The tone is set: the reigning double world champion Max Verstappen, given favorite to his own succession this season, won with style at the Bahrain Grand Prix, the inaugural round of the year in Formula 1, ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso.
At 41, the Spaniard climbs on the podium for his first race with Aston Martin. “Finishing on the podium for the first race of the year is incredible,” reacted the double world champion in the discipline (2005, 2006).
Starting from pole position at nightfall and in a newfound freshness (it was still 27 degrees at the start), the Dutchman dominated the race head and shoulders, leaving no chance for the competition.
Starting with Ferrari, expected this season as the main rival of the overpowered Red Bull but which, on the Sakhir route, has not chased away its bad demons…
Due to a mechanical problem, like those which had prevented him from competing with Red Bull last season, the vice-world champion Charles Leclerc had to give up in the last third of the race.
“There was no more power so it’s a shame because it’s really in these weekends that we have to maximize the points”, regretted the pilot in statements to Canal +, while a third place on the podium seemed to be promised to him.
Last year, on this same circuit, Max Verstappen, then second behind Leclerc and Ferrari, suffered the same fate due to a technical problem at the end of the GP.
“Mad Max” wins for the first time in his career in Bahrain. It is also the first time that he has won the first round of the season in F1.
– Aston Martin impresses –
However, Ferrari manages to save the day thanks to the 4th place of the Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who fails at the foot of the podium after losing 3rd place to Alonso.
Aston Martin, expected as the outsider of this season after causing a sensation during pre-season testing, then those of the GP earlier this weekend thanks in particular to Alonso, places its second driver, the Canadian Lance Stroll, 6th, between the Mercedes of the British Lewis Hamilton, 5th and George Russell, 7th.
“Congratulations to Lance, operated twelve days ago and now fighting with everyone,” said Alonso on arrival. Indeed, Stroll was uncertain until the day before the GP due to a broken wrist, which incidentally caused him to miss pre-season testing at the end of February.
Things had however started badly for the duo when the lights went out: fifth on the grid, Alonso barely avoided a collision with Stroll, losing two positions to the benefit of the Mercedes who were following him.
But the Spaniard managed to catch up, quickly regaining a position from Russell before struggling shortly after halfway with Hamilton for 5th place, then for 3rd position (after Leclerc’s retirement) with Sainz.
“We were hoping to start ahead of them (the Mercedes) in the race but we didn’t have the best start so we had to pass them, it brought more adrenaline,” explained the grid veteran. “I hope people liked it, I liked it,” he smiled.
Finn Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo), Frenchman Pierre Gasly, up from 20th and last place on the grid for his first GP with Alpine, and Thai Alexander Albon (Williams), complete the Top 10.
The other Alpine, that of Esteban Ocon, threw in the towel about fifteen laps from the finish, after having accumulated no less than three penalties in the race.
“Normally we are quite good in everything that is operational, so it’s a bit crazy to have had all his troubles”, regretted the N.31 of the grid.