Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton returned to winning ways this evening in Bahrain. The seven-time F1 championship winner pipped Max Verstappen of Red Bull, who finished less than a second behind in the opening race of the F1 season.
Hamilton, who finished second in qualifying behind Verstappen the day, was able to pip his rival to the post when it mattered despite having a slower car with older tires.
Verstappen trailed Hamilton by nine seconds at the final pitstop but began to catch up with the seven-time winner.
Verstappen did overtake the Brit but had to give the lead back due to overtaking off the track. Using all his experience, Hamilton kept Verstappen at bay to hold on for the closing three laps.
Hamilton said the victory came in one of the toughest races he has had in recent memory.
“It’s going to take everything and more for us to put in performances like this, but we love the challenge. I love the challenge,” Hamilton said after the race.
“It was one of the hardest races I’ve had for a while.”
Rival Verstappen led for the opening 17 laps of the race but was caught out by Hamilton and Mercedes during the opening pitstop.
Mercedes decided to pit Hamilton and the car four laps earlier than their Red Bull counterpart when he was behind by one-and-a-half seconds.
On lap 18, the Dutchman trailed his rival by more than six seconds but was driving with a faster tyre compound.
Verstappen’s second pitstop came ten laps after Hamilton’s, with Red Bull believing that a faster car could catch Hamilton
.”Definitely stopping early, we knew was going to be difficult, but we had to cover Max,” Hamilton said.
Verstappen said he was disappointed to lose the season-opener after the race but was looking for the silver lining.
“It’s of course a shame but you also have to see the positive,” Verstappen said.
“We are really putting the fight onto [Mercedes], and I think that’s great to start the year like that.”
The next race will be at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in San Marino on Sunday the 18 Apr, at 14:00. Verstappen will be looking to make amends and go one further.