Vettel holds off Bottas to win fascinating Bahrain Grand Prix

Despite his rapidly disintegrating tyres, Sebastian Vettel kept Valtteri Bottas at bay to triumph at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.   -  Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel clung on for his second victory of the season in an enthralling Bahrain Grand Prix, but celebrations will be tempered by an injury to a Ferrari mechanic.

A botched Kimi Raikkonen pit stop saw the Finn released too early, his left-rear wheel striking the leg of the mechanic, who was immediately taken to hospital.

The incident occurred as Ferrari pondered how best to cope with Mercedes' one-stop strategy, with Silver Arrows pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton switching to the medium compound after seeing Vettel and Raikkonen given the shorter-life soft tyre.

Raikkonen’s second stop - which led to his retirement from the race - indicated Ferrari were perhaps moving to a split strategy, with Vettel being left to manage his tyres to the end of the race.

Second-placed Bottas started to rapidly close the gap on Vettel after lap 50 as his tyres came into their own against the leader's swiftly wearing set, but he ultimately fell just short - beaten in the end by less than a second.

"These tyres were done for the last 10 laps," said Vettel after taking the checkered flag.

Hamilton, who had started ninth thanks to a grid penalty, came home in third after both Red Bulls retired early in the race, while Pierre Gasly claimed a remarkable fourth-place finish in the Honda-powered Toro Rosso. 

Vettel's victory in his 200th race start means Ferrari have won the opening two races of an F1 season for the first time since Michael Schumacher did so in 2004.


RED BULL WINGS CLIPPED

Not since the Italian Grand Prix of 2012 have two Red Bulls failed to finish.

But Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took only a couple of laps to reset the clock on that statistic in Bahrain.

Verstappen’s determined charge from 15th through the field was checked by a coming together with Hamilton on the second lap, landing the Dutchman with a puncture that ultimately led to his retirement.

Remarkably, Ricciardo then pulled up on the same lap after losing all power, leaving Red Bull to pack up their garage with the race having barely got under way.


HAMILTON’S QUICK PROGRESS

Verstappen was typically bold in picking off the drivers who lay between him and the leading pack, but it obviously came at a cost.

Hamilton, meanwhile, escaped undamaged from his scrape with the Red Bull driver and made rapid progress of his own, climbing to fourth by lap eight.

In one overtaking manoeuvre, Hamilton moved ahead of Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg.

Raikkonen’s unfortunate pit-lane incident on lap 36 put Hamilton into a podium position but Mercedes’ bid to outsmart Ferrari did not reap the ultimate reward.


VETTEL HOLDS ON

The decision to change Bottas and Hamilton to the medium compound when the four leading drivers pitted around the 20th lap looked to be a stroke of genius.

At the very least it promised an exciting finish that came to fruition as Vettel’s softer tyres inevitably neared the end of their life in the closing laps.

And while Bottas swarmed over the rear of Vettel’s Ferrari late on, he could not make full use of the DRS and ran out of laps to make a race-winning move.


IN THE POINTS

1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.699
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +6.512
4. Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +1:02.234
5. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1:15.046
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1:39.024
7. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 lap
8. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +1 lap
9. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1 lap
10. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 lap


DRIVER STANDINGS

1. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 50
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 33
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 22
4. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 16
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 15


CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

1. Ferrari 65 
2. Mercedes 55
3. McLaren 22 
4. Red Bull 20
5. Renault 15


NEXT UP

Only one week to wait until the next race in China, a race Vettel has not won since 2009.