A superb second win of the season for Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain saw the German draw clear of Lewis Hamilton in the title battle – and Mercedes under clear pressure from the Italian team.
From third on the grid, Vettel split Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton at the start, before making an early pit stop. He gained the lead when they pitted under a safety car, and stayed safely in front, despite a late charge from Hamilton.
“The start, obviously it was crucial for us to get between them, to not allow them to get in their rhythm, pull away, do their thing,” he said. “So, upset them a bit. I think we all had more or less the same start. Mine initially was maybe a tiny bit better than Lewis, which put me just about side-by-side – but their car is really long so it’s a long way to get side-by-side – but then I think I benefited from the fact I had a clear track ahead. Lewis was a bit stuck with Valtteri and it’s a bit of a tricky one to judge, so I could just take lots of risk under braking and get the move done.
“Then, the final stint, obviously we had quite a decent gap, plus the safety margin of Lewis’ penalty – which I wasn’t sure why [he had one] but it didn’t matter at that point – and I just tried to control the gap to Valtteri, maybe pulling away a little bit and at that point just controlling the gap. He was very fast when he came out.
“When I faced the traffic I lost a lot of time but then obviously he had to face traffic as well. In the end it was safe enough. At the beginning of the stint I really didn’t push at all, just took it easy and responded to what those two guys were doing, which obviously helped me at the end because I had a lot of tires left.”
Vettel insisted that he’s not yet thinking about the next race in Russia.
“I think at this stage Sochi is quite far away so I’m not willing and I don’t think the team is really looking to Sochi right now. I think we enjoy the moment. Obviously we did a massive stint over the winter. I think last year was a very good year for us. It wasn’t good in terms of results, don’t get me wrong, but I think for the team, getting together, a lot of things that had changed now seem to start clicking.
“Obviously it helps when straight from the box, in testing, we had a good feeling. We looked reasonably competitive. Australia obviously was a massive boost for all the team and yeah, you can see when they are singing down there, and the whole factory has really come alive so that’s great and we need to just make sure we keep it going and keep enjoying that way.
“But for now, I think the team has obviously done a really, really great job, a lot of hard work, commitment and as I said, things start to click and hopefully that sort of success now in the first couple of races helps us to build up some sort of momentum that maybe these guys had in the past and the last couple of years, so they will be the ones to beat. It’s a long season, but for now, as I said, looking forward to tonight.”