Lewis Hamilton se llevó el primer GP de la temporada / Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton fends off Max Verstappen in thrilling late duel to win first F1 2021 race

El piloto británico Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) se impuso al neerlandés Max Verstappen (Red Bull) en un apretado final del Gran Premio de Baréin y logró la victoria número 96 de su carrera deportiva.

El siete veces campeón mundial llegó a ser adelantado por Verstappen a tres vueltas del final, pero justo después de ponerse primero, el Red Bull perdió potencia y Hamilton recuperó el puesto.

Mercedes logró también el tercer lugar, gracias al finlandés Valtteri Bottas.

Completaron la zona de puntos el británico Lando Norris (McLaren), el mexicano Sergio Pérez (Red Bull), el monegasco Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), el australiano Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), el español Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), el japonés Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) y el canadiense Lance Stroll (Aston Martin).

El piloto español Fernando Alonso (Alpine), que volvió a competir en la Fórmula Uno tras dos años de ausencia, tuvo que retirarse en la vuelta 34 debido a unos problemas en los frenos de su monoplaza que le obligaron a llevar el coche a los talleres. EFE

Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton fends off Max Verstappen in thrilling late duel to win first F1 2021 race

Lewis Hamilton wins season-opening Bahrain GP after holding off late charge from Max Verstappen, who passed Mercedes but had to hand position back for running off-track; Valtteri Bottas completes podium, Lando Norris fourth for McLaren; Sergio Perez fifth after starting from the pits

Formula 1 2021 is alive and kicking as Lewis Hamilton won the Bahrain GP after surviving a gripping late-race battle with Max Verstappen – with the season-opener serving up an epic and ultimately controversial superstar duel.

The lead changed hands three times between the predicted title protagonists before Verstappen, who started on pole, chased down Hamilton in the closing stages – even overtaking the Mercedes with three laps remaining as Red Bull looked set to lay down their marker for the championship.

But, dramatically, Verstappen was forced to cede the position back to Hamilton after executing the move at Turn Four while off the track.

Hamilton, who withstood immense pressure on older tyres, then aced the final laps to take his first season-opening win since 2015, giving the Englishman the perfect start in his pursuit of an historic eighth title.

“It was one of the hardest races I’ve had for a while,” said Hamilton, who took a record-extending 95th victory.

“They have had an amazing performance all weekend, so it was going to take something really special.”

It was one of the great season-openers which hinted at a season-long head-to-head fight between F1’s two superstar drivers.

But Verstappen was understandably distraught after losing the chance to take his first-ever championship lead – particularly unhappy about the call to make him hand the lead back to Hamilton.

“Why didn’t you just let me go, man?” he said on team radio.

“I could have easily pulled those five seconds [for a penalty]. I am prepared to lose a win like that than be second like this.”

But Red Bull had no choice due to a call from Bahrain race control, as team boss Christian Horner explained to the pre-race favourite.

Valtteri Bottas was a distant third to complete the podium – not helped by a slow Mercedes pit-stop – although, adding insult to injury, took the fastest lap bonus point off Verstappen on the last lap.

Lando Norris was an impressive fourth for McLaren, with Sergio Perez recovering to fifth after being forced to start from the pit-lane following a formation lap reliability glitch.

Sakhir’s opening race also saw Fernando Alonso retire on his F1 return, Sebastian Vettel pick up a 10-second penalty for a collision, and plenty of wheel-to-wheel racing through the field.

Bahrain GP Race Result
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
7) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
8) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
9) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
10) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin

By Matt Morlidge