Max Verstappen opened his title defense with a chillingly emphatic victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
On the hunt for his third consecutive world championship, the Dutchman started on pole and finished 12 seconds ahead. It was an ominous warning and it will take a small miracle to stop his attack soon.
Sergio Perez made it a perfect night for Red Bull in the tiny Gulf kingdom by completing one of the most predictable one-twos in Grand Prix history.
Fernando Alonso, 38 seconds behind, finished third for Aston Martin – but only after a Ferrari nightmare, an apparent engine failure in Charles Leclerc’s car, who then took third.
His accident came 17 laps from the end. “No, no, no, come on,” the Monegask wailed. ‘No power.’ He got on a scooter. Back in the garage, Piero Ferrari, the youngest and only surviving son of ‘the old man’ Enzo, took off his headphones. Ferrari, hey! Plus a change.
Max Verstappen opened his title defense on Sunday afternoon with a chilling emphatic win at the Bahrain Grand Prix
Constructor Red Bull’s dominance continued in the Gulf realm in the first race of the new season with a predictable 1-2
Dutch star Verstappen, who is seeking his third championship in a row, was fist-pumped on his car after finishing
Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez (right) finished second, with Spanish veteran Fernando Alonso (left) on the podium
Carlos Sainz was fourth for Ferrari after being passed by Alonso on lap 46 of 57 after a slight wheel pop.
As for Mercedes, wracked with self-doubt and deprived of hope in the short term, the race went about no better and no worse than expected.
Lewis Hamilton finished fifth, 51 seconds behind, and George Russell seventh, 56 short. The pair were separated by Lance Stroll’s Aston.
They had started sixth and seventh, Russell leading the grid.
Early on, Russell asked, “Is Lewis (his tires) managing or is he slow? Because I feel I have a bit more pace.’ To which came the answer: ‘Wrestling, struggling.’ That about covered their predicament.
One of the best duels on a night that occasionally fizzed without bubbling was Hamilton against Alonso.
The Spaniard came out of his second stop on lap 35, about a second and a half behind the Briton. He slowly narrowed the gap.
On lap 39 Alonso took the lead going into turn 4. He went into the corner too fast but lost his form and let Hamilton through again.
Fireworks exploded in the sky as the heavy favourite, 25-year-old Verstappen, took the checkered flag in the Middle Eastern country
The trio on the podium could have much more success in the 2023 campaign given their highly competitive cars
But it was more misery for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, after his car suffered engine problems and stopped while on track
While Mercedes’ British superstar, seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finished fifth, well behind the Red Bulls and Ferraris
He finally let his faster pace hold and dove through on the inside six corners later, a sharp left-hander. Aston Martin has made real progress.
But to them, Red Bull’s dominance was clear. In the first 10 laps, Verstappen opened up a seven-second lead over Leclerc, who was second at the time, after passing Perez by sticking out his elbows at the start.
Yes, seven seconds, and you can bet he would have found fractions more rocket speed if he had to.
A miserable day for McLaren. Oscar Piastri retired. Lando Norris was in and out of the pits all evening and finished last, two laps down.
Alonso was having a good time: “This car is a joy to drive,” he said. Yes, but Verstappen wouldn’t trade him for it.