Sebastian Vettel stormed to an impressive victory at the 2017 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix held at Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.
The Ferrari star benefited from a five-second time penalty for Mercedes driver and chief rival Lewis Hamilton to claim his second win of the season.
After 57 laps around the 5.412-kilometre track, Vettel crossed the finish line in a total winning time of one hour 33 minutes 53.374 seconds. He was 6.660 seconds ahead of Hamilton, while Mercedes’ other star, pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas, took third.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in the other Ferrari, with Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull’s only finisher in fifth, as teammate Max Verstappen retired early with brake failure.
Felipe Massa secured sixth for Williams, from Force India’s Sergio Perez and Haas’s Romain Grosjean. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Force India’s Esteban Ocon completed the top ten.
From third on the grid, Vettel jumped Hamilton’s Silver Arrow going into Turn 1 at the start, then chased early leader Bottas as the three of them were joined by the Red Bulls of fast-starting Verstappen and Ricciardo in a high-speed train.
Vettel and Ferrari gambled on going for the undercut with an early pit stop on lap 10, and it worked well for them. They were followed by Verstappen and Red Bull doing likewise next time around. But as Vettel recovered in 12th place, Verstappen crashed in Turn 4 on the 12th lap, due to suspected brake failure.
A lap later Carlos Sainz, leaving the pits after a stop in his Toro Rosso, collided with the side of rookie Lance Stroll’s Williams as the Canadian turned into Turn 1 – a misdemeanour which subsequently earned Sainz a three-place grid drop for the next round in Canada.
The safety car was deployed, leaving Mercedes no alternative but to pit both their drivers at the same time. That meant stacking Hamilton behind Bottas, and while trying to give the Finn’s crew time to service him, Hamilton came in so slowly that he was deemed by the stewards to have hindered the following Ricciardo and was handed a five-second penalty that would prove very costly.
The safety car promoted a surprised Vettel to the lead, but on soft rubber as his main rivals (bar Ricciardo) had opted for more supersofts, Hamilton soon repassed the Australian’s Red Bull when the track went green on the 17th lap, and closed in on Bottas who was struggling with oversteer. He dutifully moved over to let his faster teammate go by in Turn 1 on the 29th lap, setting up a Vettel versus Hamilton encounter.
The Ferrari driver pitted again, for softs, on the 33rd lap, putting Hamilton into the lead. He held it until the 41st lap, as Vettel closed in, then pitted for another set of softs and to take his time penalty.
Once again he caught and passed teammate Bottas, and a blistering series of fastest laps cut the deficit to the Ferrari from 19s to 5.8s by the 54th lap. But thereafter, Hamilton eased back, finishing 6.6s adrift after a day of valuable damage limitation.
The unhappy Bottas hung on to complete the podium, two seconds ahead of Raikkonen’s Ferrari, with Ricciardo slumping after the safety car to finish fifth, well behind the second Finn but equally a long way ahead of Massa’s Williams.
Perez drove brilliantly for Force India, heading a happy Grosjean in his Haas and Hulkenberg, whose own feisty performance earned himself and Renault their first points of the year.
Ocon took up his usual reservation of 10th place in the second Force India, but Pascal Wehrlein might have felt as deserving of the final point after a great comeback for Sauber confirmed that he is now fully fit again. He took 11th after outfoxing Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat on the last lap. The Russian had been involved in one of the race’s best battles, with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Palmer dropped back after damaging his front wing on the Toro Rosso, while the Spaniard’s Honda-powered car again let him down in sight of the chequered flag.
It was a bad day for the Woking team with yet another suspected MGU-H failure preventing Stoffel Vandoorne from starting.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson joined the retirements late in the race, and besides Sainz, Stroll and Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen stopped early due to electronics issues in his Haas.
Hamilton finished with the race’s fastest lap of 1:32.798 on lap 46.
Race details from formula1.com