Sebastian Vettel cruised to his second win of the season in a trouble-free Bahrain Grand Prix for the Red Bull racer.
Dispatching early leader Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes on lap four, the world champion never looked back as he began to stretch his legs at the front, never looking in any danger.
It was a more eventful race for team-mate Mark Webber, who enjoyed several midfield battles on his way to seventh place.
The RB9 had looked the favourite to grab pole position in Saturday’s qualifying session, but a spectacular Q3 performance from Rosberg saw him snatch it from under Vettel’s nose, forcing him to settle for second place. Webber’s grid penalty, carried over from the Chinese Grand Prix, saw him start seventh.
Rosberg defended well off the line, but Fernando Alonso got the jump on Vettel into the first corner.
But a bold move at turn 4 saw Vettel back ahead of Alonso, before a similar move on Rosberg a lap later gave him the lead.
Alonso followed Vettel past Rosberg’s ailing Mercedes, but a problem with his DRS flap caused him to pit twice out of sync, dropping him out of contention for the win.
Vettel barely looked in trouble as he opened up the gap to the chasing pack. Conserving his car in the closing stages, he crossed the line ahead of the Lotus pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
Webber meanwhile, celebrating his 200th GP start, fought with the McLarens of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button.
He looked good for a fifth place finish, but the resurgent Lewis Hamilton made light work of the gap between the pair with five laps to go, eventually passing the Australian with a lap to go. He also lost a place to Perez as he dropped to seventh at the chequered flag.
The win sees Vettel open up a 10 point gap to Raikkonen, while Webber sits fifth. Red Bull still lead the way in the constructors’ championship.
Vettel said: “It was good fun at the beginning with some very tight wheel to wheel racing. At the start you don’t know if you will be quick or not, as everyone is a bit all over the place, including yourself!
“It’s important to get to the front; we saw at the last race that if you get stuck behind someone then it does have an impact on tyre wear and today it was important to make use of the tyres we had saved from qualifying.
“I love to be in clean air, so I was pushing hard to get into the lead and, with the speed we had mid-race, it was quite comfortable today.
“Well done to the whole team, to everyone here, to the factory in the background and especially to those who were working on the strategy today; it worked just as we expected, so we obviously got the numbers right.”
Webber lamented his Pirelli tyres as they ran out of grip at the end, costing him fifth place.
“The beginning wasn’t too bad, but we lost quite a bit of time in the second stint trying to clear people,” Webber said. “We went aggressive on the first few out laps, which meant we jumped people, but the tyres didn’t like it.
“That meant the second stint was a disaster really in terms of pace at the end and that loaded the other two stints up. In the middle of the race I thought I could get on the podium, but then it was about pace management and it’s a fine line between racing and saving tyres.
“Others pitted a bit before me at the end, but it wasn’t enough for me to get home. If you race people hard then you run out of tyres, but if you don’t then they come through.
“In the end it was a pretty good battle with Lewis for both of us; neither of us had any tyres left, but we were trying to race as best we could.”
Team Principal Christian Horner added: “An absolutely impeccable drive from Sebastian today. He executed two brilliant overtakes, one on Fernando and the other on Nico Rosberg.
“After that he dominated the race until the finish and managed his tyres brilliantly. The strategy worked perfectly with the tyres that we conserved in qualifying, which ended with a dominant win on a three-stop strategy.
“For Mark, after racing very well in the first stint and making progress through the first round of pit stops, in the second stint he pushed very hard on the first few laps which effectively elevated him into second position. Unfortunately he couldn’t achieve the longevity in that stint, which put him under pressure for the final two.
“His last stop put him in the range of those on two-stops, and then it was a matter of making it to the end.
“Despite fighting fantastically well and racing very hard with Lewis, he ran out of rear tyres before the end of the race, but still got some valuable points.”
The next race is the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona in two weeks time.