With two wins from the opening three races of the season, Vettel is pitted in a championship battle with Lewis Hamilton, who finished above his Mercedes team-mate and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas for second, but was unable to chase down the race victor despite a fast-finishing strategy.
He lost the lead to Sebastian Vettel through the first pitstop phase and Bottas later slipped behind his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who was on an alternative strategy.
Twice Bottas let triple champion team mate Lewis Hamilton through to try and take on Vettel, an attempt that ultimately proved in vain as the Briton ended up second and Bottas third.
Mr. Hamilton, who had been dominant in China last weekend, was gracious in defeat, vowing to fight on.
The German is now seven points clear of Hamilton in the F1 World Drivers' Championship while Bottas is already 30 points off the pace in third. "But there was potential for Lewis to catch Sebastian, so I understand the team's decision".
A five-second penalty for driving too slowly as he entered the pits for his first stop, a move that prevented Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo getting ahead while the Mercedes pair queued up, was his own fault. "But for now the team has done a really, really great job".
It was a misdemeanor that cost him a five-second time penalty which he served during a second pit stop to change tires on lap 41 of the 57 race.
He added: "We will regather as a team and come back fighting".
The Finnish driver started on pole position but was unable to open up a gap due to his tyre pressures being too high in the opening stint.
The safety vehicle appeared on track after 18-year-old Canadian newcomer Lance Stroll, suffering his third retirement in three races, turned into Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz as the Spaniard left the pits.
"I'm sorry and apologise, but we still got good points for the team and we still had a great fight". But when I got to the pitlane it was four seconds.
Vettel, who was held up behind Bottas early on was the first of the major players to pit and when Ricciardo's team-mate Max Verstappen suffered rear brake failure on the 12th lap and crashed. "Lewis was a threat towards the end and with the traffic you never know". Felipe Massa took sixth in his Williams, followed by Force India's Sergio Perez and Haas' Romain Grosjean.
Germany's Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Renault, that team's first points of the year, and French rookie Esteban Ocon bagged the final point for Force India.
Alonso could be heard on the team radio complaining about the complete lack of power his auto had and eventually retired at the death of the race.