Lewis Hamilton claimed his 96th Grand Prix victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The season got underway at the Bahrain International Circuit under the lights after Max Verstappen put his Red Bull car on pole during Saturday’s qualifying session.
After the five lights went out, it wasn’t long before the new Aston Martin safety car was forced onto the track after HAAS driver Nikita Mazepin lost control of his car, sending him into the wall and out of his debut Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were celebrating twenty years of Formula One racing, starting in 9th and 14th respectively. They made their debuts in 2001, the year after Alpha Tauri’s rookie Yuki Tsunoda was born. Also making their debut was HAAS driver Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time World Champion Michael, who raced against Alonso and Raikkonen.
After stopping during the formation lap and starting from the pitlane, Sergio Perez – who was making his debut for Red Bull – climbed as high as 15th by the end of lap ten. During this time we started to see some potential rivalries that could develop throughout the season, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas battling with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was also battling with McLaren’s Lando Norris.
F1 fans have waited for the Hamilton vs Verstappen battle for some time now and they finally got the first taste of this when Mercedes blinked first, bringing Hamilton into the pits forcing Red Bull to make a rash decision to keep the Dutch driver out when his tyres were past their optimal performance level.
Carlos Sainz, who was making his debut for Ferrari, looked at home in his new car, impressing with a double overtake on Alonso and Vettel, who have six World Championships between them.
After taking the lead of the race, Hamilton needed to be out in front for 12 laps to break another record of Schumacher’s, the most laps led. The record stood at 5111 but went one lap better during the race.
With three laps to go, Hamilton vs Verstappen was back on and the Red Bull driver forced his way into the lead but went off the track and in a rather unusual moment of sportsmanship for the charismatic Dutch driver, he slowed down to give the position back to the British driver.
This result means that Hamilton leads the World Championship after the opening round of the season, but the driver of the day award was rightfully given to Perez who fought his way back to 5th.
Norris also impressed with a 4th place finish, while Tsuonda claimed points on his debut with a 9th place finish.
Formula One returns in three weeks’ time for the Grand Prix in Imola.