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Bahrain Grand Prix: Hamilton Outduels Verstappen in Dramatic Season Opener

Bahrain Grand Prix: Hamilton Outduels Verstappen in Dramatic Season Opener

Bahrain Grand Prix 2021

The 2021 Formula 1 season has started off with a bang as Lewis Hamilton came out on top in his thrilling battle with Max Verstappen to win the Bahrain Grand Prix.

It was another masterclass from the reigning world champion, who had looked second-best to Verstappen’s Red Bull all weekend long. But somehow, Hamilton still found a way to come from behind and claim the chequered flag.

Verstappen is tipped to mount a much stronger challenge to Hamilton’s championship reign this season. But based on what went down in Bahrain, it will take something special to take the crown from the great Brit.

Highlights of the game

There was quite a bit of hype surrounding Verstappen and Red Bull heading into Bahrain, and the Dutchman improved his Bahrain Grand Prix 2021 betting odds significantly as he claimed pole position for the season-opening race.

The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had to settle for the next two spots on the grid, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished in fourth.

Verstappen was able to hold on to the lead as the race began, but the same couldn’t be said for Bottas, who fell to fourth after being overtaken by Leclerc. Although, the safety car was out quickly after Haas’ Nikita Mazepin spun out to end his F1 debut.

When the race restarted, Bottas quickly reclaimed the place he lost to Leclerc. Meanwhile, Verstappen was struggling to shake off Hamilton, who remained hot on his heels.

But then, Hamilton made the first big strategic move of the race with an early pit stop on lap 14. Verstappen finally stopped three laps later to cede the race lead, but the Red Bull slowly and surely started eating into the Mercedes’ advantage.

Verstappen had cut the lead down to just two seconds when Hamilton dove back into the pits on lap 27. Hamilton had a large deficit to claw back, although Verstappen was still likely to make one more stop.

Elsewhere in the field, former world champion Fernando Alonso had notably few Bahrain Grand Prix 2021 highlights as his much-awaited first race back in F1 came to an end just 33 laps in due to brake failure.

Verstappen finally came in for his second stop on lap 39 and was now the one playing catch-up. But the Red Bull wasted little time to charge back and was within three seconds less than 10 laps later.

It was all set up for a grandstand finish between the two. And for a moment, it looked like Verstappen had done it when he overtook Hamilton on lap 53. But the Dutchman had gone off the track while passing Hamilton, so he allowed the Mercedes driver back through to reclaim the race lead.

Verstappen still had three laps to make another move, but it wasn’t to be as Hamilton held off the Red Bull’s challenge to claim another Grand Prix victory.

Key statistics

Despite winning each of the last four world championships, Hamilton has been quite a slow starter. This is actually the first season-opening race he has won since 2015. His Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas had won each of the last two season openers in Australia.

However, Hamilton does love Bahrain. He has now won three consecutive races at Sakhir and is the all-time leader in wins with five overall.

Hamilton has also broken another all-time record, this time for most laps led in F1, which was previously held by Michael Schumacher (5,126).

Speaking of Schumacher, Mick – the son of Michael – made his F1 debut for Haas and finished 16th. That was markedly better than his father’s first race, where he crashed out in the opening lap – just like Mick’s team-mate Mazepin.

Meanwhile, Verstappen has finished second in Bahrain for the second year running and has been the runner-up for the seventh time since the start of last season.

Furthermore, the Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz went sixth and eighth, respectively. That’s just the sixth time both Ferraris have scored since the start of 2020.

What’s next?

After a fantastic start to the season, F1 will now take a two-week break before holding their next race, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, Italy on April 18th.

This will be just the second staging of the GP, with the first coming last year. Hamilton is the defending champion after he overtook Bottas, who had claimed pole, and SBOTOP odds will likely have him favoured to repeat.

Ferrari will look to put on a fine showing on the track named after their founder, Enzo, and his son, Dino. Leclerc finished in fifth while Sebastian Vettel was 12th in last year’s race.

Verstappen will similarly be eager to put on a much better performance. He had to retire in last year’s race as a punctured tire saw him spun off the track.







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