Bahrain GP: Hamilton wins after epic battle with Verstappen

It went down to the wire but Lewis Hamilton won the 2021 season opener in Bahrain after a nail-biting final few laps in which he was chased down by Max Verstappen.

Early on Red Bull’s Max Verstappen held the lead from pole but was contending with a problem that Mercedes and Hamilton sought to pounce on.

The seven-time World Champion pitted on lap 14 in a successful attempt to undercut Verstappen who surprisingly stayed out longer than anticipated for four laps.

The latter stages of the race saw Verstappen on the hunt to catch Hamilton who was ahead on older tyres. Verstappen managed to speed past Hamilton on lap 53 but did so whilst off the track and so had to allow the Mercedes driver to go past and start his pursuit again with three laps to go.

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Things got worse for Verstappen as he dropped off the back of the Mercedes and lost his DRS advantage, making his last lap attempts too little, too late to get the win.

It was an underwhelming race for Valtteri Bottas who had a horror pit stop which brought him out behind Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc and ruined his chances of finishing in the top two. His only consolation was a point for the fastest lap that he secured in the final stages of the race.

After a problem was identified with Sergio Perez’s Red Bull earlier in the day, a power outage led to him pulling up on the formation lap and being forced to start from the pit lane.

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Despite this he got off well and quickly made up places to 12th in just the first 10 laps after a free pit stop and new tyres under the Safety Car. He went on to have a stellar drive and came home in fifth.

It was a fantastic day for both the McLarens, Norris securing fourth and showing excellent skill in an exciting tussle with Charles Leclerc. Daniel Ricciardo similarly had a good start to the race and continued that form to claim seventh.

Another team that will surely be pleased is Ferrari with their cars finishing close to the front in sixth and eighth.

Rookie Yuki Tsunoda scored his first points in Formula One, finishing ninth in the AlphaTauri and making his fair share of overtakes throughout the race.

It was a disappointing day for his teammate Pierre Gasly though, who lost his front wing on the restart after the Safety Car and tumbled down the order as a result. He couldn’t recover much after that and ended up retiring on lap 52.

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Sebastien Vettel started the race at the very back of the grid after a reprimand from the Stewards for not respecting double-waved yellow flags, although he managed an excellent start to partake in a relentless battle with Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz.

Ultimately though, he finished outside the points in 15th with his teammate, Lance Stroll grabbing the last point on offer in 10th.

The beginning of the race was a dramatic one for Haas, and not in a good way, after Nikita Mazepin sped into the barrier after only a few corners, leading to the deployment of the Safety Car.

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Mick Schumacher also had a brief spell off-track but managed to right himself and end the race 16th.

Fernando Alonso was the second driver to retire from the race after Mazepin thanks to some overheated brakes. Fellow Alpine driver, Esteban Ocon came back 13th.

George Russell made up one place from Qualifying to finish 14th, whilst Nicholas Latifi had a difficult day, retiring from the race with just 5 laps to go.