Lewis Hamilton scored his third victory of the season in Bahrain, but Kimi Raikkonen was the star of the show for Ferrari, grabbing second from Nico Rosberg in the closing stages.
Hamilton made a perfect start from pole, although Vettel took a little sniff down the inside at the first corner. Raikkonen passed Rosberg around the outside at Turn 1, as he got boxed in behind Vettel, with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas in fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Romain Grosjean’s Lotus.
Hamilton ran wide at Turn 4 on the opening lap, but held his lead and moved out of Vettel’s DRS range by lap three.
At the start of lap four, Rosberg made a brave lunge on Raikkonen and only just scrabbled around the first corner. Kimi tried to fight back at Turn 4, but didn’t have an answer.
Rosberg then cruised up to the back of Vettel, and began to attack him on lap eight after Vettel outbraked himself at Turn 1 while trying to stay out of DRS range.
Rosberg repeated the move he pulled on Raikkonen on Vettel to take second place at Turn 1 on lap nine.
Hamilton held a 5s lead by the time Rosberg was into second, while Vettel struggled on his first stint and allowed Raikkonen to close right up.
Ferrari plays the strategy card
Encouraged by Pastor Maldonado setting fastest lap on a new set of softs on his Lotus, Ferrari spotted the opportunity for Vettel to repass Rosberg with an undercut at the first round of pitstops. Although Rosberg responded a lap later, Vettel had used his ‘golden lap’ of extra tyre grip to good effect.
Rosberg repassed Vettel with a spectacular move into Turn 1 on the next lap, just as Hamilton rejoined from his pitstop, as his teammate had been allowed to almost undercut him. Hamilton’s first stop was also a slow one, which didn’t help, but he clung to his lead and pulled away from Rosberg.
Ferrari then gambled on Raikkonen’s strategy, putting him on mediums for his second stint, and he produced some impressive laptimes on this tyre right from the start of the run. For his final stint he went back to the soft, although Kimi questioned why as he’d been faster on the medium, and was told his early laps would be quicker giving him a net benefit.
Vettel repeated his undercut trick in the second round of stops, as he moved to the medium tyres, but gifted the place back to Rosberg by running wide at the final corner. Vettel damaged his front wing against the gravel trap, and he was forced to make a third stop to change his nose.
Raikkonen’s long stint meant he led during the middle phase of the race, with Hamilton passing him into Turn 1 with 17 laps remaining. Kimi pitted a lap later, moving on to the soft tyre for a sprint to the finish in an effort to overhaul Rosberg.
Backmarkers didn’t do him any favours, much to Kimi’s agitation, but he carved into the gap. Raikkonen then eased into second when Rosberg overshot Turn 1 on the penultimate lap, but Hamilton was long gone up front despite a late worry about brake temperatures.
The battle behind
Bottas was clearly the best of the rest, running well clear of Ricciardo – whose engine appeared to blow up at the very last corner. Vettel spent his final stint closing down on the Williams after his nose change.
Vettel almost hit him under braking for the first corner with three laps to go, and never found a way past.
Felipe Massa’s Williams failed to leave the dummy grid with an electrical problem, so he charged through the field from a pitlane start.
Grosjean finished seventh, with Massa’s charge ending with a point in 10th, as Force India’s Sergio Perez and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat passed him with a couple of laps remaining thanks to his fading tyres.
Fernando Alonso again just missing out on the points for McLaren.
Marcus Ericcson lost his chance of another points finish when a wheelnut wouldn’t come off when he was running eighth, and his teammate Felipe Nasr passed him for 12th late on having already pulled another fantastic move, around the outside of Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India at Turn 4.
Behind Ericsson in 14th, Pastor Maldonado was next up after his engine cut-out during his final pitstop. Will Stevens beat Roberto Merhi home in the battle of the Manor Marussias.
Those that didn’t make the finish
Carlos Sainz retired on lap 31, when a wheel on his Toro Rosso wasn’t attached properly during a pitstop. His teammate Max Verstappen was also forced out five laps later.
Jenson Button, who failed to complete a lap in qualifying, didn’t even start what would have been his 100th race for McLaren due to a glitch with his Honda’s energy recovery system.
|01||L. Hamilton||Mercedes||57 laps||25|
|06||D. Ricciardo||Red Bull||+61.7||8|
|08||S. Perez||Force India||+1 lap||4|
|09||D. Kvyat||Red Bull||+1 lap||2|
|10||F. Massa||Williams||+1 lap||1|
|11||F. Alonso||McLaren||+1 lap|
|12||F. Nasr||Sauber||+1 lap|
|13||N. Hulkenberg||Force India||+1 lap|
|14||M. Ericsson||Sauber||+1 lap|
|15||P. Maldonado||Lotus||+1 lap|
|16||W. Stevens||Manor||+2 laps|
|17||R. Merhi||Manor||+3 laps|
|18||M. Verstappen||Toro Rosso||Retired|
|19||C. Sainz||Toro Rosso||Retired|
|20||J. Button||McLaren||Didn't start|