Verstappen reigns supreme in Bahrain GP

Max Verstappen romped to victory at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of teammate Sergio Perez.

The Dutchman led every lap of the race after launching pole position and set the fastest lap of the race for his fifth career grand slam. His controlled 22.457s margin amounted to a 0.39s advantage per lap over the field,

“Unbelievable,” he said. “I think today went even better than expected.

“We had a lot of pace. Super enjoyable to drive today. A great start to the year. It couldn’t have been better.

“It’s always very special to have these kinds of days, because they don’t happen often when it all goes perfectly and you feel one with the car.”

Teammate Perez made quick progress from fifth on the grid, gaining a place from Carlos Sainz off the line and picking off Charles Leclerc and George Russell by lap 14, the latter with a gutsy move into Turn 4 after the first stops.

Second is Perez’s best result since last September’s Italian Grand Prix.

“I think it was the maximum we could have achieved,” Perez said. “It’s good team momentum. We’ve got to keep it up for the coming weekend.”

Carlos Sainz completed the podium after capitalizing on problems for both teammate Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’s George Russell.

Sainz had to battle past the sister Ferrari twice — before and after the first pit stop — with a pair of robust moves into the first turn while Leclerc suffered with a brake temperature imbalance between his front wheels, leaving him weak on the brakes.

Russell was easier pickings, with both Mercedes drivers hamstrung by overheating cars.

Sainz was quick enough to keep Perez honest in the middle of the race, but the Spaniard didn’t have a set of softs to go with the Red Bull Racing driver in the final stint, leaving him confined to third.

“I felt really good out there today,” he said. “Still not enough, not where we want to be, but a good step forward from where we were last year and a solid start to the season.”

Leclerc followed Sainz home in fourth after passing the limping Russell for the place with 10 laps to go, the Briton making a mistake and running off the road at turn 10 to make himself an easy pass.

Lando Norris survived a late pursuit from Lewis Hamilton to hold on for sixth place. Teammate Oscar Piastri finished eighth after being undercut by Hamilton at the stops.

Fernando Alonso took two points for ninth after a late second stop required him to charge past Zhou Guanyu and then teammate Lance Stroll, the Canadian backing him up in 10th in a remarkable recovery from the back of the pack after being spun around at the first turn.

Zhou finished a strong 11th for Sauber ahead of Kevin Magnussen and RB teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda.

Ricciardo was ordered past Tsunoda in the final five laps — much to the frustration of the Japanese driver, who was within a second of Magnussen and attempting to size up a pass at the time of the instruction. Verstappen lapped all three of them shortly afterwards, breaking up the pursuit, and the Australian ran out of laps to try to break the Dane’s defenses, leaving the order fixed.

Alex Albon finished ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, whose top-10 start was undone at the first turn, where he damaged his front wing tipping Stroll into a spin on the apex. It forced the German into a first-lap unscheduled stop, from which his race never recovered.

The unhappy Alpine pair of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly trundled home 17th and 18th, spared the blushes of finishing last only by misfortune for others.

Valtteri Bottas toiled in the lower reaches of the midfield but had his race obliterated by a stuck left-front wheel at his second stop that held him stationary in his box for almost 60s.

Logan Sargeant finished two laps down after a steering wheel issue spat him off the road at Turn 4 on lap 10. He limped back to pit lane for an unplanned stop and steering wheel change and spent a lonely evening at the back of the pack thereafter.

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