Verstappen leads Red Bull 2-1 at Bahrain GP as Alonso secures 99th career F1 podium

New season, another win. Max Verstappen won Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix from pole position and led most of the race as he began defending his consecutive Formula One titles.

Red Bull also secured a dominant 2-1 win, with Sergio Perez finishing 12 seconds back in second place, while 41-year-old Fernando Alonso took a brilliant third place in a stunning racing debut for Aston Martin – and the 99th place. podium of his career.

“What have you done, folks? What have you done?” a jubilant Alonso said to his team. “I’m so proud of you guys.”

Alonso’s teammate, Canadian Lance Stroll, finished sixth after missing preseason testing with an injury he sustained in a cycling accident that required minor surgery on his right wrist.

Alonso’s fans are already calling this season ‘Mission 33’ – in hopes of the Spanish rider winning a 33rd career race. His last win was with Ferrari 10 years ago.

Alonso, who joined after a bitter split with Alpine, clenched his fist at the finish line and then hugged his race crew.

“To be on the podium in the first race of the year is just amazing,” said Alonso. “What Aston Martin did over the winter to have the second best car in the first race is just unreal.”

Alonso believes he can win a race this season.

“I would say yes if you are P3 in the first race,” he said. “Anything can happen in 22 races with different conditions.”

It was Verstappen’s 36th career win but the Dutchman’s first at the floodlit circuit of Sakhir, where he retired just laps from the end in last year’s opening race.

“That was exactly the start of the season that we needed,” said Verstappen, who gave up three of his first four career races in Bahrain. “I’m really happy to finally win a race here.”

Both Red Bulls did not finish here in 2022.

“Our best start ever, very different from last year,” said Perez. “I feel comfortable with the car.”

This time it was Charles Leclerc who, after last year’s win, retired on lap 41 of 57 when his Ferrari lost power.

“No, no, no, no,” Leclerc pleaded over his radio as his car slowed to a halt. Ferrari had changed an engine battery before the race, but that didn’t stop Leclerc from getting off to a dismal start to 2022 after such a frustrating season.

“There was just no strength left. It’s a shame because you have to maximize points on these weekends,” said Leclerc. “Unfortunately we took a step back and Red Bull is on another planet. Third place was the best we could have hoped for.”

Leclerc’s retirement sparked panic at Ferrari and Carlos Sainz Jr didn’t even bother to defend against Alonso – probably out of concern he might lose power himself – and Alonso overtook him with 11 laps to go.

Sainz finished fourth ahead of seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton in fifth, ahead of Stroll in sixth.

Alonso and Stroll clashed at the start as Alonso dropped a few places, but they were all smiling at the end of an outstanding day for Aston Martin.

“Congratulations to my teammate Lance; he had an operation 12 days ago,” said Alonso. “He fights so great for the team with everyone, it’s been great.”

“It was our lucky day”

Alonso thought he touched cars featuring George Russell’s Mercedes.

“I thought it was George, but in the replay I saw it was Lance,” Alonso said. “It was our lucky day, from that contact to and until [score] very strong points.”

Russell finished seventh for Mercedes.

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly – starting from the back – and Williams driver Alex Albon rounded out the top 10.

Verstappen started from pole with Perez at his side. Leclerc and Sainz were on the second row while 41-year-old Alonso started fifth.

Logan Sargeant, the first American driver on the grid since 2015, finished 12th after starting from 16th.

Ocon scored with 3 penalties

It was a day to forget for Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who was hit with three time penalties totaling 20 seconds and finished 18th.

Leclerc bet on saving a set of new tires for the race in qualifying and immediately jumped in front of Perez, who was holding Sainz back.

Alonso was a threat to Ferrari and Mercedes, both of whom made tactical tire stops in anticipation of what the two-time F1 champion might do with the best race car in the business.

This helped Stroll, who used the undercut perfectly to pass Russell as he came out of the pits after his second tire change.

As Verstappen cruised, the action heated up behind.

Alonso passed Hamilton on lap 37 but then slid wide as Hamilton regained position. Alonso tried again on the next lap and overtook him, attacking on the outside and then quickly diving inside in a classic move.

It could be one of many exciting moves in a season where Alonso could have a car fast enough to do justice to his talents.

The next indicator of this will be seen at the Saudi Arabian GP on March 19, where there are more long straights, high-speed corners and less tire wear.

“I think the most important point is that the Aston Martin is a new car, a new project,” said Alonso. “That’s just the beginning.

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