Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton survived a dramatic thriller to win Formula One’s season opener in Bahrain by 0.745 seconds from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Verstappen dominated much of the race and quickly reeled Hamilton in and produced a near race winning move on lap 53 round the outside of turn four, only to complete his move off-track which forced him to give back the lead and eventual win.
Hamilton meanwhile broke the record for most laps led by any F1 driver on lap 42, overtaking Michael Schumacher’s haul of 5,111 laps in the lead.
Bottas meanwhile recovered from a botched second stop to finish third ahead of Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz who round out the top eight.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda became the first F1 debutant born in this century to start a Grand Prix, which he capped with a ninth-placed finish for his first points in the sport ahead of Lance Stroll who took the final point on Aston Martin’s return after a 61 year absence.
The initial start was aborted after Sergio Perez grinded to a halt towards turn 14 with a technical issue, although the Mexican managed to get going
On the actual race start, Verstappen got a clean start to lead Hamilton as Bottas lost third to Leclerc at turn four just before the safety car was deployed, after Haas’ Nikita Mazepin spun out following loss of his rear end following a sudden surge on throttle out of turn two.
Once racing resumed, Verstappen quickly built a lead over Hamilton as Norris passed Pierre Gasly into turn four, only for the Frenchman to then ruin his own race as he ripped his front wing off as he clipped Norris’ rear through turns five and six.
Bottas cleared Leclerc on lap six and settled into a stable pattern which he controlled to the end of the race, despite experiencing a botched second pit stop which briefly dropped him to fifth before benefitting from Norris and Leclerc pitting to reclaim third.
Fernando Alonso triggered the first round of stops on his return from a two year sabbatical, as he jumped Ricciardo in the net order but a brakes issue saw his race deteriorate before eventually retiring after 32 laps.
Up front, Verstappen went longer than Hamilton in their two stops with the Red Bull driver coming out of his last stop just under nine seconds off Hamilton, with 16 laps to chase the Brit down as he reeled in him at around half a second per lap.
After surviving a brief hold-up as he tried to lap Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Ocon who had earlier tangled after the German rear-ended Ocon’s Alpine to send both into a spin at turn one, Verstappen was on Hamilton’s tail by the end of lap 51 after the Brit ran wide out of turn 10.
Verstappen however struggled to pull himself to within reach of Hamilton until lap 53 and punished the Silver Arrows’ lack of rear grip as he swept around the outside of turn four, only to run beyond track limits.
Red Bull consequently instructed Verstappen to hand the lead back towards turn 11, ultimately costing the 23 year-old as he got onto the dirty side of the track and hurt his tyres enough for Hamilton to fend him off to the flag in a tense duel.
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||57||1h 32m 03.987|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||57||+ 0.745|
|3||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||57||+ 37.383|
|4||Lando Norris||McLaren||57||+ 46.466|
|5||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||57||+ 52.047|
|6||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||57||+ 59.090|
|7||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||57||+ 66.004|
|8||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||57||+ 67.100|
|9||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||57||+ 85.692|
|10||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||57||+ 86.713|
|11||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||57||+ 88.864|
|12||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||56||+ 1 Lap|
|13||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||56||+ 1 Lap|
|14||George Russell||Williams||56||+ 1 Lap|
|15||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||56||+ 1 Lap|
|16||Mick Schumacher||Haas||56||+ 1 Lap|
|17||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||52||+ 4 Laps|
|18||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||51||+ 5 Laps|