Sebastian Vettel's much mooted victory challenge in the Bahrain Grand Prix would end with a whimper after damage to his front-wing left him floundering in fifth position.

Starting alongside Lewis Hamilton in second position, Ferrari's strong long run pace in free practice had hinted at the potential of a challenge for Mercedes, but while Vettel got away well to hold station early on, he would be overtaken by Nico Rosberg on lap eight.

A more favourable pitting strategy would see Vettel twice leapfrog Rosberg through the stops, but the Mercedes driver would quickly recover the position.

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Furthermore, the latter pass would come after Vettel made a mistake out of the final corner, running wide across the gravel trap. It was an error that the four-time champion wouldn't escape from, damaging his front-wing and forcing him into the pit lane.

Rejoining in fifth place, Vettel mounted a challenge on Valtteri Bottas for fourth but would ultimately fall short as he struggled with corner exit.

"I was pushing very hard and made some mistakes," he said. "All in all, not a perfect race. I did not get into the rhythm and lost positions when it mattered not to lose positions for the overall race, so that lost us time and in the end with the damage on the front-wing we had to pit again and lost a lot of track time.

"I was struggling a little bit with the rear-end of the car and corner exit is where you need to make it stick so I was vulnerable for Nico to get a good exit compared to me, then I wasn't good at getting a good exit compared to Valtteri. When I was in the DRS it was too late to really try and do something, so he did a good job defending and didn't' do any mistakes, but I couldn't get close enough."