Bahrain GP: Verstappen cruises to victory as Alonso scores podium

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Max Verstappen cruised to a commanding victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix in the 2023 Formula 1 season opener.

The reigning world champion held onto the lead from pole position and was unchallenged, going on to take the win by 12 seconds ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

All eyes though were on Fernando Alonso, who produced some brilliant moves to claim third on his Aston Martin debut.

Race Review

Verstappen made a good start from pole as Leclerc got the jump on Perez up to second on a frantic run to Turn 1.

The Aston Martins and Mercedes' battled with Hamilton and Russell getting ahead of Alonso after being hit by teammate Lance Stroll at Turn 4 but continued without incident.

Verstappen then streaked away out front in the early laps as Leclerc kept Perez behind in third.

Alonso began to hassle the two Mercedes' ahead and passed Russell for P6 as tyre degradation proved higher than expected on the soft tyres.

In the pit-stop phase, Red Bull took a different route than most by keeping both drivers on soft tyres while most moved onto the hard compound.

Perez ran longer than most in the first stint as he tried to find a way passed Leclerc and Sainz was no threat to him in fourth.

Hamilton capitalised on an earlier stop to consolidate fifth but Alonso began to quickly close in on his former teammate.

McLaren had problems with both cars as Oscar Piastri retired with electronic issues. Lando Norris then dropped to the back of the field after an extra pit stop to re-fill the pneumatic pressure.

Red Bull's tyre strategy worked as Perez caught and passed Leclerc into Turn 1 for second, as Verstappen continued to stretch away in the lead.

Esteban Ocon had an eventful race for the wrong reasons with three penalties in the first 29 laps.

His first five-second penalty was for being out of position on the grid, then the team incorrectly served his initial penalty increasing it to 10 seconds.

Finally, the Frenchman was caught speeding in the pit lane during his first stop.

Hamilton triggered the second round of pit-stops as he tried to counter the pace of Alonso behind.

Stroll also stopped on the same lap as the Mercedes and used his fresher tyres to pass Russell up to seven as Aston unleashed their race pace.

Alonso waited four laps longer than Lewis to stop and emerged right behind the Mercedes as battle lines were drawn.

The Spaniard made a move into Turn 4 but Hamilton immediately re-passed on the exit. Fernando wasn't to be denied, however, as he pulled a great overtake into Turn 10 to get ahead.

A podium then came into view as Leclerc retired with a technical problem in the Ferrari, requiring a Virtual Safety Car.

Once cleared, the two-time world champion cruised up to the back of Sainz, who had simply no grip in the other Ferrari.

That was highlighted when Alonso hit the back of Carlos exiting Turn 4 before he eventually found a way through into Turn 11 to take third.

Ahead, it was much calmer as Verstappen cruised to a comfortable victory with Perez confirming a dominant Red Bull one-two.

Alonso enjoyed the final laps en route to third but Sainz was able to keep Hamilton behind in fourth and fifth.

Stroll held onto sixth, leading Russell in seventh and Bottas in a very solid eighth for Alfa Romeo.

Pierre Gasly came through from 20th on the grid to finish ninth for Alpine as Alex Albon clinched the final point in 10th.