This race removed any lingering doubt that the threat to Mercedes’ recent dominance by Ferrari is genuine, as Sebastian Vettel moved seven points clear at the top of the Formula One standings with victory from third on the grid.
Hamilton, who was slicing seconds from Vettel’s lead despite that five-second time penalty, ended up second, with his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who started on pole, third.
The win was Vettel’s second of the season after the four-times world champion won the opener in Australia and 44th win lifted him to 68 points, with Hamilton second on 61.
“It was the last half of the out lap when all the fireworks were going off I was like, ‘I love what I do’,” said Vettel, who was helped by the safety car being deployed after his first pit stop with the Mercedes duo still out.
“I tried to put Valtteri under pressure early on but the early pit stop worked. When the safety car came I was like, ‘not again!’. I thought we would have lost the advantage but I had a good feeling.
Sebastian Vettel celebrates after triumphing in Bahrain F1 2017 Drivers' World Championship standings Sun, April 16, 2017
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“Lewis was obviously a threat again towards the end but the car was a dream today.”
Vettel could afford to say that with a smile on his face, knowing that the Briton was forced to serve his penalty at his second stop, then charging back and taking more than one second a lap out of the German’s advantage before running out of time.
“Congratulations to Seb,” said Hamilton. “The pitlane was my fault and apologies to the team. I tried my hardest to catch up. Losing points for the team is definitely painful but it is what it is. I am getting old!”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said Bottas’s hopes had been hit even before the lights went out on the grid when a problem with a generator left the Finn starting with the wrong tyre pressures.
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Sebastian Vettel is now seven points clear at the top
“We had a problem with the generator and couldn’t bleed Valtteri’s tyres and therefore we were a few PSI too high and then couldn’t get the pace back again,” he said.
“You try not to interfere with the race but sometimes you have to make a call that is not a nice one for one of the drivers.”
Bottas added: “It was really tricky race. I struggled with the pace all through the race. I was limited and was out of tools on the steering wheel and I was oversteering all through the race and that’s why they pace was slow.”
McLaren’s nightmare continued with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne failing to start and Fernando Alonso retiring on the final laps but classified 14th. At one point he said over the team radio: “I have never raced with less power in my life.”