Manama: Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday ahead of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel duel, taking him level with the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio with a 24th career victory. Hamilton, who also won last weekend in Malaysia, finished 1.085sec ahead of Rosberg in another triumph for the Mercedes team who have won all three races this season. Sergio Perez in a Force India was third, a huge 24.067sec off the winner's time, to give his team just their second podium finish.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who had started in 13th place, was fourth, followed by Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India and world champion Sebastian Vettel in the second Red Bull completing the top six.
The result left Rosberg, the Australian Grand Prix winner, still on top of the world championship standings with 61 points. Hamilton has 50 with Hulkenberg in third place on 28 points.
The British driver had been cruising to victory in the 900th ever grand prix with a lead of more than nine seconds when the safety car was called out on lap 42 of the 57-lap floodlit race.
Rosberg, who had been on pole, briefly slipped past the Briton but Hamilton reasserted his authority under braking despite his medium tyres lacking the grip of the German's softer options.
On the final lap, Hamilton consolidated to take his 24th career win after a memorable close-quarters battle. "Thanks to everyone this weekend, we didn't quite have the pace though so let's work on that," said the winner.
Hamilton snatched lead on first corner
Hamilton had snatched the lead on the first corner from his pole-sitting teammate and gradually built a commanding lead. With the two Mercedes sprinting away, the cut and thrust of racing was behind them for the remaining podium places.
Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen was caught up in a first lap collision with Kevin Magnussen with the Ferrari star claiming he had been hit by the McLaren rookie. Williams driver Felipe Massa, who had started in seventh place and had been the fastest driver on the Sakhir circuit in winter testing, was up to third by the seventh lap.
But as the Brazilian then slipped back, Perez, also benefitting from a Mercedes engine, fought his way to third by the 15th lap. Jenson Button in a McLaren, and taking part in his 250th grand prix, was in fourth in the early stages with Hulkenberg in fifth.
Red Bull ordered world champion Vettel to give way to Ricciardo for sixth place. The four-time world champion, who had started in 10th spot told his team that he had lost his DRS system. "Daniel is faster than you, Seb, Let him pass," ordered Red Bull.
At the front, Rosberg then slipped inside Hamilton on lap 19 to briefly take the lead before the 2008 world champion reclaimed the advantage. Rosberg was furious as the two went wheel to wheel. "What he did was not on," screamed the German.
Hamilton then pitted for the first time but regained the lead on the 22nd lap when Rosberg also made his first trip to the pits. At the halfway mark, Hamilton was seven seconds up on Rosberg while Massa had again gone third ahead of Perez and Hulkenberg in fifth.
By the 40th lap, Hamilton's lead over Rosberg had extended to 9.5sec with Williams' Valtteri Bottas in third ahead of the two Force Indias. Fernando Alonso, three-times a winner at Bahrain, had quietly carved his way to sixth place with Button, Vettel and Ricciardo.
On lap 42, the safety car was called out after Pastor Maldonado's Lotus T-boned the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez who was sent into a somersault. Racing resumed four laps later with Hamilton going on to just hold off Rosberg while Ricciardo slipped past Vettel who complained wearily over his Red Bull's lack of power.
Massa was to finish seventh, Bottas took eighth, while Alonso and Raikkonen filled out the top 10 to complete a miserable day for Ferrari.