(SATSports) – Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix for Mercedes on Sunday after an epic, knife-edge battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen over the final laps.
Verstappen, who passed the Briton with four laps to go only to have to hand back the lead for exceeding track limits, finished a mere 0.745 seconds behind after starting on pole position.
“Max was all over me right at the end, but I just about managed to hold him off. It was one of the hardest races I’ve had for a while,” said Hamilton, who started second on the grid and took another of Michael Schumacher’s all-time records with his 5,112nd race lap led.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was a distant third but gained a bonus point for fastest lap.
Max Verstappen driving the (#33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda leads the field at the start of F1 Bahrain Grand Prix in Bahrain, March 28, 2021. /CFP
White lines saved Hamilton, says Mercedes boss
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff said “track limits won the race for us” after the race.
Wolff praised his team for their strategy to help set up a sublime triumphant drive from the Hamilton – but gave credit to a set of white lines at Turn Four.
With three laps remaining, Max Verstappen ran beyond track limits as he passed Hamilton to take the lead, but on the instructions of the race director had to hand back the place immediately.
Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix in Bahrain, March 28, 2021. /CFP
Hamilton held the lead and did not give Verstappen another chance as the pair provided a thrilling finale with the champion winning by seven-tenths of a second.
“Max made a tiny mistake there and he had to give the position back,” said Wolff. “We were told suddenly during the race that track limits were imposed – and that is what won us the race today.”
“If he (Verstappen) hadn’t made a mistake he would have won the race,” said Hamilton. “I had to really keep my head and mind set in the car and to make no mistakes.”
Chinese racer Zhou Guanyu hoists his trophy after winning the F2 Feature Race in Bahrain, March 28, 2021. /CFP
China’s Zhou Guanyu wins maiden F2 Feature Race victory
Chinese racer Zhou Guanyu started from pole position and earned his maiden Feature Race victory of Formula 2 at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday.
Zhou took the first pole of the year by just 0.003s on Friday. He was later reprimanded for taking the checkered flag twice after the session but remained the pole sitter.
“The victory is for everyone who has been supporting me,” Zhou wrote on his page on the Chinese social media Weibo. “This is a long and tough journey but I will keep at it and push my limits until I reach the top.”
Starting on hard tires, the Alpine junior was overtaken on the first corner by Christian Lundgaard and dropped to fifth place. Zhou narrowed the gap after he switched to soft tires and claimed the lead on turn four with only five laps remaining.
“What a race,” Zhou said on the podium. “We kept our heads cool even though with the safety car people were able to jump ahead. I just took my chances to move forward! Just so happy!”