The German did not miss a beat on route to victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, a win which establishes the Ferrari driver's seven point advantage over his Mercedes rival.
Lewis Hamilton has apologised to Mercedes for the pit-lane incident which cost him a five-second penalty in the Bahrain Grand Prix, conceding the blame lies exclusively with him.
It was at that moment Hamilton made the crucial mistake, holding up Daniel Ricciardo on entry to the pit lane and earning a five-second penalty, meaning he had to sit stationary at his final stop.
Vettel now leads the title race with 68 points ahead of Hamilton on 61.
As Sunday's race was drawing to a close under floodlights, Hamilton was catching fast but ran out of time and finished nearly seven seconds behind.
While Bottas led he was not pulling away from the chasing pack.
Ricciardo's Red Bull team-mate 19-year-old Max Verstappen crashed out of the action after a brakes failure. "I am getting old!"
Vettel, however, was immediately much quicker on the fresher rubber but Carlos Sainz came together with Lance Stroll on lap 13 causing the safety vehicle to be deployed and Mercedes pitted both their drivers with the Finn taking the supersoft rubber.
He held off a late charge from Hamilton of Mercedes, and he outraced Valtteri Bottas from beginning to end to take the race.More news: Russia's Lavrov and US Tillerson spoke by phone about situation in Syria
The safety vehicle came in at the end of Lap 16, with Vettel leading the field to the green flag. On the restart, Vettel pulled away after initially defending from Bottas and then both the Finn and Ricciardo struggled, with Hamilton one of three cars - also including Raikkonen and Massa - to pass the Red Bull. Raikkonen's move was particularly impressive as he went around the outside of Turn 13 at high speed.
Mercedes had not responded to Ferrari pitting Sebastian Vettel early from second place, but was moved to call in both its drivers under the safety auto. Mercedes took the opportunity to pit Bottas and Hamilton from first and second, but in doing so was forced to double stack its cars in the pit lane.
Hamilton took his time penalty at the stop and switched to a used set of soft tires, emerging in third place before eating into Vettel's lead. Trouble in paradise for Alonso on lap 56 after the McLaren suffered engine problems forcing the Spaniard to retire. It was a tricky race for me.
Bottas also came out behind Vettel and continued to lose ground on the four-time world champion. Vettel followed suit three laps later to leave Hamilton in the lead and with the potential to go to the end, but with the tires unlikely to hang on Mercedes opted for a second stop for the leader with 17 laps remaining. Lewis was a bit of a threat at the end.
It was Vettel's third win in Bahrain and the 44th of his career, a landmark that left him satisfied with his and the team's work which proved that Ferrari, who employed an aggressive strategy, are back as championship contenders.
With Hamilton gaining fast, Vettel came in for his second tire change on lap 34 and came out fourth behind Raikkonen. With 10 laps to go, the gap stood at 12 seconds.
He eventually got back past Felipe Massa's Williams but the Australian couldn't help but feel disappointed at the outcome. "Losing points for the team is definitely painful".
Nico Hulkenberg was unable to replicate Renault's impressive one-lap pace, dropping to ninth place at the checkered flag. And even more yellows when Sainz stopped in his Toro Rosso...and the safety auto was out.