After 105 days, Formula 1 returned for the Bahrain Grand Prix to open the 2021 season. With news faces on new teams, this was a crucial race for drivers to make a good first impression for their teams. The season started in grand fashion as Lewis Hamilton defeated Max Verstappen in an epic duel to win the season-opening race at Bahrain.
Before the start of the race, Sergio Perez in his debut for Red Bull Racing stalled out on the formation lap, forcing him to pit and start out in the rear next to Sebastian Vettel, who had to drop to the rear after not slowing down under yellow during Q1 for his first race for Aston Martin.
Max Verstappen started out on pole after defeating Mercedes in Q3, looking to pick up a race win to start the season as Red Bull attempts to end Mercedes’ run of seven-consecutive constructor’s titles. He raced out to the lead but reported issues that have lingered over the course of the race. Also, AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, who started fifth, lost his front wing a few laps into the race.
Haas has made the bold decision heading into the season to start two rookies on the 2021 starting grid. It started very rocky for them as Nikita Mazepin crashed out of the race on lap one and a few laps later, Mick Schumacher spun off the track, dropping him to 19th place.
McLaren and Ferrari battled all race long with Charles Leclerc starting fourth, losing an intense battle to Lando Norris for fourth place around lap seven.
Pit strategy ended up changing the course of the race as Lewis Hamilton undercut Verstappen, who pitted a few laps after Hamilton by over six seconds. However, with Verstappen on the medium tires and Hamilton on the hard tires, Verstappen worked to slowly close the gap on the race leader.
On the second round of pit stops, Hamilton pitted first, taking hard tires. Disaster struck for the Mercedes pit crew as Bottas’ right tire would not come off on his pit stop, delaying Bottas for a 10.9-second stop. On lap 40, Verstappen pitted, coming out 8.8 seconds behind Hamilton on fresher tires, immediately giving chase to Hamilton.
On lap 43, as Hamilton led over Verstappen, he broke the F1 world record for most laps led of all time with 5,112 laps led.
Verstappen and Hamilton engaged in an epic duel over the final six laps of the race. On lap 56, Verstappen passed Hamilton but outside the track, forcing Verstappen to concede the lead back. Verstappen poured all of his DRS into battling Hamilton but just couldn’t get by Hamilton as he lost his pace. Hamilton held off Verstappen by over 0.7 seconds to win a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix. Bottas took soft tires with two laps remaining as the leaders were battling, taking third place and the fastest lap of the race.
Norris finished fourth. Perez finished fifth after another impressive drive at Bahrain, going from the last line all the way up to fifth place in his debut for Red Bull.
The Ferrari’s of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished sixth and eighth. Ricciardo finished seventh in his debut for McLaren while Yuki Tsunoda scored a ninth-place finish in his F1 debut for AlphaTauri. Stroll rounded out the top 10, meaning Aston Martin and Alpine scored a combined one point in their debuts as rebranded teams.
Formula 1 will return in three weeks for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.