Bahrain win puts Vettel back on top


Associated Press

SAKHIR, Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel is back on top of the Formula One standings and his Ferrari team is bursting with ambition again.

A couple of hours after Vettel had held off his Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton to win an exciting Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday — the German driver’s second victory in three races — Ferrari’s chairman spoke with new-found confidence.

“It is, of course, hugely satisfying to be back on the top step of the podium,” Sergio Marchionne said. “More importantly, however, we are now completely confident that our victory in Melbourne wasn’t just a one-off and that we will be at the forefront of this world championship until the last (race).”

Fighting talk from Ferrari, at long last.

Vettel is chasing his fifth world title and is seven points ahead of three-time champion Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, while Ferrari is three points in front of Mercedes in the constructors’ race.

The renewed optimism is in contrast to last year, when Ferrari did not even win a race and where Vettel drew more attention for his frustrated outbursts during actual races rather than his driving.

Ferrari won the last of its 15 drivers’ titles through Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, and the last of its 16 constructors’ titles a year later. A demoralizing drought for such a fiercely proud team, certainly, but this year promises to be different.

“We finally have a competitive car to count on and it is important to recognize the speed with which we implemented the developments,” Marchionne said. “My compliments not just to Seb for his achievements in Bahrain, but also to the whole team.”

It is the first time Ferrari has won two of the first three races of the season since Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa in 2008, while the last time a single Ferrari driver won two of the opening three races was Michael Schumacher in 2004.

Vettel’s 44th career win puts him in command, heading into the Russian GP in Sochi in two weeks’ time.

“We just have to make sure we keep it going,” Vettel said. “But for now the team has done a really, really great job.”

As Sunday’s race was drawing to a close under floodlights, Hamilton was catching fast but ran out of time and finished almost seven seconds behind.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas finished third after starting from pole position for the first time. It was his 11th podium.

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