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Bahrain GP: Max Verstappen dominates opening 2024 F1 race as Sergio Perez seals Red Bull one-two

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen led the Bahrain Grand Prix from start to finish in a dominant display; Sergio Perez claimed second to seal a Red Bull one-two; Carlos Sainz outperformed Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc to claim final podium spot

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Highlights of the F1 2024 season opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen began his defence of the Formula 1 world championship by leading team-mate Sergio Perez in a dominant Red Bull one-two at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Dutchman, who is seeking a fourth successive drivers' title, fended off Ferrari's Charles Leclerc from pole at the first corner before building an advantage that he never looked like relinquishing at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Verstappen led the entire race and claimed an extra point for setting the fastest lap as he finished 22 seconds clear of Perez, who delivered a strong drive from fifth on the grid.

Outgoing Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, who will be replaced by Lewis Hamilton at the Italian team next season, produced a strong drive to take the final podium spot.

Sainz outperformed and finished ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc, who struggled with brake issues as he dropped back from second on the grid before salvaging fourth by passing Mercedes' George Russell 10 laps from the end.

Lando Norris held off the other Mercedes of Hamilton for sixth, with the Brit's McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri finishing eighth.

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The Ferrari team-mates go wheel to wheel racing as Carlos Sainz overtakes a struggling Charles Leclerc for fourth

Aston Martin rounded out the top 10 as Fernando Alonso led home team-mate Lance Stroll, with all 20 cars finishing the opening race in an impressive all-round show of reliability.

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After delivering the most dominant season in the sport's history in 2023, Verstappen's victory extends his winning streak from the end of last year to eight races.

The nature of Red Bull's display strengthens pre-season predictions that the reigning constructors' champions are likely to continue the sort of dominance that saw them win 21 of 22 races last year.

However, the unique nature of the challenging surface in Bahrain will give rivals hope that they can provide a sterner challenge at next weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the vastly different Jeddah street circuit.

Bahrain GP result: Top 10

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
3) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5) George Russell, Mercedes
6) Lando Norris, McLaren
7) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
8) Oscar Piastri, McLaren
9) Fernando Alonso, Aston
10) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin

Verstappen picks up where he left off

Despite Ferrari having pushed Red Bull close in Friday's qualifying as Verstappen edged Leclerc for pole, there was a suspicion that the Dutchman's advantage on race day would be far more significant.

Once he held off Leclerc by immediately pulling across to cover off the inside line on the run to the first corner, those suspicions were quickly confirmed.

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Max Verstappen holds off Charles Leclerc on the opening lap of the Barhain Grand Prix as Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg tag in chaotic start

F1's new rules to allow the DRS overtaking aid to be activated at the start of lap two, rather than lap three, made little difference as Verstappen was swiftly out of the one-second activation zone.

Despite having expressed his unhappiness at the performance of the RB20 during Thursday's practice sessions, it was rapidly clear that chief technical director Adrian Newey has designed another hugely impressive car.

Perez, who passed Sainz for fourth at the start, was able to quickly overtake the other Ferrari of Leclerc on lap seven, and then Russell shortly after the first round of pit stops.

As Perez worked his way forward, Verstappen cruised in front and ran several laps longer than the other front-runners, enabling him to open up a lead when he had fresher tyres during the second stint.

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Max Verstappen continues where he left off from last season to pick up the first win of the 2024 season, followed by Sergio Perez in second and Carlos Sainz in third at the Bahrain Grand Prix

As was the case throughout most of last season, Perez was unable to stay with his team-mate, as Verstappen had eased 22 seconds into the distance by the chequered flag.

The Mexican, who is fighting to extend his Red Bull career as he begins the final season of his current contract, had enough pace to hold off Sainz by 2.5s for second.

Sainz starts final Ferrari season with statement drive

Formula 1's off season was dominated by news of Hamilton's blockbuster switch to Ferrari, which has created challenging dynamics for both the Italian team and Mercedes during 2024.

With Sainz's main goal now to put himself in the shop window for 2025, the Spaniard twice overtook Leclerc, with the first pass producing a thrilling battle that very nearly resulted in contact between the two Ferraris.

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Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez take a closer look at Ferrari's close battle in the cool-down room

After twice passing Leclerc either side of the first round of pit stops, Sainz then eased past Russell and from there on looked more likely to catch Perez for second than to be challenged from behind.

A frustrated Leclerc complained throughout the race about braking issues as he repeatedly locked up throughout the first two stints, before finally finding some performance in the final stages to pass Russell.

Having started third, Russell had passed Leclerc for second in the opening stages but lost performance as he struggled with an overheating engine.

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Yuki Tsunoda was left fuming on the team radio at RB after team orders saw Daniel Ricciardo swap positions to take on Kevin Magnussen

Norris, who was Verstappen's most consistent challenger in the second half of 2023, endured a relatively lonely race as he claimed sixth.

Hamilton, who said he had sacrificed one-lap speed for race pace after only qualifying ninth, was unable to make major inroads but did leapfrog Piastri during the second round of pit stops to take seventh.

In a subdued finish to the race, the only late drama came as Yuki Tsunoda became frustrated after being instructed to let RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo through for P14.

What the top three said

Max Verstappen, Red Bull - 1st: "Unbelievable. I think today went even better than expected. I think the car was really nice to drive on every compound.

"I think we had a lot of pace and it was just super enjoyable to drive today. We stayed out of trouble and it's a great start of the year, it couldn't have been better.

"It was a lot of fun and I felt really good in the car. It's always very special to have these kind of days because they don't happen that often where it all goes perfect and you are at one with the car."

Sergio Perez, Red Bull - 2nd: "I think it was the maximum we could have achieved.

"It was quite a tricky race with the management of the tyres, there's plenty we will learn from tonight's race which will be important for the championship.

"But overall it's a great wat to start the season.

"It was really [tyre] compound to compound the amount of sliding we were having. We were having some issues with the engine braking, the driveability, which is not easy around here.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari - 3rd: "I think it was a very good race after a tricky start. I settled into my pace and knew I had good race pace from testing and settled into my rhythm.

"I started overtaking cars, kept it up with Checo which wasn't easy because the Red Bulls had really good pace and a good strategy with the new soft. But, very happy and an encouraging start.

"I'm going to overtake when I have a chance and be safe and clean like it was today, especially when I have good pace and could extend my first stop, so I could create a tyre advantage for myself.

"The overtaking was always clean, tidy and safe which is the way I like to go racing."

Bahrain GP Race Result

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:31:44.742
2) Sergio Perez Red Bull +22.457
3) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +25.110
4) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +39.669
5) George Russell Mercedes +46.788
6) Lando Norris McLaren +48.458
7) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +50.324
8) Oscar Piastri McLaren +56.082
9) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +1:14.887
10) Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1:33.216
11) Zhou Guanyu Sauber +1 lap
12) Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
13) Daniel Ricciardo RB +1 lap
14) Yuki Tsunoda RB +1 lap
15) Alex Albon Williams +1 lap
16) Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1 lap
17) Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap
18) Pierre Gasly Alpine +1 lap
19) Valtteri Bottas Sauber +1 lap
20) Logan Sargeant Williams +2 laps

Watch the second round of the new F1 season - the Saudi Arabian GP - live on Sky Sports F1 this coming week, with practice on Thursday, qualifying on Friday and the race at 5pm on Saturday. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership - just £21 a month for 12 months. No contract, cancel anytime

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