Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton fends off Max Verstappen in thrilling late duel to win first F1 2021 race


Lewis Hamilton wins season-opening Bahrain GP after holding off late charge from Max Verstappen, who passed Mercedes but had to hand position back for running off-track; Valtteri Bottas completes podium, Lando Norris fourth for McLaren; Sergio Perez fifth after starting from the pits

Last Updated: 28/03/21 6:25pm










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Watch the dramatic Bahrain GP battle as Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages but crucially ran wide – having to give the position back to the Mercedes soon after.

Watch the dramatic Bahrain GP battle as Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages but crucially ran wide – having to give the position back to the Mercedes soon after.

Formula 1 2021 is alive and kicking as Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain GP after surviving a gripping late-race battle with Max Verstappen – with the season-opener serving up an epic and controversial superstar duel.

The lead changed hands three times between the predicted title protagonists before Verstappen, who started on pole, chased down Hamilton in the closing stages – even overtaking the Mercedes with three laps remaining as Red Bull looked set to lay down their marker for the championship.

But, dramatically, Verstappen was forced to give the position back to Hamilton after executing the move at Turn Four while off the track.

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Hamilton then withstood immense pressure on older tyres in the final laps to take his first season-opening win since 2015, giving the Englishman the perfect start in his pursuit of an historic eighth title.

“It was one of the hardest races I’ve had for a while,” said Hamilton, who took a record-extending 95th victory.

“They have had an amazing performance all weekend, so it was going to take something really special.”

It was one of the great season-openers which hinted at a season-long head-to-head fight between F1’s two superstar drivers.

But Verstappen was understandably distraught after losing the chance to take his first-ever championship lead – particularly unhappy about the call to make him hand the lead back to Hamilton.

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Paul di Resta and Jenson Button reflect on an incredible battle between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in Bahrain.

Paul di Resta and Jenson Button reflect on an incredible battle between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in Bahrain.

“Why didn’t you just let me go, man?” he said on team radio.

“I could have easily pulled those five seconds [for a penalty]. I am prepared to lose a win like that than be second like this.”

But Red Bull had no choice due to a call from Bahrain race control, as team boss Christian Horner explained to the pre-race favourite.

Valtteri Bottas was a distant third to complete the podium – not helped by a slow Mercedes pit-stop – although, adding insult to injury, took the fastest lap bonus point off Verstappen on the last lap.

Lando Norris was an impressive fourth for McLaren, with Sergio Perez recovering to fifth after being forced to start from the pit-lane following a formation lap reliability glitch.

Sakhir’s opening race also saw Fernando Alonso retire on his F1 return, Sebastian Vettel pick up a 10s penalty for a collision, and plenty of wheel-to-wheel racing through the field.

Bahrain GP Race Result

1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
7) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
8) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
9) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
10) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin

More to follow…





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