The Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean followed Vettel home, albeit over ten seconds down the road, after bouncing back from a poor qualifying session.
Vettel’s win sees him stretch his legs at the top of the standings and the reigning triple world champion leaves Bahrain with a ten-point advantage over Raikkonen. Fernando Alonso, who had been nine points behind Vettel heading to Bahrain, drops to fourth behind Lewis Hamilton, 30 points off the top of the table, after a race that turned into a damage limitation exercise for the Spaniard.
Alonso made a good getaway from third on the grid, jumping Vettel into the first corner and slotting in behind pole position man Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.
But the double world champion ran wide in the sweeping section of track following turn four, allowing Vettel to slip past. Vettel was soon harrying Rosberg and after a tense three-way battle for the lead got past the Mercedes on the third lap.
“At the beginning I thought that if there was a small chance to get into the lead I have to take it because then I can take care of the tyres the way I like and hopefully divert the race the way that we planned beforehand, whereas if you sit behind someone then you struggle, you lose grip, you start to slide and the tyres start to go off and you might have a different race,” Vettel said. “But surely, with the pace that we had, I think we could have had a strong race even not being in the lead immediately. But I preferred it that way for sure.”
Ferrari’s race descended into chaos after Alonso had to stop twice in as many laps early on in the race as result of a faulty drag reduction system that kept flipping open. His teammate Felipe Massa fared little better and also had to stop multiple times. “We were very, unlucky. In four races we’ve had two very unlucky moments,” Alonso who crashed out early in the Malaysia two races ago said. “But it will come for the others and in that moment we will take our opportunity.”
Force India’s Paul di Resta enjoyed a strong race, matching his best ever result to come home fourth. The Scot had looked set for a podium after opting for a two-stop strategy but was caught and passed by Grosjean, who was lapping significantly faster, with just six laps of the race left. Lewis Hamilton was the best of the Mercedes in fifth ahead of McLaren’s Sergio Perez, who had a close battle with teammate Jenson Button with the two McLarens even making contact at one point.
Mark Webber finished seventh in the second Red Bull with Alonso salvaging some points in eighth. Nico Rosberg finished ninth, falling back through the field as his tyres faded, highlighting the fact that while the Brackley-based squad has made a step up, they still need to find a way to make their tyres last in hot conditions before they can fight for the win.