MANAMA: Max Verstappen and Red Bull made a dream start to the Formula One season with a dominant one-two in Bahrain on Sunday (Mar 5) while Fernando Alonso joined the party with a podium on his Aston Martin debut.
Mexican Sergio Perez finished runner-up, a distant 11.9 seconds behind his double world champion team mate, as Red Bull celebrated their 10th win in 12 races stretching back to last July.
“Very lovely that, really good result. We had good race pace,” Verstappen told the team on his slowing down lap. “Very happy with that. Thank you guys.
“That’s exactly the start to the season we wanted and needed. A perfect one-two”.
As they celebrated and the night sky filled with fireworks, Ferrari were left licking their wounds again with Charles Leclerc sidelined by a loss of power while running in third place and Carlos Sainz then overtaken by Alonso.
Verstappen meanwhile cruised on untroubled from pole position.
It was the first time he had won in Bahrain and also the first time he had triumphed in a Formula One opener.
Leclerc had seized second place at the start from third on the grid and looked good for the podium until he slowed and pulled over 17 laps from the end, shouting “No, no, no! No power” over the team radio.
Veteran double world champion Alonso, in his 356th race, then passed Sainz with a thrilling wheel-to-wheel move 12 laps from the end.
“This is a lovely car to drive,” the 41-year-old Spaniard, the oldest driver in the race, told his jubilant team.
“To come here and finish on the podium in the first race of the year, it is amazing what Aston Martin did over the winter to have the second best car on race one. This is just unreal,” he told the crowd after the finish.
Seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes with Canadian Lance Stroll giving Aston Martin a bumper points haul with sixth.
It was a remarkable drive from the young Canadian, who broke both his wrists and big toe in a cycling accident in Spain two weeks ago.
George Russell was seventh for Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas eighth for Alfa Romeo and Pierre Gasly ninth on his Alpine debut after joining from AlphaTauri and starting the race in last position.
Alex Albon took the final point for a markedly more competitive-looking Williams.
Australian Oscar Piastri meanwhile retired 14 laps into his debut with his stricken McLaren wheeled into the team garage after suffering an apparent electronics issue.
The 21-year-old had complained of gearbox problems and mechanics swapped the steering wheel when he pitted but he could not restart.