Vettel wins thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix

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Make it two wins from three races for Sebastian Vettel, who beat Lewis Hamilton by 6.660 seconds to triumph at Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Vettel has now opened a small seven point lead on Hamilton in the World Drivers Championship as the series now heads to the Sochi Autodrom for the Russian Grand Prix in two weeks time.

As with any race there were plenty of talking points, but things started to get interesting during a safety car period early in the race.

Vettel and safety cars just don't get along?

Last week at the Chinese Grand Prix Vettel lost out after the safety car was deployed when Antonio Giovinazzi spun out on the damp asphalt and hit the pit wall.

But in Bahrain just as Vettel was about to open up some serious distance between himself and the pursuing Mercedes cars of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, the safety car took to the track for an accident at Turn 1 involving Williams' Lance Stroll and Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz.

It appeared that once again Hamilton would be the driver that would benefit the most from the chaos of the safety car, but shortly thereafter the three-time World Champion made a very rare and uncharacteristic mistake.

Pitlane mistake costs Hamilton

With the safety car on the track Mercedes chose to double stack their cars for a tyre change, but it proved to be a costly decision for Hamilton.

While the Mercedes pit crew were busy servicing Bottas' car, Hamilton hit the brakes several times entering the pit lane and held up Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull.

Ricciardo confirmed via radio that he had been slowed up by Hamilton, and upon review the race stewards decided to award Hamilton a five-second penalty for his transgression.

Had Hamilton not fallen afoul of the stewards it is conceivable that at the very worst he would have finished the race only a second and a half behind Vettel, but it was not meant to be.

"Obviously a very difficult race," said Hamilton afterwards. "It didn't start out the best, but the pit lane was really my fault and so apologies to the team for losing the time there."

Team orders for Bottas

Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas turned heads earlier in the weekend by putting himself on pole position for the race.

It was a solid effort by the Finn in only his third Grand Prix for his new team, but his good fortune in qualifying did not follow him into the race itself.

Although Bottas led in the early stages of the race, a combination of overheating rear tyres and a Ferrari undercut at the first pit stop resulted in an order to move over and let the much faster Hamilton past.

If being asked to move over once wasn't bad enough for Bottas, it happened again in the final laps as Hamilton was catching up to race leader Vettel.

HAM v BOT Bahrain 2017.gif

“As a racing driver it's the worst thing you want to hear, but that’s life,” Bottas said in the post race interviews. “I understand the team completely on that. They had the opportunity at the end of the day to get some extra points for the team and fight for the victory."

Bottas is fighting hard to keep his seat at Mercedes for 2018, and has very little room to dispute team orders if Hamilton is in a much better position to challenge for a race victory.

So many DNF's

Once again attrition and accidents took their toll forcing seven cars to retire from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Both Haas' Kevin Magnussen (electronics) and Red Bull's Max Verstappen (brake failure) retired early, but as usual it was McLaren-Honda who made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Stoffel Vandoorne, who scored a single point in his Formula 1 debut at Bahrain in 2016, did not even make it to the starting grid after he was hit with what Honda described as a 'recurring problem' with the engine's MGU-H unit.

Fernando Alonso complained about the Honda engine's lack of power throughout the race, and retired for the third race in a row shortly before the finish.

Ferrari opens up small lead on Mercedes

While second and third position may not have been the result Mercedes wanted, they will leave Bahrain knowing that they had a better haul of points than Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel has impressed so far this season, but the same cannot be said of his teammate Kimi Räikkönen, who finished in a very disappointing fourth position on Sunday.

Image: Formula  1 / Twitter

Despite not maximizing their points haul in the desert Ferrari are off to their best start since 2008 and lead the Constructors Championship with 102 points.

Mercedes (99 pts), Red Bull (47 pts), Force India (17 pts) and Williams (16 pts) round out the top five.