F1 2021: Hamilton holds off Verstappen to claim thrilling Bahrain win

By Sports Desk March 28, 2021

Lewis Hamilton clung on to survive a late attack from Max Verstappen to begin his Formula One title defence with a dramatic victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Verstappen's Red Bull had the edge in speed over Hamilton's Mercedes for the entirety of the race weekend but, after a frenetic stop-start opening to the race gave way to a strategic battle between the teams expected to compete at the front of the grid this season, it was the Briton who found himself taking the chequered flag.

Having emerged from his final pit stop nearly nine seconds behind Hamilton, pole-sitter Verstappen looked to have made the crucial overtake with four laps remaining.

But he was forced to give the place back having gone beyond the track limits to get past Hamilton, and Verstappen could not find an opportunity with which to make the decisive move for a second time, Red Bull left frustrated as the seven-time champion claimed his first season-opening win since 2015.

Related items

  • Ricciardo: Signs are pointing to 2024 Formula One return Ricciardo: Signs are pointing to 2024 Formula One return

    Daniel Ricciardo believes he will return to the Formula One grid for the 2024 season after a year-long absence.

    The Australian departed McLaren at the end of the 2022 campaign and did not take a seat on the grid for 2023, instead returning to Red Bull in a reserve driver capacity.

    Just three months into his reduced role, which has allowed far more free time, Ricciardo feels he has got what he wanted out of the break and is now seeking a full-time return to F1.

    While it is not yet known what opportunities may emerge next year, Ricciardo is expecting to be back

    "The signs are pointing towards getting back on the grid. I feel like that's where I'm tracking in my head and a few of the habits that I'm having or doing is pointing towards that," he told reporters ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

    "It's only been a few months [out of F1] but I think some itches have been scratched, so to speak. I've actually weirdly found that the days that I've had no schedule are the days when I've actually done training, and I've done things like I would before.

    "So I don't know, being my own boss, writing my own schedule has actually brought out a lot of the things in me. When I thought I might just sit on the couch and watch movies all day and eat junk food, I'm just not. That's not me.

    "So even these things have made me realise how much I do care about it."

    However, Ricciardo will not change the stance he had ahead of the current season and will only accept a seat with a team capable of fighting at the front end of the grid.

    "I still am at a point where it's not at any cost, it's not just to be back on the grid," he added.

    "A lot of the reason for taking this year off was that I didn't want to just jump back into a car, any car just to be one of the F1 drivers. And I still don't see myself starting from scratch and rebuilding a career from ground zero and going at it for another decade.

    "I appreciate I might not have every opportunity under the sun, but I want to win. I want to be back with a top team and obviously a team where I have my confidence back and my mojo.

    "I think also that's where, maybe when I look back that's a weakness of mine, but in a way it's a strength as I feel better at the front of the grid. I feel like I perform in those situations with a bit more pressure and a bit more emphasis on a podium.

    "So, to go back and try to put myself in just any seat or something that's fighting at best for a top-10 finish, I don't think that's going to bring the best out of me. So yeah, I see myself, at least in my head, wanting to go back on the grid, but there's still some terms and conditions, so to speak."

  • Hamilton: Mercedes need entire F1 season to close gap on Red Bull Hamilton: Mercedes need entire F1 season to close gap on Red Bull

    Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes will require the rest of the Formula One campaign to get into a position where they can challenge early pacesetters Red Bull.

    Red Bull have started the 2023 season with back-to-back one-twos, with Max Verstappen triumphing at the Bahrain Grand Prix and Sergio Perez winning in Saudi Arabia last time out.

    Mercedes, meanwhile, sit third in the constructors' championship having started a second consecutive year off the pace, with Hamilton posting successive fifth-place finishes.

    Speaking ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton was pessimistic about his team's chances of matching Red Bull in the short term.

    "It is going to take us the rest of the year to potentially close that gap," the seven-time world champion said.

    "If you look at the Red Bull, it is just going to continue to evolve most likely. Some cars do plateau in terms of performance. At some point it can't just keep going. But maybe it can.

    "They have a great team around them and I am sure they will continue to add downforce.

    "We just have to make sure when we do make the change, hopefully the drop isn't too far, and it is going to take us the rest of the year, for sure, to potentially close that gap."

    Hamilton has been outspoken in his criticism of Mercedes' troubled W14 car, which the team plan to make major alterations to just two races into the season.

    Expanding on the car's issues, Hamilton said: "I don't know if people know, but we sit closer to the front wheels than all the other drivers. Our cockpit is too close to the front.

    "What that does is it really changes the attitude of the car and how you perceive its movement. It makes it harder to predict compared to when you're further back and sitting more centred. It is just something I have really struggled with.

    "There is a part of me that is just hopeful we find the trick and are straight on to the right track that is not far away from the others."

  • 'It was like I was missing a lung' – Verstappen reveals sapping illness hit Saudi hopes as champion eyes F1 break 'It was like I was missing a lung' – Verstappen reveals sapping illness hit Saudi hopes as champion eyes F1 break

    Max Verstappen is relieved there is a break in the Formula One calendar coming up as the drivers' champion battles back from an illness that left him feeling as thought one lung was incapacitated.

    The Red Bull driver, seeking a third consecutive title this season, was left stricken ahead of the last race in Saudi Arabia and only just hauled himself together to be able to compete.

    In the end, he pulled out something special, finishing second after starting in 15th place on the grid, having dropped out in Q2 due to a mechanical failure.

    Verstappen also retained his place at the top of the drivers' season standings by recording the race's fastest lap right at the death, so he leads the way heading into this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

    After competing in Melbourne, there will be a break before F1 resumes in Azerbaijan across the April 28-30 weekend, a gap that was created by the cancellation of a planned race in China.

    Three clear weeks without competition should allow Verstappen to get back on an even keel, although he signalled the worst of the illness has already passed.

    "I was not looking forward to the break, but then I got really ill and have just been struggling a bit since that time, especially last race out," Verstappen said.

    "So I think for me now these three weeks are just about getting back to full fitness, getting a full programme in."

    Reflecting on his tough experience prior to racing in Jeddah two weeks ago, Verstappen said: "At home I was really ill, I could barely just walk around. It felt like I was just missing a lung, and I got to the weekend really believing that it was gone.

    "Normally when you get sick like two, three days after, you’re normally all right – you can just do your workouts – but then when I jumped into the car in FP1, even just one performance lap, I felt like I had to recover for two laps to be able to breathe normally."

    He added: "It definitely did affect me throughout the weekend, which I didn't like. It was one of the first races where I felt I was physically limited, and that's really frustrating when you're in the car.

    "Since then I've been trying to work on it, trying to improve it, and I do think it has improved a lot, so this weekend should be all right."

    Verstappen has yet to have a win at the Australian Grand Prix, with third place in 2019 being his best finish to date.

    The 2020 and 2021 editions were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and last year Verstappen retired from the race at Albert Park as Charles Leclerc claimed a dominant victory for Ferrari.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.