But in the end, Vettel prevailed, holding off the Finn to win his second F1 race in a row. This one came by just sixth tenths of a second at the Bahrain International circuit in the Middle East. Lewis Hamilton took third after starting ninth on the grid.
Vettel’s victory was the 48th of his career and comes in his 200th grand prix start. But the German really had to work for this one.
“I was not in control,” he said afterwards. “Tried to keep it as clean as possible, but fortunately he (Bottas) ran out of laps. I am really happy.”
Vettel led right from the start. However, following his first pit stop, he lost his track position to Hamilton, only to regain it by passing the Brit halfway through the race.
The German, sporting limited tire wear stayed out for the rest of the event. But that led to Bottas, who had better tire wear, threaten him for the latter part of the race.
While Bottas closed the gap, Vettel was able to stay in control, both in the race and on top of the standings. By winning, he now holds a 17-point edge over Hamilton after two rounds of 21 in the series.
Three drivers retired from the race and they were big names. Red Bull had double DNFs, with Max Verstappen stopping on lap five with structural damage after colliding with Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo retired next, leaving the race on the same lap with a power issue.
Kimi Raikkonen also had a horrific moment on lap 35. That’s when an unsafe release during a pit stop injured one of his pit crew and ended the Finn’s evening.
The man of the night was Pierre Gasly, who finished fourth in his Toro Rosso driving just his eighth F1 race. Kevin Magnussen made up for the American Haas F1 Team’s failure in the last round by taking fifth while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth.
Not since 1982 has a driver who won the first two F1 races earned the world championship. But Vettel thinks he can break the mold.
“I don’t believe in all those things,” he said before turning toward the present. “It is a great feeling tonight.”