Great race that took place at the Sakhir Circuit, in Bahrain! Lewis Hamilton (ENG, Mercedes) barely managed to hold off Max Verstappen (NED, Red Bull) for the first F1 win of the year. He also broke the record for the most laps led in F1.
Red Bull’s second seat hasn’t made it easy for its drivers in recent years. It did not welcome Sergio Pérez (MEX) great either. After qualifying in 11th place due to a strategic error with the tires and some errors in his driving.
To make it more complicated, his car shut down due to an electrical problem in the warm up lap. He started from the pits.
Max Verstappen took the lead early in the race, which was soon neutralized due to an accident by Nikita Mazepin (RUS, Haas), who failed to complete a single lap on his debut.
Perez pitted and put medium compound on the tires. In the restart Gasly (FRA, Alpha Tauri), who was battling for 5th, and Mick Schumacher (DEU, Haas) suffered from respective contacts although they continued in the race.
Verstappen held first place ahead of Lewis Hamilton but was complaining about a problem in the car. Mercedes informed Bottas (FIN), third, that Verstappen’s problem was in the differentiator and the race was open.
With the various pitstops and passing on the track, Pérez continued to climb in the positions until he reached third place, only behind Hamilton and Verstappen.
On lap 18 Max pitted. He came out behind Hamilton and not far ahead of the Mexican, who was now besieged by Bottas and shortly after was passed. Max kept complaining about the rear.
On lap 20 Pérez pitted and came out at 12th, a more “real” position. His pace after the stop was good on the hard tires. He passed Sainz (ESP, Ferrari) for 8th and Stroll (CAN, Racing Point) for 7th.
Max began to stalk Hamilton, who complained of not being able to go faster and pitted on medium tires, coming out behind Verstappen and Bottas. Now Mercedes played two different strategies.
Fernando Alonso (ESP, Alpine) had to retire due to a rear brake problem. He had a good race, with battles on the tracks and a better pace than his teammate, Esteban Ocon (FRA).
On lap 39 Pérez pitted and fell from 4th to 8th. Verstappen entered the next lap and gave the lead to Hamilton. He came out 2nd, just over 8 seconds away. Pérez passed Stroll for the 7th. Norris (ENG, McLaren), Leclerc (MCO, Ferrari) and Ricciardo (AUS, McLaren) were the ones between the podium and Pérez.
Verstappen began to reduce more than a second per lap from Hamilton, who reached 5112 laps led in F1 and became the new all-time leader in this mark, beating Michael Schumacher (DEU). One of the few records missing for him.
Sebastian Vettel (DEU, Racing Point) had a difficult race and only ruined it by completely missing the braking zone, hitting Esteban Ocon (FRA, Alpine) from behind.
Verstappen continued to cut the lead against Hamilton and with five laps to go he was right behind. Hamilton felt the pressure and went off the track a bit. Pérez as he passed Leclerc for 5th place.
On lap 53 of 56 Verstappen tried to pass Hamilton in the first turn. The Champion defended himself well but it did not last long because the next time he passed on the outside with a spectacular overtake.
But then Verstappen handed the place back! He used more ground than allowed on the circuit and the team instructed him to give up the position.
Bottas pitted on lap 55, seeking points for the fastest lap. Verstappen was more than .7 seconds away from crossing the finish line for the penultimate time, so he was unable to activate the DRS.
Verstappen kept pushing on the last lap … But Lewis Hamilton managed to hold the onslaught and took the first Grand Prix of the year!
Bottas completed the podium, followed by Norris, Pérez, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Sainz, Stroll and rookie Yuki Tsunoda (JPN, Alpha Tauri).
The next Grand Prix will be the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, April 18.