(CNN) -- Two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel held off the surprise challenge of Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus to win Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.
The race was held against the backdrop of civil unrest in the Gulf kingdom, but there was no outward sign of protests at the Sakhir circuit as it passed off without incident.
Vettel, so dominant for Red Bull in the past two seasons, led from pole position to claim his first win of the season and take the lead in the title race from Lewis Hamilton.
It was the 22nd F1 win of the 24-year-old German's career as he became the fourth different winner in the opening four races of the 2012 season.
He paid tribute to the efforts of his team after a hard-fought victory.
"As I said yesterday, a tremendous thank you to the boys who have done a great job to get the car to my liking," he told the official post-race press conference.
"It all came together for the first time this weekend. All in all I'm extremely happy."
McLaren's Hamilton, who started on the front row with Vettel, had a disappointing race as he was hampered by two slow pit stops and finished eighth.
His teammate Jenson Button was forced to retire as Red Bull also took the lead in the constructors' championship.
Former world champion Raikkonen pushed Vettel all the way to the finish to post his best result since returning to Formula One this season, with his teammate Romain Grosjean in third place -- the first podium of the Frenchman's career.
Australia's Mark Webber backed up Vettel by finishing fourth for Red Bull while Nico Rosberg, who won the previous round in Shanghai for Mercedes, was fifth.
Rosberg kept his position despite a post-race inquiry over two incidents involving Hamilton and seventh-placed Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.
Britain's Paul di Resta was an excellent sixth for Force India, who cut short Friday's practice session over safety concerns after two of their team personnel were caught up in a protest the night before.
Felipe Massa finished ninth for Ferrari with seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher taking the final point after starting 22nd on the grid in his Mercedes.
Formula One was returning to Bahrain after the 2011 race was canceled in the aftermath of democracy protests in the Arab Spring.
The 2012 staging remained in doubt until confirmed by the FIA, motorsport's world governing body, just over a week ago.
Tight security surrounded the circuit, about 30 kilometers outside the capital of Manama, with the race watched by spectators in a half full grandstand while attendance was sparse in other parts of the track.