Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton fended off late charge from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win F1 Bahrain GP as Valtteri Bottas was third.
It wasn’t the cleanest start to 2021 F1 season in Bahrain GP as the field was forced to a second formation lap after Red Bull’s Sergio Perez stopped at the side. He had his Control Electronics and Energy Store changed pre-race like Pierre Gasly did on Saturday.
Perez managed to re-start the car and dived into the pits for a pitlane start to F1 Bahrain GP. On the proper start, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen held onto the lead from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc moved pass Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly steadied in fifth from McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, while Alpine’s Fernando Alonso made up a place along with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz dropping to 10th after a slower start to F1 Bahrain GP.
The safety car was deployed immediately to recover the Haas of Nikita Mazepin, who spun at Turn 2 on his own, while behind Williams’ Nicholas Latifi. The replays showed Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel getting clipped by AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
The re-start worked well for Verstappen still with Hamilton, Leclerc and Bottas behind. There was a loss for AlphaTauri’s Gasly, though, as he first lost to Norris and then to Ricciardo. In doing so, he clipped the rear of the Australian driver.
It dislodged Gasly’s front wing as he was forced to pit for a new one. At the same time, Haas’ Mick Schumacher had a spin on his own but continued, as the VSC was deployed to clear debris shed from the AlphaTauri of the Frenchman.
The re-start had Verstappen still in the lead from Hamilton, as Bottas fought against Leclerc to retake third. Norris steadied in fifth from Ricciardo, as Stroll managed to pass Alonso for seventh, with Sainz in ninth from the two Alfa Romeo duo.
Before the pit stop, Norris pushed Leclerc hard in the fight for fourth and took it from him in a proper wheel-to-wheel battle for couple of laps. Alonso was first to pit and had track position over Stroll but the Canadian retook the place in the laps to follow.
At the front, Verstappen lost the lead after he elected to stay out for extra laps, as Hamilton was first to pit for the hard compound. Even Bottas opted for the hard compound, whereas the Dutchman opted for the medium tyres.
Behind the Top 3, Norris was fourth from Leclerc, with Ricciardo in sixth and Stroll seventh. An extended run from Vettel saw him fight against Sainz and Alonso, where the Ferrari driver cleared both at one go to be eighth in the order.
Alonso lost to Vettel but came back on him, but the Spaniard was cleared by both Perez and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen soon. It dropped the Alpine driver to 11th and out of the points, as his struggles on the medium tyres continued for him.
At the front, it was an unusual game being played around. As Verstappen started gain on Hamilton, Mercedes pitted him for a second stop on the hard tyres, which gave the Dutchman the lead of F1 Bahrain GP for the time being.
Bottas dived into the pits later on but it was a slow stop due to the front-right, which allowed Norris and Leclerc to take track position of the Finn. Behind, Perez continued to make places as he was up to sixth after passing Ricciardo on track.
While the second stop for the field continued on, Alonso was forced to retire on Lap 34 due to rear brake issues. Red Bull, meanwhile, waited for until Lap 39 to double-stack Verstappen and Perez. The former came out behind Hamilton in a fight to finish.
Perez came out ahead of Stroll in eighth but the Canadian fought back. It was in vain, though, as the Mexican retook seventh. Ahead of him were Bottas in third ahead of Norris, Leclerc and Ricciardo – with a chance for the Red Bull to catch all of them.
The Top 10 had Sainz and Tsunoda after the Japanese racer managed to clear Raikkonen in a gritty fight. The tussle for 10th was on, though, with Vettel, Ocon and Giovinazzi in the game in 12th, 13th and 14th, respectively.
While Hamilton continued to lead, Verstappen started to cut on it, as teammate Perez cleared Ricciardo for sixth, in his chase for fifth-placed Leclerc. The Monegasque’s teammate Sainz was chasing Stroll in the fight for eighth.
The Spaniard made it stick to take eighth, as Stroll’s teammate Vettel had a clumsy moment at Turn 1 against Ocon. The Frenchman cleared him for 13th but the German out-braked himself in the corner and ran into the rear of the Alpine F1 driver.
Both spun around as the incident was put under investigation. At the front, it started to close in with Hamilton fending off Verstappen as much. The Dutchman eventually passed the British driver but he took the position off-track at Turn 4.
Verstappen gave back the place to Hamilton later on, which the British racer managed to keep on until the end to eventually win the 2021 F1 Bahrain GP after a gritty end by 0.745s, as Bottas ended up third and took he fastest lap point after a late stop.
It was Norris in fourth with Perez managing to pass Leclerc in the end to be fifth after starting from the pitlane, as Ricciardo managed to keep off Sainz in a late fight to be seventh, while Stroll couldn’t do so against Tsunoda towards the end.
The Japanese F1 racer cleared Stroll on the last lap and score points on his debut, as Raikkonen was 11th from Giovinazzi, Ocon, Williams’ George Russell, Vettel and Schumacher – where everyone from the Italian was lapped once.
The result included a 10s time penalty for Vettel, as Gasly had a strategic retirement in the end along with Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, where they were classified in 17th and 18th. It was also revealed that Alonso retired due to debris struck in his brake.
DNF: Alonso, Mazepin