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Sebastian Vettel feared that the early safety car period called in the Bahrain Grand Prix could have cost him the chance to take his second win of the Formula 1 season, only for it to play into his hands and against Mercedes.

Vettel made a good start from third on the grid to run second behind pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas in the early part of the race before making an early stop at the end of Lap 10.

The safety car was called just two laps later after a crash between Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lance Stroll, appearing to aid the Mercedes pair of Bottas and Hamilton.

However, the German marque could not benefit, with a slow stop for Bottas and the need to stack Hamilton handing Vettel the lead.

Despite a late fightback from Hamilton, Vettel held on to record his fifth win in Ferrari colours by 6.6 seconds, much to his delight.

"A really great day," Vettel said. "Don't know what to say. It was, the last half of the in lap when all the fireworks were there and the track was lit up, I just love what I do. I didn't find any words. It was really great.

"Team effort today, right off the start I could feel that we're quick, we can have a word. Really tried to put Valtteri under pressure. He didn't do any mistakes, it was difficult down the straights to get near him, but then we obviously went for the undercut and did the early pit stop, worked fantastic, very good job."

Vettel feared that the safety car would play against him, much as it did last weekend in China after an early stop.

"When the safety car came initially I was like 'not again!'" Vettel said. "I think I was lucky because the others were just close to the pit lane so they couldn't really benefit, let's say. I don't know. I was a bit surprised when I came out ahead of all of them because with the safety car I thought I might have lost the advantage.

"But after that it was good, the car was really amazing to drive. I had a good feeling yesterday so for many laps I felt it worked well. It was just a pleasure. I could control the pace at the end. Lewis obviously was a little bit a threat again towards the end, with the traffic you never know. But yeah, very happy, controlled race.

"The car was a dream today. Happy Easter and thank you very much."

The result takes Vettel back into the lead of the F1 drivers' championship ahead of Hamilton, who finished second to ensure the gap is just seven points in the standings.

While this marks a Ferrari driver's best start to a season since Michael Schumacher in 2004, Vettel is refusing to think about bidding for a fifth title yet.

"It's a long year. I'm not really looking at that," Vettel said. "I'm really enjoying, the car has been a pleasure. It wasn't very good yesterday and I was a bit down because the gap was so big. I think we could have been a bit closer. But something inside me told me we had a good car and we can do well. So yeah, right from the first lap I felt the car was there.

"I think the Easter Hunt was on! They were hiding some eggs, but it looks like we found them today! Really, really happy. Big thank you to the team that have been working incredibly hard. The guy who's been up here, Matteo [chief engineer], works basically day and night at the track, in the factory. Really hard, a lot of commitment from every single one. It's great to see that everything is coming together."

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