Lewis Hamilton has taken the first win of the 2021 season in Bahrain after a gripping battle with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen right until the checkered flag.
Verstappen’s RB16B tore across the line just .7s behind Hamilton, with the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas 37s off the lead in third.
The first points of the season have been divided out among the top performers this afternoon in Bahrain, so if you missed the action, here are the highlights after a stellar opening race.
Lights out was postponed after Sergio Perez stopped by the side of the track towards the end of the formation lap, with a complete power outage.
After getting the car going ahead of lights out, the incident meant the Mexican’s first race for the charging bulls would begin from the pit lane.
A second formation lap then ensued, and it was finally lights out at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Verstappen held onto the lead off the start today, closely followed by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who overtook the second Mercedes to land in third.
Seconds after lights out, the Haas of Nikita Mazepin took a spin between turn two and three sending him into the barriers and out of the race – bringing about the first yellow flag of today’s proceedings.
Minutes later, the second Haas of Mick Schumacher went for a non-fatal spin, with the 22-year-old rejoining the track, all the while a virtual safety car was summoned after Pierre Gasly lost the front wing of his AT02, leaving debris on the track.
When racing resumed, Bottas was ahead of Leclerc after the Monegasque driver held the advantage on the Finnish Mercedes driver from lap one. At this point, Verstappen remained out in front of the world champion by 1.5 seconds.
After a trying start for Sergio Perez, the Mexican managed to lift the Red Bull, up from 20th to 13th and was now attacking Esteban Ocon, getting closer and closer to the points.
After entering the pits, Max Verstappen rejoined the track 7s behind Hamilton, however, the Dutch driver would resume his position in front as the British champion entered the pits for a fresh set of Pirellis.
The next casualty of today’s race was Fernando Alonso on his debut for the Alpine team this season.
After entering the pits with brake problems, the Spaniard was made to retire from the race – not the comeback the two-time world champion would have hoped for.
With just ten laps to go, Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel made contact at Turn One, with the Alpine spinning around.
Footage following the incident showed that Vettel had been caught out under braking and hit the back of the Frenchman’s Alpine.
Nine laps to go, and with Hamilton in front, it was clear the battle was on between the Mercedes and the Red Bull for the top step on today’s podium.
Verstappen managed to close the gap to 2.9s between himself and Hamilton, while the Mercedes team forecast a striking distance of just 5 laps.
In a gripping battle, Verstappen re-took the lead, but after exceeding track limits during the overtake, the 23-year-old had to let Hamilton by, as the nail-biting action towards the flag continued.
Managing to just barely hold Verstappen off in the approach to the finish line, Hamilton took the win at the Bahrain Grand Prix, followed ever-so-closely by a devastated Verstappen, who gave it everything up until the very last second.
Coming in third was the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas followed by the McLaren of Lando Norris in fourth and the second Red Bull of Perez in fifth.
59 seconds off the lead, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crossed the line in sixth, closely followed by the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in P7 and P8 respectively.
Closing out today’s top ten was the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda, following a stellar debut in Formula One, and marking his first points in Formula One, followed by the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll in tenth.
Following the race, seven-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton said;
“Wow, what a difficult race that was!
“Definitely stopping early we knew it was going to be difficult, but we had to cover Max. They have had an amazing performance all weekend, so it was going to take something really special.
“We stopped for that last stint and trying to find the right balance between not pushing too much and having the tyres at the end of the race.
“It was difficult and Max was all over me right at the end, but I just about managed to hold him off. It was one of the hardest races I’ve had for a while.”
Racing resumes on April 18 for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari.