Home Sport Here we go again, as Verstappen starts F1 season with victory in...

Here we go again, as Verstappen starts F1 season with victory in Bahrain

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The Dutch driver led every lap and took the chequered flag 22.457 seconds clear of Perez, as Red Bull repeated last year’s one-two and sent a clear message to rivals yearning for change.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen celebrates after winning the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Picture: REUTERS, Rula Rouhana

RED Bull’s Max Verstappen started his bid for a fourth successive Formula One title with a commanding Bahrain Grand Prix win from pole position, plus fastest lap, ahead of teammate Sergio Perez.

The Dutch driver led every lap and took the chequered flag 22.457 seconds clear of Perez, as Red Bull repeated last year’s one-two and sent a clear message to rivals yearning for change.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz completed the podium under the floodlights at the Sakhir circuit with teammate Charles Leclerc finishing fourth.

The win was Red Bull’s 114th since they arrived in F1 20 years ago, lifting the team level with former champions Williams as fourth equal in the all-time lists. Verstappen now has 55 career wins.

Verstappen, 26, has led the championship for 40 successive races dating back to May 2022 and is on an eight-race winning streak going back to Japan last September.

He looked even more dominant this year than last, when he beat Perez by 11.987 seconds but did not take the fastest lap. He ended up with 19 wins in 22 races last year.

“That was simply lovely. What a great race, great start to the year, guys. One-two as well. Fantastic!” said Verstappen over the team radio as he crossed the line on Saturday.

Mercedes’ George Russell was fifth with McLaren’s Lando Norris sixth.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton started ninth and finished seventh for Mercedes, with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri eighth, Fernando Alonso ninth for Aston Martin and teammate Lance Stroll 10th.

Meanwhile, before the race Christian Horner and his wife Geri Halliwell walked into the Bahrain Grand Prix paddock hand-in-hand yesterday in a public show of unity after the Red Bull F1 team boss was cleared of allegations of misconduct towards a female employee.

The 50-year-old Horner and former Spice Girls singer Halliwell looked poised as they made their way to Red Bull’s hospitality area, where they mingled with VIP guests in full view of photographers and television cameras.

Their appearance together at the season-opening race came after F1 media and key paddock figures received an anonymous email on Thursday containing a Google drive link to purported evidence submitted to the investigation.

Recipients included the president of the sport’s governing body, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, and F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali as well as rival team bosses.

A lengthy investigation carried out by an independent lawyer for the championship-winning team’s Austrian parent company, Red Bull GmbH, cleared Horner of the allegations on Wednesday.

Speaking on Thursday, after Horner was cleared but before the email was sent out, Mercedes and McLaren team bosses Toto Wolff and Zak Brown had called on F1’s governing body to push Red Bull for greater transparency about the investigation.

Ben Sulayem told the Financial Times that the controversy was damaging to the sport but that the body had no immediate plans to open its own investigation.

Horner met with Ben Sulayem and Domenicali in the paddock on Friday.

The Briton is the sport’s longest-serving team boss having led Red Bull into F1 in 2005.

Last year, he guided the Milton Keynes-based team to their sixth constructors’ title with 21 wins from 22 races in the most dominant campaign in the sport’s history.

Reuters

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