Sebastian Vettel's victories may force Mercedes rethink

Ferrari have won two out of three races so far this season to lead the constructors' championship and it is Sebastian Vettel, not Lewis Hamilton, who tops the drivers' standings.

The third spot on the podium was occupied by the second Mercedes driver - Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas, the first Finn to start from pole in almost a decade, blasted out of the blocks to retain his lead on the long run down to turn one.

Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth in his Ferrari, while Massa was sixth in his Williams.

While Bottas led he was not pulling away from the chasing pack. Three seconds separated the top five drivers.

The day proved to be hard for Red Bull Racing.

But moments later, the Dutchman's brakes failed and he drifted across the track and into the wall, his race over. A lap later, Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz crashed into Williams' Lance Stroll shortly after leaving the pits.

"Under safety auto on the first stop, there was a problem with the pit stop".

Hamilton's benchmark time was 2.5s slower than the lap recorded by Valtteri Bottas last Saturday to claim pole position.

"The first race was still a high, the second race was still a high, and this one was a little bit of a dip". It is the sort of minor thing which, in a tight race with Ferrari, could have a major impact on the championship.

The deployment of the safety auto looked set to favour the Mercs, with both Bottas and Hamilton pitting on lap 14, taking advantage of the safety vehicle while the marshalls cleared Stroll's wounded Williams off the track.

It allowed everyone to make their stops, but forced Mercedes to "double stack", whereby Hamilton was left to wait in the pitlane until the team completed Bottas' stop. Vettel went for the pit-stop early in the race in the 10th lap and had 24.702 seconds (3.1 sec pit-stop) in the pit area.

The victory was Vettel's second of the season after the four-times world champion won the opener in Australia.

Could Hamilton get to the end on his soft tyres?

After exiting the pits, Hamilton reduced a 19.0-second gap with Vettel to just 5.8 seconds by the 54th lap.

But did the penalty cost him victory?

"On the restart, out of the last corner, it felt like the tyre just wasn't switched on".

Three races into the season, it is now clear that the F1 world has a real championship battle on its hands.

Vettel now has 68 points to Hamilton's 61.

On the final day of the 2016 title race in Abu Dhabi, with both Mercedes drivers in contention, race leader Hamilton refused a direct team order from two team officials to speed up toward the end.

Vettel's Bahrain triumph underlines once more the serious challenge Ferrari appears to pose to Mercedes' Formula 1 hegemony.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany, right, steers his auto during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, April 16, 2017. "It is a long year". Hamilton finished second and Bottas was third. "The Easter hunt was on, so I am really really happy". "It didn't start out the best, but the pit lane was really my fault and so apologies to the team for losing the time there", Hamilton said. Of course the disappointment is there.