Formula 1
Formula 1
28 Mar
Event finished
R
Emilia Romagna GP
18 Apr
FP1 in
3 days
R
Portuguese GP
02 May
Race in
19 days
09 May
Next event in
23 days
23 May
Race in
40 days
R
Azerbaijan GP
06 Jun
Race in
54 days
13 Jun
Race in
62 days
27 Jun
Race in
75 days
04 Jul
Next event in
79 days
18 Jul
Race in
97 days
R
Hungarian GP
01 Aug
Race in
110 days
29 Aug
Race in
138 days
05 Sep
Race in
145 days
26 Sep
Race in
166 days
R
Singapore GP
03 Oct
Next event in
170 days
10 Oct
Race in
180 days
R
United States GP
24 Oct
Race in
195 days
31 Oct
Race in
202 days
R
Australian GP
21 Nov
Race in
222 days
R
Abu Dhabi GP
12 Dec
Race in
243 days

Bahrain GP: Hamilton holds off Verstappen to win epic duel

Lewis Hamilton held on to defeat Max Verstappen in a thrilling late duel in Formula 1's 2021 season opener in Bahrain, with the Red Bull driver giving back a late pass.

Bahrain GP: Hamilton holds off Verstappen to win epic duel

Mercedes and Red Bull deployed differing tyre strategies, with Verstappen's offset rubber life advantage in the final stint meaning he was chasing Hamilton after leading the early stages from pole.

With four laps to go, Verstappen attacked Hamilton around the outside of Turn 4, which was been heavily policed for track limits by the FIA, and as the Dutchman went too wide off the kerb he was ordered to give the place back further around the lap.

Verstappen was able to get back close to Hamilton on the final tour but was not able to attempt another move and lost out by 0.7s.

At the start, Verstappen had covered Hamilton by quickly moving to defend the inside line into Turn 1, successfully defending the lead while Leclerc put the slightly-slower-starting Bottas under pressure for third.

Verstappen led Hamilton around the rest of the first lap, with Leclerc passing Bottas at Turn 4, shortly before the race was neutralised after Haas driver Nikita Mazepin dropped his VF21 by himself running through Turn 3 and spun off into the barriers.

The race, which was cut to 56 laps after Sergio Perez ground to a halt on the initial formation lap before restarting his engine and getting going again to start from the pitlane, restarted on lap four, with Verstappen leaving it as late as possible to head back to racing speed due to the headwind blowing down the pit straight.

After hitting the gas again just before the finish line, Verstappen quickly stole to the inside to again defend the line on the run to Turn 1, with Leclerc also attacking Hamilton to Verstappen's left-hand side.

But the race was quickly neutralised again as Mick Schumacher became the second Haas rookie to have an incident all by himself as he spun exiting Turn 4 on the safety car restart lap, while just ahead Pierre Gasly clipped Daniel Ricciardo's left rear and lost his front wing, and Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll clashed at the final apex of the double Turns 9/10 complex.

Clearing up after the various incidents was covered by the virtual safety car, which ended as the leaders approached the Turn 8 hairpin on lap five – meaning Verstappen did not have to worry about a third Turn 1 defence.

But a suspected differential problem was causing the Red Bull driver issues as he had reported a strange feeling when applying throttle, which caused Mercedes to instruct Bottas that the lead was "all to play for" once he'd battled by Leclerc using DRS into Turn 1 on lap six.

The problem did not appear to be causing Verstappen any further issue during the next phase of the race, as he and Hamilton extended their gap over Bottas with a string of laps in the low 1m36s, with the second Mercedes a chunk further back each time.

The gap at the front stabilised approaching the two-second mark, with Verstappen looking in control.

But on lap 13 Mercedes opted to bring Hamilton in for an unexpectedly early stop – just two laps after Fernando Alonso had become the first soft tyre runner to come – and switch his mediums for hards.

Hamilton's pace on new rubber was so strong that it was quickly apparent than a like-for-like strategy would mean Verstappen losing out in any case, so Red Bull kept him out until lap 17, when he came in to take another set of mediums – a lap after Bottas had taken hards.

Hamilton's lead when Verstappen emerged from the pits was just over seven seconds, but the Red Bull driver quickly began to erode that advantage.

A series of laps in the 1m34s vs Hamilton touring in the mid 1m35s meant Verstappen had nearly halved the Mercedes driver's lead by lap lap 24, before the gap stabilised for a time.

But Verstappen was able to get back into the 1m34s and again began to home in on Hamilton, getting to withing two seconds on lap 28, at the end of which Mercedes brought Hamilton in for another set of new hards, wary of a Red Bull undercut.

Verstappen therefore retook the lead and stayed out on his mediums until the end of lap 39, with Hamilton steadily having cut his lead at the front to just under 16 seconds.

The result was Verstappen facing an 8.8s deficit as he emerged from the pits, but with 10-lap fresher rubber, which he quickly used to eat into Hamilton's lead once again – setting a fastest lap at 1m33.228s on his first full lap out of the pits versus Hamilton's 1m34.334s.

After quickly cutting the gap with several more laps in the mid 1m33s, Verstappen's chase slowed a touch – although he continued to reduce Hamilton's advantage as they negotiated lapping traffic by around half a second a lap each time.

Verstappen eventually got withing DRS range with five laps to go, using it to set up his briefly successful Turn 4 pass.

After giving back the lead, Verstappen appeared to make a significant slide into Turn 13 approaching the end of lap 53 and he struggled to close back up quickly to the rear of the Mercedes, eventually running out of time.

Bottas finished 37.3s adrift of Hamilton in third after a slow second stop had dropped him 10s further from the leaders, and took a late extra stop to successfully chase the fastest lap bonus point on the final tour.

Lando Norris finished fourth having battled by Leclerc shortly after the Ferrari driver had been passed by Bottas in the early stages, and he was followed home by the charging Perez, who recovered from his formation lap issues to take fifth on a three-stop strategy.

Leclerc came home fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and new teammate Sainz, with Yuki Tsunoda beating Lance Stroll to ninth at the end of the top 10.

Sebastian Vettel was classified 15th after being hit with a penalty for colliding with the rear of Esteban Ocon's Alpine late in the race. Ocon eventually finished 13th.

Gasly and Nicholas Latifi retired in the pits late on, while Alonso was the other retirement after suffering a suspected rear brake problem in the middle part of the race.

Cla Driver Chassis Gap
1 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes
2 Netherlands Max Verstappen
Red Bull 0.745
3 Finland Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes 37.383
4 United Kingdom Lando Norris
McLaren 46.466
5 Mexico Sergio Perez
Red Bull 52.047
6 Monaco Charles Leclerc
Ferrari 59.090
7 Australia Daniel Ricciardo
McLaren 1'06.004
8 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr.
Ferrari 1'07.100
9 Japan Yuki Tsunoda
AlphaTauri 1'25.692
10 Canada Lance Stroll
Aston Martin 1'26.713
11 Finland Kimi Raikkonen
Alfa Romeo 1'28.864
12 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi
Alfa Romeo
13 France Esteban Ocon
Alpine
14 United Kingdom George Russell
Williams
15 Germany Sebastian Vettel
Aston Martin
16 Germany Mick Schumacher
Haas
17 France Pierre Gasly
AlphaTauri
18 Canada Nicholas Latifi
Williams
Spain Fernando Alonso
Alpine
Russian Federation Nikita Mazepin
Haas
shares
comments

Related video

The Bahrain GP as it happened

Previous article

The Bahrain GP as it happened

Next article

Verstappen "preferred" time penalty to letting Hamilton past

Verstappen "preferred" time penalty to letting Hamilton past
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Event Bahrain GP
Sub-event Race
Author Alex Kalinauckas
The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola Prime

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. Ben Anderson looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Prime

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says Nigel Roebuck.

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace Prime

Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace

Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Formula 1
Apr 9, 2021
Is Formula 1 as good as it has ever been now? Prime

Is Formula 1 as good as it has ever been now?

For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak

Formula 1
Apr 8, 2021
How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend Prime

How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend

Williams held out against the tide for many years but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, the age of the owner-manager is long gone

Formula 1
Apr 6, 2021
When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m Prime

When a journeyman driver's F1 career lasted just 800m

Nikita Mazepin’s Formula 1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix lasted mere corners before he wiped himself out in a shunt, but his financial backing affords him a full season. Back in 1993 though, Marco Apicella was an F1 driver for just 800m before a first corner fracas ended his career. Here’s the story of his very short time at motorsport’s pinnacle.

Formula 1
Apr 4, 2021
How Raikkonen's rapid rise stalled his teammate's F1 career climb Prime

How Raikkonen's rapid rise stalled his teammate's F1 career climb

Kimi Raikkonen's emergence as a Formula 1 star in his rookie campaign remains one of the legendary storylines from 2001, but his exploits had an unwanted impact on his Sauber teammate's own prospects. Twenty years on from his first F1 podium at the Brazilian GP, here's how Nick Heidfeld's career was chilled by the Iceman.

Formula 1
Apr 3, 2021
The nightmare timing that now hinders Mercedes Prime

The nightmare timing that now hinders Mercedes

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton took victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix despite, for a change, not having the quickest car. But any hopes of developing its W12 to surpass Red Bull's RB16B in terms of outright speed could not have come at a worse time.

Formula 1
Apr 2, 2021