SEBASTIAN VETTEL moved into the lead in the drivers’ championship after winning the Bahrain Grand Prix – while Lewis Hamilton had a nightmare.
The Brit had to settle for second in a thrilling race in the desert, where he picked up a five second penalty and suffered a poor start.
Hamilton mounted a late fightback but crossed the line 6.6seconds behind the German as this season’s title race continues to excite.
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Hamilton’s problems started on the grid when he picked up a massive amount of wheelspin when the light went out.
His poor getaway allowed Vettel to squeeze in to second place behind Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton was soon under pressure from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton’s second blow was when Ferrari pitted Vettel early. It was a bold move but proved decisive.
When Lance Stroll and Carlos Saniz collided, the deployment of the safety car meant Mercedes took the chance to pit but that elevated Vettel to first place.
But Merc’s gamble to do a double stop backfired, as Bottas’ stop was slow and Hamilton slowed down in the pitlane as a result.
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That in turn backed up Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, earning Hamilton his five second time penalty.
He took it at his final pit-stop and rejoined the race in third place and 15 seconds behind Vettel. He quickly passed Bottas and set about hunting down Vettel.
But he simply ran out of laps as Vettel managed to cling on to win the 44th race of his career while pole-sitter Bottas came home in third.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth while Daniel Ricciardo was fifth. Brit Jolyon Palmer finished in 13th place.
Max Verstappen retired with a brake failure while Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson also failed to finish while Carlos Saniz and Lance Stroll collided at the end of the pitlane.
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne did not even start. The 25-year-old complained that his car did not feel right on the way to the grid and Honda identified a problem with their power unit.
And his team-mate Fernando Alonso also retired two laps from the end, also with an engine problem, in another disappointing performance for the team.