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Max Verstappen picked up where he had left off. The two-time champion kicked off his bid for a third consecutive title with another dominant win, leading teammate Sergio Perez home.
Red Bull had the edge in race pace, with the Dutchman quickly building up an unassailable gap. Perez dropped behind Leclerc, but eventually got around the Monegasque for second place. The Ferrari driver eventually retired from third place with an engine problem.
Fernando Alonso showed that Aston Martin’s pre-season pace was no mirage. The two-time champion dropped to sixth early on, but fought his way back past the two Mercedes. After Leclerc’s retirement, the Spaniard moved past Carlos Sainz to secure his 99th career podium.
Verstappen got a fantastic start, keeping the lead into turn 1. Perez, on the other hand, was slow off the line, allowing the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz to challenge him. The Monegasque got through into second, but the Mexican managed to keep the Spaniard behind him.
Further down the order, Stroll attempted an ambitious move on Russell into turn 4 and ended up hitting his teammate Alonso’s rear wheel. Both Aston Martins were able to continue, with Alonso fortunate enough to avoid a puncture and Stroll’s wing surprisingly intact. It did allow the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell through, however.
Verstappen was well out of DRS range, quickly building a two-second lead over the first two laps. Perez briefly reeled Leclerc in to get within DRS range, but could not keep up with the Ferrari.
Ocon and Hulkenberg picked up front wing damage, having to pit for repairs and dropping down the order. The Frenchman also picked up a penalty, which Alpine failed to serve correctly, thus incurring another one.
The next few laps were relatively uneventful, until the Mercedes eventually started struggling with tyre wear. This allowed Alonso to close down on and eventually pass Russell for sixth place following a close side-by-side battle all the way to turn 6.
First Pit Stop Cycle: Red Bull’s Goes for the Alternate Strategy, Ferrari Sticks to “Plan A”
Verstappen pitted for a new set of tyres on lap 14, opening a 10-second gap over Leclerc. Perez was the last driver to pit, with both Red Bulls going for the soft tyres. Ferrari, meanwhile, stuck to the regular strategy and switched to the hard compound.
Meanwhile, Piastri retired with an electrical glitch, cutting his F1 debut short. Norris also struggled with reliability issues, having to go in and out of the pits to deal with an engine issue.
Red Bull’s decision paid off, with Verstappen pulling away by more than 11 seconds. Perez, meanwhile, reeled Leclerc in once again. This time, however, the Mexican had little trouble getting by the Monegasque, moving back into second place.
Ocon picked up another two penalties, one for not serving the five seconds at the previous pit stop and another for speeding – leading to 15 seconds in total.
The fight between Mercedes and Aston Martin heated up. Stroll got around Russell and moved up to seventh.
Second Pit Stop Cycle: Red Bull Dominates, Trouble for Leclerc
Red Bull served its second pit stop early on in the window, this time with Perez coming in ahead of Verstappen.
Aston Martin and Mercedes continued their battle for “best among the rest’. This time, Alonso and Hamilton rekindled their rivalry. The Spaniard got briefly ahead, but slid out and let Hamilton through again. On lap 38, the two-time champion closed in again and pulled off the move, slotting into fifth place.
Then, on lap 40, Leclerc’s Ferrari came to a halt at the back straight with a suspected power unit failure. It forced a brief Virtual Safety Car intervention, with action resuming two laps later.
Following Leclerc’s retirement, Alonso suddenly found himself in the thick of a podium fight. Sainz was visibly struggling with excessive tyre wear, allowing his fellow countryman to close down the gap.
On lap 44, Alonso pulled off the move entering turn 11, slotting into third and immediately pulling out of DRS range. Hamilton also closed down the gap to the Ferrari, but the Mercedes driver visibly lacked the necessary straight line speed to complete the move.
Near the end of the race, Pierre Gasly set the fastest lap, but eventually lost it out to Zhou Guanyu. Even so, the Frenchman more than made up for his poor qualifying, climbing up to ninth from last on the grid and saving what would have been a terrible day for Alpine. Behind him, Alexander Albon quietly moved his way up to tenth in an impressive drive for Williams.
Bahrain Grand Prix Final Standings: Who Won the Race
Verstappen won the Bahrain Grand Prix from pole, taking the checkered with 11.3 seconds over Perez. Alonso crossed the line a further 15 seconds back. Sainz, Hamilton, Stroll, Russell, Bottas, Gasly and Albon completed up the top 10. The fastest lap went to Zhou, while Alonso was voted the Driver of the Day.
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