Vettel: Splitting Mercedes drivers at the start 'crucial' for victory charge

Vettel: Splitting Mercedes drivers at the start 'crucial' for victory charge

Having started on pole position, Bottas had dropped to second under the Safety Car as Sebastian Vettel took the lead for Ferrari.

"From then on we were on the back foot", he said.

"We finally have a competitive auto to count on and it is important to recognise the speed with which we implemented the developments demanded for each new race". “My compliments not just to Seb for his achievements in Bahrain, but also to the whole team.”. Scuderia Ferrari also cruised to 102 points while their closest rival Mercedes have 99 points from the three races. He seemed to have a bit more pace and the gap between me and Sebastian was getting bigger and Lewis was putting pressure on me behind.

Max Verstappen, who started in sixth, was running well until his Red Bull inexplicably had a brake failure shortly after the teenager had pitted on lap 12. "The pit lane was my fault so apologies to the team for losing the time there". He added that he was disappointed with Ferrari's showing in qualifying, but delighted with the team recovery on Sunday.

It was Vettel's third victory in Bahrain and the 44th of his career, a signal that Ferrari not only have a fast and competitive vehicle again, but also that the team has rediscovered its confidence.

A slow stop for Bottas delayed Hamilton slightly anyway and he dropped behind the Red Bull, and was then hit with a five-second penalty for delaying Ricciardo. "I don't know what to say".

"If you look at the 20 races previous year, you could say there were a handful that were not flawless".

Ferrari made a decision to bring Vettel into the pits for an early stop on lap 10. Sainz was got two penalty points. Sainz was emerging from a pit stop and his Toro Rosso vehicle hit Stroll's Williams auto from the side on Lap 13, forcing both out of the race.

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, Vettel's 2007 champion teammate who has yet to stand on the podium this season and not been on pole since 2008, slipped 34 points behind - half as many as the German.

While Hamilton, and Mercedes, were working on 2017, Vettel was already testing the 2018 tyres on Tuesday before returning to the present rubber on Wednesday.

It was the second win in three races for Vettel, but it could be argued the result would have been different if Hamilton hadn't got a five second penalty for holding up Daniel Ricciardo on the pit entry.

“Thanks to Valtteri for being a gentleman, ” said Hamilton, who endured a much more hard relationship with Nico Rosberg, his former Mercedes teammate.

Lewis Hamilton finished second behind Vettel with Valtteri Bottas in third.

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