Current F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel confessed that his victory at Bahrain had been anything but a foregone conclusion and that the Lotus drivers had made him work hard for the top spot on the podium.

"It was an incredible race, extremely tough," he said. "Kimi was fast today and it was close, but I am extremely happy and very proud of the team."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was equally relieved to see his driver emerge triumphant against the suddenly on-form Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.

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"A tight race with Kimi, especially approaching the final stop - it was crucial to get that right," he said, adding: "Congratulations to Lotus on their very strong performance today."

For Vettel, the key moment came at the very start. If he hadn't been able to get away quickly and pull out a lead over Lewis Hamilton in the early laps while the Lotus cars were still working their way through traffic, then it might have been a very different story come the end of the race.

"A good start was crucial and I was able to pull away from the pack, which was a big advantage as we always had to go on scrubbed tyres due to the fact we had used almost all of them in qualifying yesterday," agreed the race winner.

"A good getaway from pole, Sebastian settled in to the race and had a very strong first stint," agreed Horner. "Seb did a masterful job of keeping the life in the tyres and making the three-stop strategy work."

Raikkonen came close to overhauling Vettel on the penultimate set of tyres, with Vettel just holding on to track position through to the final round of pit stops, which proved decisive.

"With a great performance from the pit crew, we actually managed to win a second in the pit lane," said Horner, calling that extra second gained over the Lotus a "phenomenal" achievement. "We thought we could take them on in a pit stop," he admitted.

That put Vettel out of reach of Raikkonen's DRS activation zone, and with the final set of harder compound tyres more to Vettel's liking and not going off at the same rate as the previous softer option tyres, Vettel was able to stay tantalisingly out of reach of the Lotus for the remainder of the race and go on to claim the chequered flag.

With Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg having won the previous races of the season, Vettel's win in Bahrain means that four different drivers in four different teams have won the first four races of the season for the first time since 1983.

Further back, Mark Webber's track position had probably prevented Lotus from pitting any earlier for fear of coming out right behind the second Red Bull car. As it was, Webber had a quiet day of it, cruising to his own fourth finish in fourth place in the four races so far this season.

"I got some good points today and both drivers and Red Bull Racing are doing well in the championships," he said. "It wasn't the most exciting race for me, but it's been a good start to the championship."

"It just panned out perfectly for us," summed up Horner of the team's overall experience of Bahrain. "To have managed to get the win - tremendous performances by all these guys and girls and back home at the factory in Milton Keynes.

"That puts us in the lead of the drivers' and constructors' championships after the flyaways, which is certainly not we were expecting after the first couple of races," he added. "It just shows that if you maintain your focus and team-work, it can pay dividends."