Lewis Hamilton wins Bahrain Grand Prix after fantastic duel with Verstappen

28-03-2021 17:40 | Updated: 28-03-2021 17:43
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Lewis Hamilton wins Bahrain Grand Prix after fantastic duel with Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes answer pre-season doubts by winning the opening Grand Prix of the 2021 Formula 1 season in Bahrain. The British driver started from second on the grid and defended an attacking Max Verstappen in the final ten laps. Verstappen finished second by 0.7 seconds, with Valtteri Bottas rounding off the podium. 

Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing had one of their most dominant Grand Prix weekends, with the Dutchman topping all three practice sessions and securing pole position. But on the day World Championship points were handed out, Mercedes got the better of their rivals.

Hamilton now has 96 Grand Prix victories to his name and closes in on what seems to be an inevitable century of Formula 1 wins. The 36-year-old has claimed victory in the last three Bahrain Grands Prix, taking his total to five.

Hamilton and Verstappen had a fantastic duel in the desert for the final ten laps, perhaps giving us a sign of what is to come through the 2021 Formula 1 season. Verstappen managed to get ahead of Hamilton but had to yield the place back because he ran wide during the overtake. 

Sergio Perez had a strong debut for Red Bull Racing, despite additional trouble to add to his 11th place qualifying woes. The Mexican stalled on the formation lap and was forced to start from the pits. But Perez was busy overtaking through the field to claim a top-six finish.

Ferrari and McLaren seem to have the lead on the midfield. AlphaTauri looked strong during the weekend but had a few issues during the race. Fernando Alonso retired on lap 34 on his return to Formula 1.  

Drama before the start

On the formation lap, Perez stopped out on the circuit. The Mexican managed to get going again and started the race from the pitlane after an extra formation lap. On the second time of asking, everyone got off the line smoothly with Verstappen defending Hamilton at turn one. 

At the back of the grid, Nikita Mazepin spun out into the barrier and caused the first safety car of the season. Bottas dropped back one place. Sebastian Vettel gained six places at the start. 

Verstappen left it as late as possible at the safety car restart. Hamilton tried to attack but Verstappen managed to stay ahead. Chaos in the midfield resulted in Gasly losing a front wing. By lap seven, Verstappen opened up a 1.7 gap to Hamilton. Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc exchanged a number of overtakes in an exciting battle for fourth place. McLaren and Ferrari seem to be leading the midfield. 

In the pits

At the front, Bottas dropped backwards leaving a six-second gap between third and first. But Verstappen was unable to pull away from Hamilton. On lap 14, Mercedes pitted Hamilton for the hard tyres attempting an undercut. Hamilton had a strong out-lap, but Red Bull didn't react and kept Verstappen on the circuit. A few laps later, Bottas pitted. 

On lap 18, Red Bull pulled Verstappen in for medium tyres. It wasn't a perfect stop, but Hamilton comfortably came out ahead of his rival anyway. At this point, Perez had worked himself up to third. On fresher tyres, Bottas glided past and Mercedes had firm control of the race. 

On softer and four laps fresher tyres, Verstappen slowly gained on Hamilton and took control back. As a result, Mercedes pitted Hamilton on lap 29 for a new set of hard tyres. Verstappen took the lead. Bottas then had a terrible pitstop, with the Mercedes crew making a mistake and left their driver stationary for ten seconds. 

Verstappen opted for the hard tyres on lap 40. Red Bull Racing recorded a 1.9 second stop, putting Verstappen back out on the circuit with an 8.6 gap to Hamilton in first place. With ten laps remaining, Verstappen had cut the gap to four seconds. 

Hamilton ran wide on lap 51 putting Verstappen in DRS range. 

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