The Finnish driver secured his maiden Formula 1 pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix but on race pace and strategy he reached the chequered flag in third place behind victor Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel's 44th win lifted him to 68 points, with Hamilton second on 61 and the championship looking ever more likely to be an evenly matched battle between the two with Ferrari and Mercedes a cut above the rest.
There was some amount of chaos behind him though, with Vettel getting the jump on Hamilton, moving into second place.
The safety vehicle came out, after which the two Mercedes drivers pitted for fresh tires. "You are supposed to have a five-second gap to the safety vehicle and I think I had a four-second gap so it was just a misjudgement from myself". Hamilton made a play for it late in the game but could not catch Vettel, who took the victory 6.6 seconds ahead of Hamilton to take the lead in the drivers' standings. You simply feel gutted afterwards - and then again try to move forward. As I said, losing points for the team, particularly when you could have potentially won the race is painful, but it is what it is.
Valtteri Bottas let Lewis Hamilton past 10 laps from the end of the race
The Italian team now holds a three-point lead in constructors' championship, but Vettel has a seven-point lead in drivers' championship.
"Ferrari did a great job, but we are going to push hard together - re-gather as a team - and come back fighting".
The undercut worked to perfection with Vettel taking charge of the race - even though the safety auto was deployed moments later after hapless Canadian rookie Lance Stroll crashed into the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz - with 12 of the 57 laps gone.
Sebastian Vettel thanked his team after the victory.
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"It was a really great day". Vettel pitted for the second time on Lap 33, which put Hamilton in the lead until he too pitted for new Softs soon after. I can not say it better.
Wolff said he did not favour abandoning the team policy of giving the drivers' equality and rejected the idea of backing the driver who took pole position, or was most advanced on the grid.
"The auto was a dream today ... the last half of the in-lap with the fireworks & the track lit up, I just thought I love what I do", he added.
"I'm really enjoying it, the auto has been a pleasure".
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Having started the Bahrain GP in pole position, Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas was feeling disappointed after ending up in third place.
- Vettel equals Fernando Alonso as the driver with the most wins in Bahrain (3).
"On the restart, out of the last corner, it felt like the tyre just wasn't switched on".
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