Lewis Hamilton WINS thrilling F1 season opener in Bahrain after stopping Max Verstappen

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Lewis Hamilton’s quest for an eighth world title starts off perfectly, as he wins the F1 season opener after a tense battle in Bahrain with Max Verstappen – with the Brit clinging on JUST.

  • Sir Lewis Hamilton won the pulsating F1 curtain riser in Bahrain after holding back Max Verstappen from Red Bull
  • The Mercedes superstar had to defend herself against Verstappen on damaged tires for the last few laps
  • Verstappen had even taken the lead, but fell back on Sunday after taking the position of the race track
  • Valtteri Bottas secured the last podium spot with Lando Norris fourth and Sergio Perez fifth

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Lewis Hamilton held back Max Verstappen’s late attack to win a sparkling Bahrain Grand Prix in fantastic style.

A strangely tactical race seemed to be heading towards the Red Bull driver, only for Hamilton to produce one of the great defensive drivers of his life.

In a gigantic scrap, Verstappen almost passed Hamilton with three laps to go. Hamilton declined to give in. Verstappen drove wide in Turn 4 while contesting the lead.

Lewis Hamilton produced an overwhelming defensive drive to hold off Max Verstappen and win the Bahrain Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton produced an overwhelming defensive drive to hold off Max Verstappen and win the Bahrain Grand Prix

Mercedes superstar Hamilton retained first place through the pulsating last few laps to jump-start the F1 campaign for 2021

Mercedes superstar Hamilton retained first place through the pulsating last few laps to jump-start the F1 campaign for 2021

Mercedes superstar Hamilton retained first place through the pulsating last few laps to jump-start the F1 campaign for 2021

Verstappen, who started on pole, was just unable to overtake the ground, but is expected to challenge Hamilton for the title

Verstappen, who started on pole, was just unable to overtake the ground, but is expected to challenge Hamilton for the title

Verstappen, who started on pole, was just unable to overtake the ground, but is expected to challenge Hamilton for the title

The Dutchman took advantage of the advantage but returned the place because he had left the track at the direction of the race management.

He came again and put pressure on Hamilton, but to no avail.

It was a brilliant ride for the Brit in a slightly slower car, a case of a man rising above the machine. It was his 96th victory.

Until then, the race was a game of chess with Hamilton leading twice after making his two stops ahead of his rival. In the end, Verstappen had 16 laps to win the Silver Arrow for him. Shod on hard tires 11 laps fresher than the World Champion, he pulled in for the kill before missing his moment.

Verstappen (in the background) even overtook Hamilton late, but dropped back after taking the position of the circuit

Verstappen (in the background) even overtook Hamilton late, but dropped back after taking the position of the circuit

Verstappen (in the background) even overtook Hamilton late, but dropped back after taking the position of the circuit

Valtteri Bottas secured last place on the podium, but finished well behind the top two after a hopeless pit stop

Valtteri Bottas secured last place on the podium, but finished well behind the top two after a hopeless pit stop

Valtteri Bottas secured last place on the podium, but finished well behind the top two after a hopeless pit stop

AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda stood out and dazzled in Bahrain to finish ninth and secure points on his F1 debut

AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda stood out and dazzled in Bahrain to finish ninth and secure points on his F1 debut

AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda stood out and dazzled in Bahrain to finish ninth and secure points on his F1 debut

Both Verstappen and Hamilton drove well, which offered a lot of hope for the coming season. The final runner-up, complaining of throttle problems early on, had superior speed and used it skillfully until the last act of the evening, when he was marginally second best.

Verstappen had started well from pole and after a safety car phase he planted his car in the middle of the race line to thwart any advance that Hamilton tried from behind.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas finished third, far from the top two.

Nikita Mazepin stormed away on the first lap and lost control of his Haas, but the Russian was unharmed. Mick Schumacher also ran the same machine, but stayed 16th and last on his debut.

Fernando Alonso, who returned to the sport at the age of 39, retired from the race when his Alpine’s brakes failed him.

Sebastian Vettel, on his maiden drive for Aston Martin, was in the wars and damaged his front wing in a collision with Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine.

Fernando Alonso made his F1 comeback, but saw the opportunity cruelly cut short with a suspected brake failure in his Alpine

Fernando Alonso made his F1 comeback, but saw the opportunity cruelly cut short with a suspected brake failure in his Alpine

Fernando Alonso made his F1 comeback, but saw the opportunity cruelly cut short with a suspected brake failure in his Alpine

Hamilton celebrated his first win of the year when fireworks exploded to light the touch paper for his quest for F1 history

Hamilton celebrated his first win of the year when fireworks exploded to light the touch paper for his quest for F1 history

Hamilton celebrated his first win of the year when fireworks exploded to light the touch paper for his quest for F1 history

The race winner, in search of a record-breaking eighth world title, was embraced by his Mercedes colleagues after his victory

The race winner, in search of a record-breaking eighth world title, was embraced by his Mercedes colleagues after his victory

The race winner, in search of a record-breaking eighth world title, was embraced by his Mercedes colleagues after his victory

Relive every high-octane twist and turn of the Bahrain GP with Sportsmail‘s DANIEL DAVIS below …

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