Vettel 'forefront' of F1 title chase, says Ferrari boss

German Vettel wins Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of Hamilton
Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 16, 2017 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo: Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Mon 17 Apr 2017 09:34 AM

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne said he and his team now feel “completely confident” of mounting a championship challenge following Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Marchionne believes Ferrari will now be “at the forefront of this world championship”, he said following the four-time champion’s well-judged drive to triumph.

“It is, of course, hugely satisfying to be back on the top step of the podium with Seb," said Marchionne.

"More importantly, however, we are now completely confident that our victory in Melbourne (the season-opener) wasn't just a one-off and that we will be at the forefront of this world championship until the last.

"We finally have a competitive car to count on and it is important to recognise the speed with which we implemented the developments demanded for each new race.

“All this is the fruit of super work at the track and in Maranello, so my compliments not just to Seb for his achievements in Bahrain, but also to the whole team.“

The president’s statement endorsed Ferrari’s optimism after a weekend that saw defending champions Mercedes under serious pressure for the first time in four years.

Vettel said his win was built on a crucial early move when he split the two Mercedes at the start of the race, moving from third on the grid to second.

It was Vettel’s second win of the season, his third in Bahrain and the 44th of his career. The German star now leads the title race with 68 points ahead of Hamilton on 61.

“It was crucial for us to get between them and not to let them get in front and pull away and do their thing,” said Vettel.

“We all had more or less the same start and Lewis stuck with Valtteri (Bottas) so I could take a risk under braking and get the move done.

“After a couple of laps, I was on Valtteri’s gearbox for the first stint and not falling back too much. It was a good start -– our pace was key today to win.

“In the final stint we had quite a decent gap, plus the safety margin of Lewis’ penalty."

Top three finishers Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP and Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP on the podium during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 16, 2017 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Hamilton was handed a five-second penalty for a pit lane infringement which ultimately cost him dearly.

“I tried to control the gap - he was very fast when he came out, I expected him to be quicker but not that quick," added Vettel.

“He was closing in and when I faced traffic I lost a lot of time, but when he faced it he lost time too.”

He added that he was disappointed with Ferrari’s showing in qualifying, but delighted with the team recovery on Sunday.

“The factory has come alive and hopefully the success in the last few races helps us.”

Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished third, after starting from his maiden pole position, ahead of compatriot Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and fifth-placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo’s Red Bull team-mate 19-year-old Max Verstappen crashed out of the action after a brakes failure.

Felipe Massa finished sixth for Williams, a well-received Easter Sunday birthday gift for team boss Sir Frank Williams who is 75, with Sergio Perez taking seventh for Force India.

Romain Grosjean battled through to take eighth for Haas ahead of Nico Hulkenberg of Renault and Esteban Ocon in the second Force India.

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