Sport

FORMULA 1

Max Verstappen starts season with win in Bahrain for Red Bull one-two

Max Verstappen starts season with win in Bahrain for Red Bull one-two
Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) on the podium after winning the Grand Prix of Bahrain. (Photo: ANP / Getty Images)

The double champion had a dream start as he cruised unchallenged from pole position to record his first win in Bahrain — as well as his first victory in the opening race of a campaign. Sergio Perez took the chequered flag 11.9 seconds behind.

Max Verstappen and Red Bull made a dream start to the Formula 1 season with a dominant one-two in Bahrain on Sunday, 5 March, while Fernando Alonso joined the party with a podium on his Aston Martin debut.

Mexican Sergio Perez finished runner-up, a distant 11.9 seconds behind his double world champion teammate, as Red Bull celebrated their 10th win in 12 races since July last year.

“Very lovely that, really good result. We had good race pace,” Verstappen told the team on his slowing down lap. “Very happy with that… That’s exactly the start to the season we wanted and needed. A perfect one-two.”

As they celebrated and the night sky filled with fireworks, Ferrari were left licking their wounds again with Charles Leclerc sidelined by a loss of power while running in third place and Carlos Sainz then overtaken by Alonso.

Verstappen, meanwhile, cruised on untroubled from pole position.

It is the first time he has won in Bahrain and also the first time he has triumphed in a Formula 1 opener.

Leclerc had seized second place at the start from third on the grid and looked good for the podium until he slowed and pulled over 17 laps from the end, shouting “No, no, no! No power” over the team radio.

Formula 1 elder

Veteran double world champion Alonso, in his 356th race, then passed Sainz with a thrilling wheel-to-wheel move 12 laps from the end.

“This is a lovely car to drive,” the 41-year-old Spaniard, the oldest driver in the race, told his jubilant team.

“To come here and finish on the podium in the first race of the year, it is amazing what Aston Martin did over the winter to have the second-best car on race one. This is just unreal,” he told the crowd after the finish.

formula 1 hamilton

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain drives the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W14 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain on 5 March 2023. (Photo: Eric Alonso / Getty Images)

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes, with Canadian Lance Stroll giving Aston Martin a bumper points haul with sixth. It was a remarkable drive from the young Canadian, who broke both his wrists and big toe in a cycling accident in Spain two weeks ago.

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George Russell was seventh for Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas eighth for Alfa Romeo and Pierre Gasly ninth on his Alpine debut after joining from AlphaTauri and starting the race in last position.

Alex Albon took the final point for a markedly more competitive-looking Williams.

Australian Oscar Piastri meanwhile retired 14 laps into his debut with his stricken McLaren wheeled into the team garage after suffering an apparent electronics issue.

The 21-year-old had complained of gearbox problems and mechanics swapped the steering wheel when he pitted, but he could not restart.

Triple whammy for Ocon

Esteban Ocon started his season with an unwanted triple of time penalties before the Renault-owned Alpine team retired his car from the race.

The Frenchman was first given a five-second penalty for being slightly out of position when he lined up ninth on the grid at the floodlit Sakhir circuit.

He then got a further 10-second penalty for serving the first one incorrectly, with the mechanics starting work on his car a fraction of a second too early.

A third penalty of five seconds followed when he was caught speeding as he exited the pit lane.

Team boss Otmar Szafnauer told reporters the second penalty was not the driver’s fault.

“We have a system that counts down into the mechanics’ ears to tell them when they can start and that was offset by four-tenths of a second,” he said. “So then it kind of just spiralled out of control.

“I think the third one was a pit speed limiter. Again, I think a half a metre early off the pit speed limiter button. [These were] all operational errors and we shouldn’t make them at this level. We’ll have an introspective view on them and not make them again.”

Szafnauer said Ocon’s engine had been running hot because of long pitstops. As the team wanted to avoid any further damage, it decided to retire him.

On the plus side for Alpine, Pierre Gasly started last, but still scored on his team debut by finishing ninth after moving from Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri. Reuters/DM

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