Ferrari’s evening got even better when Hamilton finished behind Bottas, his teammate. The German and Fernando Alonso are the most successful drivers at the track with three wins each.
As the Dutchman idled back to the pits, his Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo slowed and stopped at the side of the track. Hamilton slotted into third, just a tenth off the pace, ahead of Bottas and Ricciardo with Gasly and Carlos Sainz in the Renault the only other drivers to set a banker lap, albeit on used supersoft tyres.
Meanwhile, it was a disastrous day for Kimi Raikkonen after starting second on the grid.
Danish driver Kevin Magnussen was fifth in the Haas ahead of Nico Hulkenberg for Renault. The Dane was almost taken out by his teammate Romain Grosjean at Turn 1 after his pit-stop and then spent a lap bottled up behind him – leading to several bleeps of the TV world feed censor over the radio.
Bottas had a half-hearted attempt into Turn 1 on the final lap but Vettel held his line – with Bottas consequently compromising his own exit from the corner, denying him a shot into Turn 4.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was third. By lap eight of 57, Hamilton was up to fourth and homing in on a 119th career podium. Raikkonen was given the signal to leave the pits when only three of his tyres had been replaced.
Vettel won in Melbourne, profiting from an error by Mercedes to finish ahead of Hamilton, who was leading from pole. But with Mercedes on a one-stopper and Ferrari seeming to be two-stopping, the playing field was a lot more even than it looked.
The gap dipped below five seconds heading towards the final 10 laps, and suddenly Vettel’s lead began to quickly diminish. Bottas starts third for Mercedes, but Hamilton will start in ninth place after a penalty.
Drama in the pits, when team mate Kimi Raikkonen was brought in to test the strategy, decided Ferrari in favor of keeping Vettel out.
The mechanic was taken away on a stretcher and is being examined at the time of writing.
Vettel was nearly overtaken by Bottas on the last lap, but made a crucial blocking move and won by only 0.6 seconds, reported AP. It became a case of Vettel’s softs versus Mercedes’ mediums. When they told me the pace of Valtteri at that time, there was no way I could match that.
Hamilton was disappointed that the incident cost him a very possible victory but Vettel was also not fully satisfied with his vehicle which lacked Mercedes’ pace.
BC-CAR-F1-Bahrain GP, 2nd Ld-Writethru, 756Vettel wins Bahrain GP, Raikkonen’s auto hits mechanicAP Photo XLB112, XLB109, HAS135, HAS136, XLB108, XLB107, HAS128Eds: Adds details, quotes, photo links.
Esteban Ocon of Sahara Force India took the last point finishing 10th, behind Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, who took his first points since 2015.