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Vettel, who led the championship heading to Bahrain courtesy of a fortunate win in Australia, led the race from pole-position but came under vast pressure from the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport auto of Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages.

But Vettel, racing in his 200th grand prix, used every ounce of his experience to fend off the quick-finishing Finn. I had to nurse the tyres. Vettel shouted over team radio on the cool-down lap.

The race also saw three cars retiring including both Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

Ricciardo was out of the race, but at least the virtual safety auto his retirement triggered helped Verstappen limp back to pit lane and rejoin the race on new tyres.

Vettel initially going for a two-stop strategy, chose to change strategies and manage his soft tyres right till the end in a bid to fend off Bottas who was quickly catching up with his fresher and harder compound tyres at the final stages.

Vettel had led from pole position, with Bottas slotting into second place at the start from third on the grid, but ended up having to battle the Mercedes pair alone.

"Them going onto the medium tyre".

Vettel's dominant win the the Bahrain Grand Prix helped him to extend his lead in the driver standings over Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport's Lewis Hamilton and the rest of the field to a rather comfortable margin given the fact that only two races have been contested so far in the 21-race 2018 season.

The four-time ex-champion, on severely-worn tyres, came home narrowly ahead of Valtteri Bottas and the Finn's Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in a nail-biting finish to an intriguing contest.

Max Verstappen's damaged Red Bull following a puncture
4:53PM Verstappen's damaged car a close-up Max Verstappen's damaged Red Bull following a puncture Credit SKY SPORTS F1

Raikkonen came in for his second tire change of the race after 36 of 57 laps, but the left rear tire was not secured properly.

Ferrari was forced to retire the vehicle, losing a key strategic tool in the process. The final 10 laps saw Bottas take three quarters of a second a lap out of Vettel's lead, with clear track between him and the eventual victor.

The remaining laps became a race against time.

Vettel, however, deftly fended off his advances, saving his battery power for deployment at key traction moments to counteract Bottas's superior grip. Nothing was under control!

Raikkonen was given the green light to exit the pits too early after stopping for fresh tyres and collected the Scuderia crew member as he took off.

But the German made the tires last beyond their expected lifespan in a risky change of strategy as he managed to hold off a charging Bottas in the last lap to make Mercedes' one-stop strategy fall short, saying afterwards: "It worked - just". I don't see what happens behind and unfortunately he got hurt. "I think it's fair to say the revenue model was new and our views on the cost cap are finally on the table".

"How much they struggled, I don't know".

Hamilton, who started from ninth place due to a gearbox penalty, had escaped unscathed from his clash with Verstappen. "I started ninth so third is not that bad..." "It was damage limitation". In an ironic twist, Red Bull's feeder team Toro Rosso had arguably the result of the day - with French driver Pierre Gasly driving superbly to finish a career-best fourth. The result was engine supplier Honda's best finish since returning to the sport in 2015 and, following their acrimonious split with McLaren past year, will have tasted even sweeter on the home turf of McLaren's Bahraini owners.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg spent the race keeping a ferocious Fernando Alonso at bay, the Spaniard nonetheless salvaging points for McLaren after a hitherto disappointing weekend.