 27 laps in, Bottas fell six seconds behind Vettel. The order came again. ‘Please let Lewis through.’ The Finn duly did.
There was more excitement to come, though, towards the end as Hamilton had immense pace after coming in for his second tyre change on lap 41 and to take his five-second penalty. He emerged 10 seconds behind Bottas.
But in six laps Hamilton charged up to pass Bottas at the final corner, a knife through butter.
Bottas leads from pole position as he negotiates the first corner as Vettel and Co bear down on the Mercedes driver
Max Verstappen climbs from his Red Bull as he is forced to retire from the race following a brake failure in his car
The Ferrari pit crew surround Vettel’s car as the German opts for a change of tyre during the third race of the campaign
The Mercedes team change Hamilton’s tyres to soft as the race enters the last third – and Hamilton loses his lead
‘You’ve got the pace to win this,’ Hamilton was told by his race engineer Pete Bonnington. He had 7.3sec to close on Vettel. He threw his guts into it, but it was not to be.
It was an awful day for McLaren, watched by their owners, the Bahrain royal family. Stoffel Vandoorne did not even start with the recurrence of an engine problem. Honda are mightily in the soup. Heads may soon roll.
Further encouragement to the hangman came from the mouth of Fernando Alonso, who said: ‘I have never raced with less power in my life.’
He told his team they could try any strategy they wanted. He finally retired.
Roll on the Indy 500.