Perfect start to the season for Red Bull as Verstappen eases to Bahrain victory

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuitbh

The race winner at Bahrain was exactly who everyone expected as World Champion Max Verstappen led the Grand Prix from start to finish. Behind him the battle was closer but it was Perez who made it a perfect Red Bull result with Ferrari's Sainz completing the podium.

When the lights went out at Bahrain for the first race of the season every seemed fairly careful not to ruin their first races in the first corner. Verstappen therefore held the lead after defending the inside into the approach to Turn 1.

Russell maintained third while Perez managed to gain a place on Sainz. Alonso looked set to do the same but the Aston Martin driver had to be content with holding his starting grid position. Norris and Piastri behind him were battling closely but at the end of lap 1 they were in the same order as they started.

Hamilton kept 9th, Tsunoda moved up a spot into 10th and Albon gained two positions to 11th. Zhou enjoyed the best start with 4 positions gained while Nico Hulkenberg had damage on the front win and pitted, dropping him fro 10th down into last position. That put him behind Stroll who had then held last place due to Hulkenberg pushing him into a spin in Turn 1 on the first lap. The latter had notably been bumped by Bottas.

Lap 3 already saw some passing manouvres with Norris getting the better of Alonso for P6 and Russell moving up to second place by passing Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

By the end of lap 5 Verstappen had already built a 4 second advantage over closest challenger Russell. Leclerc followed at one second with Perez and Sainz closely behind him. Norris could not hold on while Piastri also passed Alonso for 8th at the end of the main straight. Aonso would lose another position a few laps later when Hamilton passed him on the main straight.

Perez got past Leclerc in lap 7 after the Ferrari driver missed his braking at Turn 7 again. Later that lap, with Sainz closely behind, Leclerc again locked the inside front tyre at Turn 1, incidating he was increasingly struggling with getting the car slowed down effectively. Sainz passed his team mate in lap 11 to move up into 4th place.

The first yellow flag of the race was caused by Logan Sargeant on lap 10. The American locked up while braking for Turn 1 and then needed a long time to get his car going again. He did so eventually but then pitted to switch to the hard tyres, rejoining in last position.

Leclerc and Russell pitted in the same laps with Perez, Piastri and Hamilton going one lap later. Clearly Perez' hard tyres were working better, or definitely more quickly up to temperature, allowing the Mexican to punch past the Mercedes in Turn 4.

Carlos Sainz pitted from second place in lap 15, returning to the trck in 7th place, again behind Leclerc. When Alonso and Albon pitted the next lap from second and third place, Verstappen was the only one still on the softs from the start of the race.

As Sainz passed his team mate for the second time this race, Verstappen was called in to stop at the end of lap 17. A pitstop of 2.9s was easily fast enough to keep him in front of the race, leaving 5s to Perez.

Sainz then went on to take Russell's third position while Leclerc complained about relentless front locking, stating it was dangerous as his car veered right on every braking action.

With everybody on hard tyres the race settled down. Perez gradually lost time to Verstappen while Sainz slowly closed in on the second places Red Bull. George Russell was no threat and consistently lapped slower, hardly taking any advantage on Leclerc. Norris and Piastri followed at several seconds.

Lewis Hamilton had a less enjoyable time. Even though there wasn't really anyone challenging him - with Alonso a distant 10+ seconds behind - he reported a broken seat while also struggling repeatedly to get his car turned into Turn 8 properly.

On lap 33 we saw the first of the second stops with Bottas being stuck in the garage for more than 50 seconds as his crew had trouble fixing the front left wheel. Russell pitted next, followed by Norris and Hamilton a lap later. Nearly everybody used these stops to start another stint on the hard tyres except for Verstappen, Perez and Ricciardo.

The last ones to stop were Alonso and Hulkenberg. Alonso had been passed by Hamilton and Piastri before that moment without any defensive action while trying to reduce the final stint, even though that was to be on hard tyres. Hulkenberg on the other hand opted for used softs for the same final 14 laps.

The shorter stint enabled Alonso to set his best laps of the race, moving back up into the points by passing Zhou two laps after his pitstop. Stroll was next up the road. After clearing that obstactle though were was nothing but an empty void ahead as Piastri enjoyed a 27s advantage.

Russell meanwhile missed Turn 8 while being pushed by Leclerc and had to give up P4 moments after that.

Positions at the front were pretty much fixed but it was still Verstappen who managed to cause some upheaval as his lapping of the RB cars enabled Ricciardo to sneak past Tsunoda, having trailed his team mate throughout the entire race until 4 laps from the end. It looks like that choice to go for softs in the final stints paid off for Ricciardo.

As such, Verstappen started the season as everybody expected. It was an easy victory and a perfect result for Red Bull Racing as Sergio Perez finished second ahead of the Ferrari duo. Verstappen had a perfect weekend with pole and fastest lap as well but Sainz's proximity to Perez throughout the entire race bodes well for the remainder of the season.


11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt571:31:44.74226
211Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda Rbpt57+22.457s18
355Carlos SainzFerrari57+25.110s15
416Charles LeclercFerrari57+39.669s12
563George RussellMercedes57+46.788s10
64Lando NorrisMcLaren Mercedes57+48.458s8
744Lewis HamiltonMercedes57+50.324s6
881Oscar PiastriMcLaren Mercedes57+56.082s4
914Fernando AlonsoAston Martin Aramco Mercedes57+74.887s2
1018Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes57+93.216s1
1124Zhou GuanyuKick Sauber Ferrari56+1 lap0
1220Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari56+1 lap0
133Daniel RicciardoRb Honda Rbpt56+1 lap0
1422Yuki TsunodaRb Honda Rbpt56+1 lap0
1523Alexander AlbonWilliams Mercedes56+1 lap0
1627Nico HulkenbergHaas Ferrari56+1 lap0
1731Esteban OconAlpine Renault56+1 lap0
1810Pierre GaslyAlpine Renault56+1 lap0
1977Valtteri BottasKick Sauber Ferrari56+1 lap0
202Logan SargeantWilliams Mercedes55+2 laps0

* Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.