The omens were excellent. Verstappen trumped Hamilton, who has been dominant in his Mercedes for years, on speed during qualifying. Ultimately, the Dutchman ‘just’ had to settle for second place again. In the final phase, Verstappen passed Hamilton, but had to give back the lead, because he had just ended up outside the track and took advantage of it.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas took third place. Lando Norris finished fourth in his McLaren, ahead of Red Bull newcomer Sergio Perez, who completed a strong catch-up race.
Max Verstappen started the race from pole.
Ⓒ HH / ANP
The race in Bahrain got off to an extremely rough start. First, Sergio Perez fell silent in the warm-up lap. The Red Bull driver got his car running again on time, but with the delay he ensured that the field had an extra formation lap had to finish. Perez also had to start from the pit lane instead of from eleventh place, which he had captured on Saturday during qualifying.
After the lights went out, Verstappen was well away from pole. He saw how Hamilton tried to put his Mercedes next to him, but towards the first corner the Dutchman made a good start.
Max Verstappen forces Lewis Hamilton to the outside of the track immediately after the start, forcing the Brit to connect towards the first corner behind the Dutchman.
A crash by Nikita Mazepin, the Russian newcomer to Haas, a few corners away, triggered a safety car situation. When the track was released again, AlphaTauri Frenchman lost his front wing and the race officials pressed the button on the virtual safety car.
However, the skirmishes did not disturb Verstappen. In his Red Bull the 23-year-old Limburger rushed away from Hamilton within a lap, which he was more than a second behind. The British world champion can therefore not use his DRS.
Nikita Mazepin gets out of his broken Haas car.
Then a fascinating tire game unfolded. Hamilton dived in first on lap 13 and made up a lot of time on his newer (hard) tires. Verstappen, who took faster mediums three laps later, lost the lead in the pit, but then quickly drove towards Hamilton.
It did not come to an overtaking action, because Mercedes took its leader in twice after the 28th lap. Once again, the hard compound was chosen. Verstappen, who repeatedly complained about the rear of his car, had similar tires screwed under his Red Bull eleven laps later, after which he was given sixteen laps on his newer set to close eight seconds behind.
The fight between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton took place for a large part in the pit lane.
Ⓒ Getty Images
Five laps before the end, Verstappen reported at the tail end of Hamilton’s Mercedes and it seems that he cannot miss the victory anymore. A lap later it was immediately hit, but because Verstappen ended up just outside the track during his overtaking action, he had to give back the lead of the race management to Hamilton. In the future, Verstappen no longer succeeded in closing the gap and had to settle for a – in his opinion undoubtedly disappointing – second place. Although it must be said that he never started a new F1 year better.
View the results of the race here.
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