Sebastian Vettel says splitting Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap was "crucial" for his victory prospects at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton has apologised to his Mercedes team after he admitted he was at fault for the pit-lane blunder which cost him a shot at victory in Bahrain on Sunday. "But the five-second penalty made that twice as hard". "I think they will be very quick in the next race but there's a lot of straights there as well and we've obviously got, I think, still the strongest power unit on the grid, so I think that will come into play, for sure".
The two teams had been very evenly matched in race pace but Ferrari's aggressive pit strategy gave Vettel the advantage, and when Hamilton pitted under the safety vehicle he was too slow into the pit entry and took a five-second penalty.
"We were also a bit unlucky with the safety vehicle pit stop - it was a bit slow, so I lost a place to Sebastian".More news: Rex Tillerson declares end to 'strategic patience' with Iran
The three-time world champion took his penalty at his second stop with 15 laps remaining and rejoined in third, 18 seconds behind Vettel. Vettel then forged a healthy lead after which even a late charge from Hamilton did nothing to squash the Ferrari's hopes for a podium finish. "Ferrari did a great job today".
After claiming the first pole position of his career, Bottas said the fight for the championship was now a three-way battle, but the Finn will be desperately disappointed here after he finished a distant third.
"That is exciting and that means all of us in the team have to be operating at our maximum every weekend".
Hamilton had sought to slow down the Red Bull in the knowledge that he would have to wait behind Bottas when they both pitted behind the Safety Car.More news: United Kingdom delays decision on Sky merger approval
By seeking not to give either driver any advantage over the other, Mercedes were unable to respond immediately and delayed their decision-making after Ferrari's early move to make an "under-cut" pit stop. Hamilton passed Ricciardo and went on to catch up with his team mate, who followed the team orders and let the British driver pass on Lap 29.
Bottas, who ultimately finished third, said the higher tyre pressures made it feel like he was driving on marbles.
"That said, we are well aware we have a long road ahead and know that if we want to get to the most important finish-line of all, we can not stint on our commitment and focus for a second". "I just didn't have enough pace today and we need to find the reasons for that", he said.
It was another shocking weekend for McLaren whose star driver Fernando Alonso had to retire due to vehicle trouble.More news: Jose Mourinho fears worst after Ibrahimovic and Rojo Injuries sour European win
It looks set to be one of the most exciting seasons in years, with two teams now fighting it out as opposed to a pair of drivers from the same outfit. When I woke up and was waiting for the race my target was the win.
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