Vettel was on a different strategy to both the Mercedes cars but he masterfully managed his less durable tyres over the line to finish half a second clear of Bottas and claim his second win in as many grands prix, on his 200th race.
Hamilton is by far a more in-form operator in the recent past, having won three out of the last four seasons – 2014, 2015, and 2017.
“These tyres were done – they were done for the last 10 laps. For now I’m chuffed and for the team as well as we had some issues this morning and we overcame them”, said the German.
“The vehicle felt OK, but we need to find some more pace especially on a single lap”.
Speaking before his grid penalty was revealed, Hamilton said: “It looks very close between all the teams and we definitely have got some work to do to try and see if we can eke out to be ahead of the others”. “I just really tried to keep it as clean as possible”. “The goal is damage limitation”. “I started ninth so third isn’t bad at all”.
Raikkonen and Vettel themselves took the first two sessions, but the excitement started early in the opening session when Max Verstappen struck a curb and lost the rear end of his Red Bull, striking the barriers between turns two and three. As the injured Ferrari man was taken to hospital, attention turned back to the track.
Red Bull had an terrible race, with Ricciardo and Verstappen retiring within six laps.
Brendon Hartley took the second Honda-powered Toro Rosso to a time that was eleventh fastest, while Sergio Perez’s Force India set the 12th fastest time.
There were also celebrations at Sauber, with Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson finishing ninth for his first points since 2015 and the Swiss team’s first of the season, but gloom at Williams whose drivers finished last.
Raikkonen was the sole driver to lap in the 1:29 bracket.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Race director Charlie Whiting red-flagged the session while the stricken Red Bull was recovered, with Verstappen climbing out of the vehicle and reporting he was unscathed. He pulled over on the side of the track because of an electrical failure, prompting the safety auto to come out.
Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top 10, with Hulkenberg and Ocon also profiting from Hamilton’s penalty to move up a position on the grid.
Sakhir, Bahrain (AP) – Sebastian Vettel is perfectly placed to strike another early blow to Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One title defense. Raikkonen came in a lap later, the Ferraris falling to third and fourth before Bottas stopped on lap 20.
Mercedes reacted by switching Bottas to a one-stop on lap 21, taking on medium tyres that he planned to run to the end of the race.
Vettel’s win pushed him up to 50 points in the drivers’ standings, 17 ahead of Hamilton, with Bottas third on 22 points.
A frustrated Vettel finally burst past the defensive Hamilton, on his original tyres, to regain the lead on lap 26.
With Vettel back in the lead, the gaps remained the same until Raikkonen came in for his second stop.