Max Verstappen strolls to Bahrain Grand Prix win and looks cert to retain title after ONE race as Alonso gets third | The Sun

Max Verstappen strolls to Bahrain Grand Prix win and looks cert to retain title after ONE race as Alonso gets third | The Sun

MAX VERSTAPPEN kicked off his F1 title defence with a routine win here in Bahrain.

The Red Bull man cruised to victory ahead of his team-mate Sergio Perez, who was second, as the 2023 season got off to a familiar start.

Red Bull looked supreme once again while Ferrari suffered reliability problems that forced Charles Leclerc to retire. And Mercedes were again off the pace.

It had an all-too familiar feel as Lewis Hamilton was fifth – the only new element being an impressive performance from Aston Martin duo Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.

Two-time world champion Alonso battled with Hamilton on lap 38 with the Spaniard getting past the Brit with an excellent piece of driving through turns nine and 10.

Alonso then swooped past Carlos Sainz on lap 45, to take a place on the podium for the first time since the 2021 Qatar GP.

It was vintage from Alonso, who had looked impressive over the whole weekend while Stroll, who had broken his wrist only two weeks earlier, was sixth.

The Aston form will pile the woe on Mercedes, as they were beaten by their customer team.

Merc boss Toto Wolff bizarrely admitted the team had made a mistake for the second year running with the design of their racecar – a huge error that could have serious ramifications if Hamilton decided not to re-sign with the team.

But while Mercedes were off the pace, Ferrari will be concerned by Leclerc's engine failure that cost him a place on the podium.

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The situation is even more bleak for McLaren. Oscar Piastri was forced to retire on his debut GP with a gearbox problem.

After all the build up for the Australian he was told to pull into the pits after only 13 laps.

Team-mate Lando Norris did not do much better. Despite finishing the race, he came home in last place after stopping SIX TIMES.

It is a worrying start to the season for the Woking-based team, who had warned that they had failed to hit the targets they had set themselves over the winter.

Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon had a shocker. He was penalised for being out of position on the startline.

He then failed to serve the five-second time penalty correctly, triggering another sanction.

And in making his pitstop, he was penalised for speeding in the pitlane before eventually retiring from the race.

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