It was Vettel's second win in the three races held so far in 2017, and comes just seven days after Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton defeated the Ferrari driver in China.

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

That dominance did not look under threat after qualifying, however, with Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton seemingly enjoying a distinct pace advantage as they achieved a front-row Mercedes lock out.

But while Bottas led them away, a tyre pressure issue left him struggling for grip and banking up the cars behind. Ferrari then opted for an aggressive strategy, pitting Vettel on lap 10 in the hope of leap frogging the sluggish Mercedes with some quick, unimpeded laps.

The plan worked, although shortly after that came the appearance of the Safety Car Williams driver Lance Stroll was hit by Carlos Sainz Jr's Toro Rosso as the latter exited the pits.

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.

Seemingly unaware of the regulation which forbids drivers from going too slowly during Safety Car periods, Hamilton slowed his Mercedes on the in-lap in an attempt to delay the progress of the following Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. For this breach, Hamilton was given a five-second penalty.

For most of the remainder of the race, Vettel held a commanding lead. It was only in the closing stages, once Hamilton had taken his second set of tyres and the Mercedes team had asked Bottas, who continued to struggle for pace despite his qualifying triumph, to move aside for his team-mate, that the Ferrari driver came under any pressure.

With Hamilton closing what had started out as a 19-second gap by anything up to 1.5 seconds per lap, a grand-stand finish looked in prospect. But with five laps to go, Vettel stabilised the margin, and in the end was a comfortable winner with more than six seconds to spare.

Bottas was a lonely and disappointing third, ahead of fast-finishing Finn Kimi Raikkonen. The Ferrari headed home Ricciardo, who struggled for pace in the mid and latter stages. He did fare better than Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen, however, the Dutch teenager retiring early with brake failure.