It was not completely clear who had the quickest auto - Ferrari argued it was them; Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Hamilton was the fastest. Valtteri Bottas was given team order midway the race to make way for Hamilton to challenge Vettel for the win.
Bottas concedes the opening three rounds have been a fair reflection on the general pace of the front-runners, with Mercedes on top in qualifying before losing out to Ferrari on race pace.
"Then you see what we did in the this race - we made the call, we made the call twice, because we felt it was the only possibility of winning the race". Hamilton, who won in China last weekend, crossed the finish line 6.6 seconds behind.
"I don't know why the pace is so poor". "This was my fault". Mine initially was maybe a tiny bit better than Lewis, which put me just about side-by-side. But when I got to the pitlane it was four seconds. So if anyone ever thinks that any driver, or I, should feel happy with second.
Verstappen asked his team to match that strategy and he came in on the next lap.
McLaren was once a proud team like Ferrari is now, but with no points from three races it is a long way off from turning the corner.
Victory in Bahrain saw Vettel open up a seven-point lead in the championship with 17 races remaining.
"The beginning for us to be that close was great".
"I don't know the exact amount but it was more than one PSI", said Bottas of the extent to which the tyre pressures were wrong for the start.More news: All passengers on United Flight 3411 to receive compensation
"Valtteri's problem was pretty clear, he was struggling in the first stint and that was clear, and afterwards you just need to have the tyres in the right window and obviously with Valtteri's auto we weren't able to have that".
"We don't like that, at all", said motorsport boss Wolff.
He had to do so again after Hamilton made a late second stop, and was closing down leader Sebastian Vettel.
"Personally it is tough, but that's life". The only goal was the victory. We will push hard together, keep fighting.
He added: "In the first stint it was quite a big issue for sure. I was oversteering all through the race". I took everything out of the tyre and we were a bit unlucky with the Safety Car pit-stop.
Vettel said his win was built on a crucial early move when he split the two Mercedes at the start of the race, moving from third on the grid to second. "Three races into the season, you don't want to go there yet".
Alonso could be heard on the team radio complaining about the complete lack of power his vehicle had and eventually retired at the death of the race.
Vettel and indeed his Ferrari team got every decision right on Sunday. "I'm definitely a team player so I wouldn't say no".