Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton beats Verstappen

Mercedes ran a different strategy with Hamilton that gained him the lead after he undercut Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the first round of stops. But Red Bull didn’t react, running a medium-medium-hard tyre strategy to Hamilton’s medium-hard-hard that looked to swing back in its favour in the second half of the race. Verstappen had to pass Hamilton on track in his final stint, the race climaxing with an on-track fight in the closing laps.

Despite getting ahead with four laps to go, Verstappen was told to hand the place back to Hamilton as he briefly leaving the track as he passed him. After that, Max was unable to get ahead again and Lewis hung on for a fine victory.

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After an aborted start for teammate Sergio Perez grinding to a halt on the formation lap, Verstappen led from pole position, chopping across Hamilton’s nose. Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin crashed out at Turn 3, bringing out the safety car but not before Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who started on the soft tyre as opposed to those in front, jumped ahead of Bottas at the exit of Turn 4 to snatch third.

Verstappen backed up the pack for the restart but held on from Hamilton and Leclerc. Pierre Gasly lost his AlphaTauri’s front wing after clipping Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren at Turn 5, while Mick Schumacher spun his Haas at Turn 4 and continued, all of which caused a brief virtual safety car to clear the track.

Verstappen got out of Hamilton’s DRS range by Lap 5, as Bottas reclaimed third from Leclerc using DRS. McLaren’s Lando Norris further demoted Leclerc on Lap 9. Alpine’s Fernando Alonso triggered the pitstop cycle, undercutting past Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, but paid the price later as he tumbled down the order.

In the lead battle, Hamilton pitted first, switching to hards (as he didn’t have any new mediums) but Verstappen stayed out as Hamilton reeled off a sequence of fastest laps. Four laps later, Verstappen suffered a slow stop on Lap 17, rejoining 7s behind Hamilton but on fresh medium tyres. He took his time in closing the gap, and was within 2s when Hamilton pitted again on Lap 29 for a new set of hard tyres to avoid being undercut himself.

Verstappen made his final stop with 16 laps to go, switching to fresh hard tyres and rejoining with a 8.5s deficit. He closed that gap down slowly, careful not to overheat his tyres, while Hamilton drove brilliantly on his 10-laps older rubber. As the laps ticked down, Verstappen got into DRS range with five laps to go.

Verstappen passed Hamilton at Turn 4 with four laps to go, but he passed him off the track at the exit and handed Hamilton the position back. After a slide, Verstappen fell out of DRS range, but got it back starting the final lap. But Hamilton held on for a brilliant win.

Bottas suffered a horrendously slow 10.9s second pitstop, but it didn’t cost him any positions such was the Red Bull/Mercedes advantage. Norris finished fourth, ahead of Perez, whose epic comeback netted him fifth. Leclerc finished sixth from Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, AlphaTauri’s rookie Yuki Tsunoda and Stroll.

Alonso retired on Lap 34 with a rear brake failure.

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix race results

2021 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix fastest laps

2021 Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix tyre history

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