Verstappen scores dominant win, Alonso takes podium in dream start
Max Verstappen took a dominant victory in Bahrain ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, with Fernando Alonso scoring a dream Aston Martin podium on his team debut.
With the reigning champion only having to worry about a minor gear shifting issue partway through the race, the Red Bull man was unchallenged en route to a perfect start to his title defence.
Sergio Perez had lost second place at the start of the race, but managed to repass Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc midway through the race to put the Milton Keynes team in an impressive position.
Leclerc looked to be on course for settling for third place, but the SF-23 was struck by an unidentified power unit issue in the latter stages of the race.
That looked to hand third place to teammate Carlos Sainz the final podium position, but Alonso – whose pace on the final Hard tyre stint had already allowed him to pass Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton – triumphed in a late-race duel against his fellow countryman.
Hamilton took fifth place ahead of the the second Aston Martin Lance Stroll, who was fortunate to survive lap one unscathed after brushing Alonso’s AMR23 under braking for Turn 4.
Stroll managed to pass the second Mercedes of George Russell after the second round of pit stops to mark a solid return to the cockpit with P6. Russell took seventh place.
Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas put together a solid performance to finish at the head of the new midfield battle in P8.
Pierre Gasly also impressed with a recovery drive from last on the grid to take P9. He triumphed in a duel with Williams’ Alex Albon for the final points position, and picked up the extra Fastest Lap point after a late switch to Soft tyres during the Virtual Safety Car period for Leclerc’s stoppage.
Albon fended off a very late attack from AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda to claim the final point in a much-improved showing for last season’s backmarkers.
Esteban Ocon endured a bizarre race after picking up several penalties, with the team eventually deciding to retire the car.
McLaren endured a torrid start to the season, with Lando Norris having to pit multiple times to top up a pneumatic aspect of the power unit, and Oscar Piastri retiring in the first 15 laps after reporting that he “lost the gearbox”.