Bahrain GP: Hamilton, Bottas finish in podium but Vettel secures win

"I would have had to defend hard and that could have meant some risky situations, but the team thought (Hamilton) had the chance to catch Sebastian, and we tried it", Bottas said.

Things weren't quit as smooth for Mercedes as Hamilton had to serve a five-second penalty for being too slow in the pit lane, and Bottas struggling with his auto all race long - failing to add a maiden victory to his first career pole the previous day.

Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton staged a late charge to finish second after picking up a time penalty.

On Sunday, he won from third place on the grid behind the Mercedes' of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton - thanks to passing Hamilton at the start and an early pit stop.

Double finish for Froce India Mexican Sergio Perez finished seventh for Force India, his 13th successive points finish, while French rookie Esteban Ocon bagged one point ending tenth. Firstly when the German, starting third on the grid, blasted out of his blocks and made up the nine-metre difference to Hamilton by the time the title protagonists reached turn one. Hamilton also appeared to be struggling and had Verstappen close on his tail throughout the opening laps as the Red Bull seemed to extract a remarkable amount of performance from the super-soft compound tyre.

After being forced to miss two races due to his pre-season back injury in the Race Of Champions, Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein had come in for some heavy flak from some quarters. However, Max Verstappen had to retire soon owing to a brake failure during lap 12.

A safety auto prompted an exodus to the pits and Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team team-mate Valtteri Bottas, having position on the track, was first in for Mercedes. To stop teams gaining an advantage in such circumstances, drivers must remain within five seconds of the vehicle in front under the Safety auto, and as Ricciardo almost went into the back of Hamilton as the entered the pit lane, Hamilton exceeded that limit and was hit with a five-second penalty. "Ferrari had the right pit stops at the right time, did everything right and deserved to win".

The five-second penalty would hang over Hamilton for the rest of the race and hamstrung his chances of mounting a fight back.

You could argue that rushing into a similar early pitstop cost it dear in China, although Vettel made a sublime recovery, but just having the bravado to take the fight to Mercedes is a trick that's paid off twice now.

But, regardless of how much he learns in Alabama, nothing will prepare him for what he'll get at Indianapolis Motor Speedway's mighty superspeedway, even if he has raced on its road course (best result: second to McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton in 2007). To try to minimise the delay he slowed on entry backing up the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.

The next race of the 2017 Formula 1 season is scheduled for April 30, in Russian Federation.

But neither could match Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel who drove flawlessly to take his second victory of the season. "The start of the race was OK but Sebastian was in my blind spot so I didn't know where he was and I lost a position there". He was closing at a rate of a second a lap, but Vettel was not going to let the race slide away from him and managed to control the gap once it was under seven seconds.

  • Carolyn Briggs