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Lewis Hamilton wins Bahrain Grand Prix after Max Verstappen forced to give up lead

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Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton held off Max Verstappen's Red Bull for victory in an extraordinary finish to the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Verstappen actually took the lead from Hamilton with four laps to go but handed the position back because he had overtaken by running off the track.

The move – an order from race control – cost the Red Bull driver the victory. Verstappen never quite got close enough again to challenge Hamilton.

It was a remarkable climax to a tense and thrilling strategic battle that bodes well for an epic season between the two men.

Verstappen complained over the radio about being ordered by his team to hand the lead back, but was told they had no choice.

The drivers had been referred by the race director before the race to a rule that says they cannot not leave the track and gain a lasting advantage, and that officials can give them the "opportunity to give back the whole of any advantage gained by leaving the track".

How the Bahrain Grand Prix unfolded Quiz: Can you name every F1 opening race winner since 1980?

What a race to open a potentially thrilling season

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It was a brutal end to the race for Verstappen, who had taken a dominant pole position and had looked to have pulled off a great comeback drive for victory.

But both men drove brilliantly, as Mercedes and Red Bull fought a strategic battle for superiority in one of the most gripping races for some time.

Verstappen converted his pole into a lead at the start, but Hamilton moved in front when Mercedes stopped him earlier to go for the so-called undercut, when a driver pits to gain from the speed benefit of fresher tyres.

That gave Hamilton track position, and he kept it through his second pit stop.

Lewis Hamilton ahead of Max VerstappenVerstappen was told to hand the lead back to Hamilton

Red Bull decided to run Verstappen 11 laps longer to give him a tyre advantage at the end of the race, and he stopped with 18 laps to go, setting up a grandstand finish.

Hamilton had to measure his pace to hold Verstappen for as long as possible while also keeping his tyres in decent shape for the inevitable battle in the closing laps.

Verstappen was on Hamilton's tail with five laps to go, and passed him a lap later around the outside at Turn Four.

It looked to be a superb move to clinch what would have been a deserving victory and an emphasis that Red Bull had the fastest car this weekend.

But a flick of oversteer as he went around Hamilton took him wide, and he broke the rule that said drivers had to stay the right side of the exit kerb on the outside of the corner.

Ironically, Red Bull had complained earlier in the race that Hamilton had been using that piece of track, and the world champion was told to stop doing it by race control or risk a penalty.

The officials treated Verstappen with the same strictness and he was immediately told to let Hamilton by, which he did on the straight down to Turn 11.

It looked a certainty that Verstappen would simply climb back on to Hamilton's tail and do the move again, but his pace had dropped and Hamilton had just enough to hold him off, to take the 96th victory of his career after a remarkable drive.

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Behind the leaders

Life was made even harder for Hamilton when his team-mate Valtteri Bottas suffered a slow second pit stop when a front tyre proved difficult to remove.

Had the stop gone smoothly, Verstappen would either have had to stop shortly afterwards, minimising his tyre advantage over Hamilton, or run long and then had to pass both Mercedes to win.

But the removal of the Finn allowed Red Bull to delay Verstappen's stop to give him a much bigger grip advantage over Hamilton for the end of the race.

Bottas drove a steady race while never looking likely to trouble the fight for victory, while Lando Norris drove an exceptional race to win the fight for best of the rest in his McLaren.

The Briton set the stage for his result with a combative opening part of the race, in which he fought past team-mate Daniel Ricciardo on the first lap and then, after an early safety car to recover the crashed Haas of Nikita Mazepin, passed Pierre Gasly's Alpha Tauri and Charles Leclerc's Ferrari to take the place he would not lose for the rest of the race.

Sparks fly out of the rear of Lando Norris' McLarenNorris finished in fourth place, while new McLaren team-mate Ricciardo ended the day seventh

Red Bull's Sergio Perez had to start from the pit lane after his engine cut out on the formation lap, but climbed back up the field in trademark style to take fifth place ahead of Leclerc and Ricciardo.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was eighth, Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda scored points on his debut in ninth for Alpha Tauri and Lance Stroll's Aston Martin rounded out the top 10.

Stroll's team-mate Sebastian Vettel had a difficult day, and was penalised 10 seconds for ramming into the back of Esteban Ocon's Alpine after being overtaken on the approach to Turn One.

Mick Schumacher finished last in the Haas, after he copied Mazepin's spin at Turn Two on the restart after the safety car period, albeit without clouting the wall.

Fernando Alonso retired his Alpine after a brake failure caused by debris in his brake ducts, and had also been having problems with his engine.

Driver of the day

Lewis HamiltonTwo men stood out, Hamilton and Verstappen in a race of their own. But Hamilton gets it for the controlled manner in which he managed his pace under intense pressure

What happens next?

A three-week break before the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola. After this, the anticipation for round two will be sky high.

'Hardest race for a while' – what they said

Lewis Hamilton: "Wow. What a difficult race that was. Stopping early we knew would be difficult but we had to cover Max, they have had an amazing performance all weekend. Max was all over me at the end and I was just about able to hold him off. That was one of the hardest races I've had for a while."

Max Verstappen: "It's a shame but you also have to see the positive. We are really taking the fight to them, and I think that's great to start the year like that. Overall we managed to score good points."

Valtteri Bottas: "Disappointing for sure but a good thing for the team we got good points. It feels for me that it was on the defensive side and not attacking. Not ideal and I had a slow pit stop which in the end took away any opportunities."

Nikita MazepinHaas rookie Mazepin was an early casualty after a crash on the opening lapMax Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on the podiumThis was Hamilton's first season-opening win since the Australian Grand Prix in 2015Race startOne down: The 2021 season will be F1's longest-ever campaign with 23 racescommentsView Comments1275

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Comment posted by martello, today at 18:21martello

18:21The trolls won’t like this at all – Lewis (the GOAT) wins and not in the fastest car – outstanding drive from an outstanding driver and well driven Max634110S

Reply posted by steve, today at 18:25steve

18:25to martello"The trolls won’t like this at all – Lewis (the GOAT) wins and not in t he fastest car – outstanding drive from an outstanding driver and well driven Max"steve replied: Not without controversy51376More replies (82)downR

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Comment posted by Rob, today at 18:26Rob

18:26Yet another bad day for the Hamilton haters; dear oh dear, you guys just don’t get it, do you? The argument that “Lewis only wins because he has the best car” has been shown to be especially specious today. He demonstrably had an inferior car to the Red Bull but still won and on older tyres too! If he keeps up this form then 2021 could be a LONG year for the haters….46566Removed commentMore replies (22)downC

Comment posted by chriswvtr, today at 18:23chriswvtr

18:23But but, Lewis only wins because he has the best car?! Well guess what Lewis didn’t have the best car today and he still won!! Great race, hoping the rest of the races are as good as this one.40165F

Reply posted by Fore Nwar, today at 18:26Fore Nwar

18:26to chriswvtr"But but, Lewis only wins because he has the best car?! Well guess what Lewis didn’t have the best car today and he still won!! Great race, hoping the rest of the races are as good as this one."Fore Nwar replied: He won because Verstappen was forced to hand back the lead.84437More replies (62)downO

Comment posted by OmNom, today at 18:29OmNom

18:29Hamilton won in the slower car. Max had the fastest car.

I guess it really is all about the car! Well done Lewis.28447I

Reply posted by I Am Not Lord Lucan, today at 19:26I Am Not Lord Lucan

19:26to OmNom"Hamilton won in the slower car. Max had the fastest car.I guess it really is all about the car! Well done Lewis."I Am Not Lord Lucan replied: Hilarious to see the pundits and media desperate to try and detract from Lewis’ amazing win by trying to feed the trolls the talking points about track limits. The fact that they are all spouting this nonsense shows how much these pathetic reporters, journalists and pundits work together to try and undermine Hamilton.8834More replies (9)downB

Comment posted by Bensons buddy, today at 18:25Bensons buddy

18:25Great race, exciting season ahead, easy to see why LH is the 7 time Champion.22333C

Reply posted by Celts, today at 18:32Celts

18:32to Bensons buddy"Great race, exciting season ahead, easy to see why LH is the 7 time Champion."Celts replied: Yes, because he has by far the best car. And a team mate who is happy not to try challenge him…..

Even George Russel could win races in that car…….53314More replies (33)downP

Comment posted by Paul Coldfield, today at 18:22Paul Coldfield

18:22Well if the rest of the season lives up to that.

I for one will have no complaints.

Handing over to the inevitable trolls who will!20124A

Reply posted by AlanT43, today at 19:01AlanT43

19:01to Paul Coldfield"Well if the rest of the season lives up to that.I for one will have no complaints.Handing over to the inevitable trolls who will!"AlanT43 replied: Usually I am someone who could be considered a “Hamilton hater” (though hopefully not a troll)… But watching the race today I don’t think he did anything wrong. Verstappen had the chance to legitimately take the lead and the win with 4 or 5 laps to go and stupidly went to the outside. Lewis was only ever going to slide wide with momentum and put verstappen wide. Verstappen threw away victory1397More replies (5)downT

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Comment posted by the peoples poet, today at 18:23the peoples poet

18:23a WORTHY champion does the business again.
WELL DONE LEWIS!20043A

Reply posted by A Woke, today at 18:50A Woke

18:50to the peoples poet"a WORTHY champion does the business again.WELL DONE LEWIS!"A Woke replied: You realise he was given the lead dont you…31209More replies (16)downF

Comment posted by fantiman, today at 18:28fantiman

18:28Fast car, average car, slow car, hard tyres, medium tyres, soft tyres,…still wining, 7 time and soon to be 8 time WDC. Need I say more, GOAT!17430V

Reply posted by VoodooMagicMan, today at 18:41VoodooMagicMan

18:41to fantiman"Fast car, average car, slow car, hard tyres, medium tyres, soft tyres,…still wining, 7 time and soon to be 8 time WDC. Need I say more, GOAT!"VoodooMagicMan replied: Wining? Do you mean whining???29129More replies (7)downJ

Comment posted by jmw, today at 18:27jmw

18:27It’s hilarious reading comments from people who clearly haven’t a clue about F1 racing, they’re still trying to claim Lewis only won today because he was in the fastest car…16019Removed commentMore replies (5)downZ

Comment posted by ZG, today at 18:22ZG

18:22What a drive Lewis!! Slower car, better driver!16024O

Reply posted by Origo, today at 18:24Origo

18:24to ZG"What a drive Lewis!! Slower car, better driver!"Origo replied: Need to listen to Verstappen comments and wait for next race me thinks1548More replies (4)downD

Comment posted by dan, today at 18:23dan

18:23But… but I thought it was only that he had the fastest car that he won??

Exceptional race, loved every minute and I can’t wait to see what this season has in store. FINALLY it looks like we’ll be getting the Lewis v Max battle we’ve all been waiting for :D13813D

Reply posted by dan, today at 18:25dan

18:25to dan"But… but I thought it was only that he had the fastest car that he won??Exceptional race, loved every minute and I can’t wait to see what this season has in store. FINALLY it looks like we’ll be getting the Lewis v Max battle we’ve all been waiting for :D"dan replied: Also, it will be forgotten among the noise at the top but what a drive from Perez. Starting in the pit lane and finishing 5th on debut for his new team. Showing us early why he deserved his seat.1242More replies (5)downX

Comment posted by XTStevie1872, today at 18:25XTStevie1872

18:25Haters are always going to hate but well done Lewis against all the odds & Max for having the fastest car all weekend blew it big style when it really mattered! Lewis will only get stronger & faster so he’s already the man to beat like him of loath him….13722C

Reply posted by Celts, today at 18:37Celts

18:37to XTStevie1872"Haters are always going to hate but well done Lewis against all the odds & Max for having the fastest car all weekend blew it big style when it really mattered! Lewis will only get stronger & faster so he’s already the man to beat like him of loath him…."Celts replied: The fact that a distinctly average driver like Bottas came a comfortable 3rd, shows that Mercedes is still the fastest car.

There’s a reason why Hamilton will never change teams or allow for a world class driver to join him in the Mercedes team……29178More replies (13)downK

Comment posted by Kac83, today at 18:27Kac83

18:27There is no other driver on the grid that could have eeked those tires out the way Lewis did.

Can’t wait for the rest of the season.

As a side note, fantastic to see McLaren still right up there battling for 3rd best team on the grid, and even though I am no Ferrari fan, it feels right them up there fighting again.

Great race, great outcome, bring on the rest of the season.12511F

Reply posted by fantiman, today at 19:58fantiman

19:58to Kac83"There is no other driver on the grid that could have eeked those tires out the way Lewis did.Can’t wait for the rest of the season.As a side note, fantastic to see McLaren still right up there battling for 3rd best team on the grid, and even though I am no Ferrari fan, it feels right them up there fighting again.Great race, great outcome, bring on the rest of the season."fantiman replied: You couldn’t be more correct about Sir Lewis tire management ability, superb!220More replies (4)downM

Comment posted by MarktheHorn, today at 18:21MarktheHorn

18:21Credit to Hamilton – held out like a champion does best in a great battle with Max.

More of the same please !

Decent results for Norris and Leclerc.

One rookie looks very good – less said about another the better!1159L

Reply posted by lucas, today at 18:43lucas

18:43to MarktheHorn"Credit to Hamilton – held out like a champion does best in a great battle with Max.More of the same please !Decent results for Norris and Leclerc.One rookie looks very good – less said about another the better!"lucas replied: Maze-spin name is gunna stick…452More replies (2)downD

Comment posted by dimarco, today at 18:22dimarco

18:22King Lewis reigns supreme 🙌🏼👑10218F

Comment posted by Foxes, today at 18:23Foxes

18:23I thought it was just about the car, if so why didn’t Max win… something isn’t right here9415C

Reply posted by Celts, today at 18:34Celts

18:34to Foxes"I thought it was just about the car, if so why didn’t Max win… something isn’t right here"Celts replied: Mercedes is still the fastest car. Hamilton ran significantly out wide twice during the race.

But you can get away with constant mistakes when you have the fastest car.11156More replies (9)downT

Comment posted by tcol, today at 18:26tcol

18:26And there you have it. All those who thought that Lewis couldn’t hack it in a slower car need to now shut up. And before you cry about the track limits thing….the road is only so wide…if you gain by going off the road, then you have to give it back…it has always been the case. How can you compare a 7 times world champion with a person who has won team races? Crofty should shut the F up!848D

Reply posted by Danielw1002, today at 18:57Danielw1002

18:57to tcol"And there you have it. All those who thought that Lewis couldn’t hack it in a slower car need to now shut up. And before you cry about the track limits thing….the road is only so wide…if you gain by going off the road, then you have to give it back…it has always been the case. How can you compare a 7 times world champion with a person who has won team races? Crofty should shut the F up!"Danielw1002 replied: Say what you like about LH and MV but Crofty is a saint518More replies (1)downN

Comment posted by Navers, today at 18:28Navers

18:28MORE OF THIS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON, PLEASE! An excellent race all over. Sir Lewis showing why he is the greatest, Perez had an amazing recovery drive, Norris getting 4th place and young Tsunoda had an excellent debut. Shout out to Vettel with his usual clumsy habits though.754L

Reply posted by lucas, today at 18:45lucas

18:45to Navers"MORE OF THIS FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON, PLEASE! An excellent race all over. Sir Lewis showing why he is the greatest, Perez had an amazing recovery drive, Norris getting 4th place and young Tsunoda had an excellent debut. Shout out to Vettel with his usual clumsy habits though."lucas replied: And a shout out to Vettel’s hat, it stays on no matter what!72More replies (3)downM

Comment posted by maccymac, today at 18:36maccymac

18:36″HaMiLtOn OnLy WiNs BeCaAuSe Of ThE cAr”

Red Bull the faster car (fastest on long runs in testing and practice, Perez carves through the field, Max takes pole by nearly half a second)

Verstappen on 10 lap fresher tyres

Yet still Lewis drives the bolts off his kart and takes another massive win!725B

Reply posted by buster21, today at 18:39buster21

18:39to maccymac"”HaMiLtOn OnLy WiNs BeCaAuSe Of ThE cAr”Red Bull the faster car (fastest on long runs in testing and practice, Perez carves through the field, Max takes pole by nearly half a second)Verstappen on 10 lap fresher tyresYet still Lewis drives the bolts off his kart and takes another massive win!"buster21 replied: On long runs Lewis said his Mercedes was only fractionally slower.817More replies (2)downW

Comment posted by WhenWordsFail, today at 18:22WhenWordsFail

18:22HAMILTON – champ driving like a champ 👊
Good racing today throughout the grid.7814More commentsBack to topunknown
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