SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — New season, another victory. Max Verstappen began his back-to-back F1 title defense by winning from his position on pole at his season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, leading nearly the entire race.
Red Bull also dominated, with Sergio Perez finishing second and 41-year-old Fernando Alonso scoring an impressive third place to claim his 99th podium.
“I’m so proud of you guys,” a jubilant Alonso told his team.
It was Verstappen’s 36th win of his career, but his first at the flood-lit Sakhir circuit, where he retired just a few laps after last year’s opening round.
“It was exactly the start of the season we needed,” said Verstappen.
This time, last year’s winner Charles Leclerc retired on lap 41 of 57 when Ferrari lost power.
“No, no, no, no,” Leclerc pleaded over the radio, and the car slowed to a halt. Ferrari replaced the engine battery before the race, but that did nothing to stop Leclerc from having a disastrous start the following year. Such a frustrating season in 2022.
“We couldn’t have been stronger. It’s a shame because it’s a weekend where we have to maximize the points,” said Leclerc. The third was the best result we could have hoped for. ”
Leclerc’s retirement caused panic at Ferrari, with Carlos Sainz Jr. unwilling to defend Alonso, perhaps worried he would lose power himself, and Aston Martin passing him with 11 laps to go.
Sainz finished fourth, seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton finished fifth and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll sixth. Hamilton’s teammate George Russell was seventh in his Mercedes.
Logan Sargentwas the first American driver to line up on the grid since 2015, finishing 12th after starting 16th.
Stroll’s performance was impressive Minor surgery on right wrist.