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Verstappen confidently won the opening GP in Bahrain

Verstappen confidently won the opening GP in Bahrain
Max Verstappen left no stone unturned in Bahrain.
Image: (APA/AFP/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC)

The Red Bull driver from the Netherlands won the uneventful floodlight race in Sakhir on Saturday safely ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez; the Mexican was 22.457 seconds behind. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz came third on the desert circuit on the Persian Gulf (+25.110 seconds).

“A great start to the year, absolutely fantastic,” Verstappen radioed happily to the pits. For the 26-year-old, it was the 55th Grand Prix victory of his career and the eighth in a row across all seasons. Red Bull’s dominance last year, when the Austro racing team won 21 of 22 races, continued after the winter break. As in the previous year, Red Bull Racing delivered a demonstration of power with a superior one-two victory at the Bahrain International Circuit; the competition consisting of Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren is still enormously behind.

  • Read more: A solo for Max – why this season won’t be boring anyway

Charles Leclerc, who started the race from second place on the grid, had to settle for fourth place in the second Ferrari. Mercedes driver George Russell came fifth ahead of Lando Norris in the McLaren and teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen unimpressed by Horner case

Verstappen was also unimpressed by the case surrounding Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who was acquitted in an independent investigation by the Austrian parent company after a complaint from an employee about allegedly inappropriate behavior. Horner’s wife, the former Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell, seems to be loyal to the 50-year-old Englishman. Both of them walked through the paddock holding hands, surrounded by TV cameras and photographers, before the start.

  • Read more: After the acquittal – Red Bull team boss Christian Horner is now speaking out

On the race track, Verstappen started the opening race from pole position, with all 20 drivers initially opting for the softest set of tires. At the 20th anniversary in Bahrain, Verstappen defended his top position in the first corner against Leclerc, behind him Perez passed Sainz into fourth place. A little further back, Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin was turned around by Haas driver Nico Hülkenberg, but both were able to continue.

After ten laps, completely out of the competition

On the third of 57 laps, Russell became Verstappen’s first pursuer after an overtaking maneuver against Leclerc. The defending champions picked up where they left off last season. After ten laps, the competition was barely noticeable in the rearview mirror; the lead was already seven seconds. A little later, the two Ferraris fought a thrilling duel for fourth place, Sainz, who will be replaced by Lewis Hamilton from 2025, attacked Leclerc twice and overtook his teammate. However, the Monegasse struggled with braking problems on the front axle.

After the first pit stops, Perez overtook Russell’s Mercedes and thus gave Red Bull a one-two lead. Halfway through the race, Hamilton caused a stir with an unusual radio message: “My seat is broken,” said the record world champion, who was in eighth place. In the fight for second place, Sainz, who kept up well with Perez, briefly had hope. After the second pit stop, the Spaniard opted for the hardest tire compound, while Perez opted for the softest and fastest tire compound exactly 20 laps before the end of the race. Sainz was no longer within striking distance.

Next race again on a Saturday

Behind him, Russell didn’t get along well with the hardest tires and was overtaken by Leclerc. At the front, Verstappen completed his laps untouched. Next week the premier class of motorsport will be visiting Saudi Arabia. The second of 24 races in Formula 1’s record year will also take place on a Saturday due to the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan (from March 10th).

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