Max Verstappen Wins Season-Opening Bahrain Grand Prix As Fernando Alonso Shines
World champion Max Verstappen claimed his first season-opening win and first at the Sakhir circuit on Sunday when he led Sergio Perez in a dominant Red Bull one-two at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The defending double world champion led from start to finish to establish himself as a strong favorite for a third consecutive drivers’ crown this year.
It was his first win in the Gulf state in his 10th attempt.
Behind the two Red Bulls, two-time champion Fernando Alonso made light of his 41 years by storming third for Aston Martin in his first appearance with the team since the retirement of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel. to continue.
Until the 2001 Australian Grand Prix weekend in Melbourne, it was his record-increasing 356th race in Formula One in a career that began 22 years earlier.
Fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz, whom he passed in a late scrap for a podium finish, finished fourth behind seven-time champion Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll in the second Ferrari, both just weeks after racing in the second Aston Martin. Wrist and toe fractures in a pre-season cycling accident.
George Russell finished seventh for Mercedes with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, who started last, and Alex Albon claiming a point for Williams to finish 10th.
Charles Leclerc, who won the race in 2022, failed to finish after suffering engine failure on his Ferrari on the 41st lap.
“Thanks, guys,” said the 25-year-old Verstappen. “It’s exactly the start we needed. I had a good start and first stop and then had a gap and just took care of the tyres.”
Verstappen made a clean, fast start to pull clear as Leclerc passed Pérez for second while, behind him, Stroll hit his Aston Martin teammate Alonso under braking at turn four.
Both Mercedes made good starts and passed Alonso, with Hamilton climbing up from Russell to fifth in pursuit of Sainz as Verstappen opened up a commanding lead.
By lap five, he was four seconds clear as Leclerc kept Pérez at bay.
Gasly began pit stops on lap 10, changing his Alpine from soft to hard, followed by Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda with tire degradation early impact.
Hamilton pitted from fifth position on lap 13, prompting a classic scrap as Alonso overtook Russell to regain his original grid slot and climbed up to third when both Ferraris pitted. Russell followed.
Verstappen came in a lap later, switched to the more soft and handed the lead to Pérez, while the McLaren debut of unlucky Australian rookie Oscar Piastre ended early with electrical problems.
The champion rejoined in second place and regained his lead on lap 18 when Pérez pitted, moving Leclerc into second, until the Mexican passed him in turn one on lap 26.
Hamilton pitted again on lap 31, for more trouble, followed by Sainz and Russell, as the leaders prepared for their final stints, while behind, a beleaguered Esteban Ocon of Alpine, three times for minor infringements. Hit with the penalty, stalled again.
Pérez and Verstappen then completed their second stops, with the Dutchman rejoining with a 12-second lead.
Leclerc’s Ferrari lost power on the straight. He parked it safely, prompting a brief virtual safety car intervention, with 15 laps remaining, handing Red Bull a comfortable one-two lead of 23 seconds over third-placed Sainz in the second Ferrari.
“No, no, no,” lamented Leclerc. “Come on! What happened guys? There is no strength.”
It all left the two Spaniards scrambling for third, with the old master squeezing through on lap 45 when the pair appeared to touch in a frantic and dramatic tussle ahead of fifth man Hamilton.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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