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Bahrain GP: Verstappen cruises to F1 victory from Perez, Alonso

Max Verstappen dominated Formula 1's 2023 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to win ahead of Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso, while Charles Leclerc lost a nailed-on podium to an engine issue.

Watch: Red Bull Dominant and Some Aston Magic - 2023 F1 Bahrain GP Review

Verstappen led easily away from pole position, while Perez lost second to Leclerc after he made a slow getaway and fell behind the Ferrari driver.

Any hope of a battle for the lead was quickly extinguished when Verstappen romped clear of Leclerc by over half-a-second a lap, with Perez tracking Leclerc across the first stint before they made their first of two pitstops.

Leclerc was the first of the leaders to stop to switch from softs to hards on lap 13 of 57, with Verstappen coming in from nearly 10s clear to take a second set of softs after both Red Bull cars had come into the race with just one set of the white-walled rubber available.

Perez ran a few laps longer before he stopped to take more softs too, which he then used to close in on Leclerc and took second with a DRS-assisted blast to the inside of Turn 1 on lap 26.

From there, Verstappen was only bothered by a minor downshift issue causing occasional rear-locking and ran clear of Perez to win by 11.9s after they had both completed one more pitstop to finally take the hards in what was a crushing performance from Red Bull.

That was made even better when Leclerc, who had dropped to nearly 10s behind Perez before making a second stop for fresh hards on lap 33, retired from the race after suddenly losing drive on lap 40, with Ferrari later saying it had "lost the engine" on his SF-23.

That triggered a brief virtual safety car as the Ferrari was recovered, after which Alonso charged after and passed compatriot Carlos Sainz to score a podium on his first appearance for Aston Martin.

He had earlier lost a place to Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes on the first lap, then lost another to George Russell when Lance Stroll tagged his new Aston team-mate outbraking himself while battling Russell into Turn 4 on the opening tour.

Alonso followed Hamilton through the race's early tyre management phases and two stops for both Astons and Mercedes cars, the Spaniard running long before making his second stop after Mercedes had pitted Hamilton early for a second time to ward off an undercut threat from his former McLaren team-mate.

The two world champions engaged in a thrilling fight over what was then fifth place, with Alonso needing two attempts to clear Hamilton after his first pass at Turn 4 went wrong before he put in a brilliant Turns 9/10 dive to clear the Mercedes.

Post-VSC, Alonso quickly caught Sainz, who had been running a long way adrift of Leclerc and concerned about his second set of hards making the finish, and also had a close call with the Ferrari when he tried to pass for the first time at Turn 4 on lap 45, lightly tagging the Ferrari's right-rear with his left-front.

But a few moments later, Alonso's superior pace meant he benefitted from DRS down the back straight and he blasted by to take a third place he would not lose.

Hamilton shadowed Sainz to the finish in fourth and fifth, with Stroll beating Russell to sixth after Aston pulled off the undercut at his second stop.

In other incidents of note, Pierre Gasly rose from last to finish ninth, with Alex Albon 10th for Williams.

Lando Norris stopped five times due to a pneumatic pressure problem on his McLaren before he retired late on, as was Esteban Ocon after he picked up three penalties – for being out of position in his grid box, Alpine working on his car before he finished serving his five-second penalty at his first stop and the speeding in the pitlane.

Cla Driver Chassis Engine Gap
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen
Red Bull Red Bull
2 Mexico Sergio Perez
Red Bull Red Bull 11.987
3 Spain Fernando Alonso
Aston Martin Mercedes 38.637
4 Spain Carlos Sainz
Ferrari Ferrari 48.052
5 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes Mercedes 50.977
6 Canada Lance Stroll
Aston Martin Mercedes 54.502
7 United Kingdom George Russell
Mercedes Mercedes 55.873
8 Finland Valtteri Bottas
Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1'12.647
9 France Pierre Gasly
Alpine Renault 1'13.753
10 Thailand Alex Albon
Williams Mercedes 1'29.774
11 Japan Yuki Tsunoda
AlphaTauri Red Bull 1'30.870
12 United States Logan Sargeant
Williams Mercedes 1 Lap
13 Denmark Kevin Magnussen
Haas Ferrari 1 Lap
14 Netherlands Nyck de Vries
AlphaTauri Red Bull 1 Lap
15 Germany Nico Hulkenberg
Haas Ferrari 1 Lap
16 China Zhou Guanyu
Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1 Lap
17 United Kingdom Lando Norris
McLaren Mercedes 2 Laps
France Esteban Ocon
Alpine Renault 16 Laps
Monaco Charles Leclerc
Ferrari Ferrari 18 Laps
Australia Oscar Piastri
McLaren Mercedes 44 Laps

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