Max Verstappen pipped by Lewis Hamilton in F1 season-opener
Red Bull's Verstappen pipped to season-opening Bahrain GP by Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton produced another stunning demonstration of his supreme racing talent yesterday to resist a charging Max Verstappen and win a thrilling season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
The seven-time champion defended with supreme skill over the closing laps in his Mercedes to hold off the Red Bull driver and claim a record-stretching 96th Formula One victory.
Hamilton came home seven-tenths of a second ahead of the Dutchman, who was forced to hand back the race lead in the closing laps after passing the champion with a move that had taken him off the track and beyond the limits.
As expected, Hamilton and his heir apparent delivered an exhilarating exhibition of racing as they stormed to the flag - the pair leaving third-placed Valtteri Bottas, in the second Mercedes, to finish adrift by 37 seconds.
It was Hamilton's first season-opening triumph since 2015 and surprised many observers after Red Bull had dominated pre-season testing and two days of practice and qualifying ahead of the race.
"Firstly, can I just say it's the first time I've seen fans in a long time," said a delighted Hamilton.
"What a difficult race that was - stopping early we knew it was going to be tough, but we had to cover Max and it was always going to take something pretty special to do it.
"Max was all over me right at the end, but just managed to hold him off, one of the most difficult races I have had for a while."
A disappointed Verstappen said: "Of course, it's a shame, but you also have to see the positives. We're putting the fight on to them, so it's great to start the year like that."
Lando Norris was fourth for McLaren ahead of Sergio Perez, who had started from the pit lane in the second Red Bull, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo, of McLaren.
Carlos Sainz was eighth for Ferrari ahead Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda of AlphaTauri and Aston Martin's Lance Stroll.
The race also saw Mick Schumacher make his F1 debut nine years after his father, seven-time champion Michael, retired.
Schumacher finished 16th, while his teammate, fellow rookie Nikita Mazepin's F1 race debut lasted just three corners before he crashed his Haas.
The Russian veered off into the barriers seconds after the start, with the new Aston Martin safety car deployed for the first time.
The 22-year-old had qualified last but started 18th after Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel collected a five-place grid penalty for failing to respect warning flags in Saturday's qualifying and dropped to the rear. Vettel finished 15th.
Perez, Red Bull's new Mexican driver, had started from the pit lane after his car stopped on the formation lap, forcing the others to go around one more time and reducing the race distance by one lap. - AFP, REUTERS
BAHRAIN GP RESULTS (Top 10)
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
1hr 32min 03.897sec
2. Max Verstappen(Red Bull)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
4. Lando Norris (McLaren)
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
6. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
8. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
9. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)