Bahrain Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc wins and Lewis Hamilton third after dramatic finish

F1 preview: A lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc won the first race of the new Formula One season by taking the chequered flag at the end of a hugely dramatic Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. The Ferrari driver held his lead on the first lap and kept Max Verstappen at arm’s length on a number of occasions before both Red Bull drivers were forced to retire with reliability issues during the final few laps at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Verstappen came close to overtaking Leclerc after making his first pit stop of the day but eventually locked up at the end of an exciting three-lap battle for the lead. The Dutchman struggled to keep his tyres under control for the duration of the contest and was ultimately forced into an early bath due to an apparent fuel pump issue before Sergio Perez became the second Red Bull driver to retire when he spun out on the final lap.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton defied all odds to register an incredible podium finish for Mercedes, who had been struggling to keep up with their Constructors’ Championship rivals for the vast majority of the weekend. The seven-time champion was gifted the chance to move up into third place when Perez lost control at the eleventh hour to cap off an action-packed day under the lights in Bahrain.

Recap Express Sport‘s live updates below.

JUST IN: Max Verstappen ‘won’t change’ despite Lewis Hamilton clashes

KEY EVENTS

  • Goodbye17:45
  • CHARLES LECLERC WINS!16:43
  • Perez out16:41
  • Verstappen retires16:38
  • Safety car16:20
  • Leclerc fends off Verstappen15:33
  • LIGHTS OUT! Leclerc holds the lead15:05
  • Today’s grid14:40
  • Good afternoon14:00
  • Goodbye

    That’s all we’ve got time for today.

    Thanks for joining us to follow this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix in what proved to be a hugely exciting start to the new F1 season.

    It seems as though it could finally be Ferrari’s year, with Charles Leclerc making an impressive early statement by taking the chequered flag ahead of Carlos Sainz.

    Red Bull will be desperate to hit back at the next available opportunity, though, after losing Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez to reliability issues during the closing stages of the race.

    We’ll be back with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in seven days’ time. See you then!

    Russell: I’m pretty pleased

    George Russell has also been speaking to Sky Sports F1 after securing a new career-best finish in his first outing as a full-time Mercedes driver.

    “We definitely thought we would be able to carve our way into the field, so I am pretty pleased,” he says.

    “We made a good start but we know our limitations. It was a difficult weekend with a great result, but we know we have a lot of work to do.

    “I don’t know if we will find the silver bullet soon. While we will find it, it will be a few races before we unlock the true pace of the car.”

    Mercedes ‘had too much drag’

    Toto Wolff has insisted that Mercedes still have plenty of work to do before next week’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in spite of Lewis Hamilton’s unlikely podium in Bahrain.

    “We were overwinged and had too much drag, mainly because we were lacking parts,” Wolff tells Sky Sports F1.

    “Hopefully we can remedy that, but we will also leave no stone unturned on improving the power unit as well.”

    Red Bull offer update

    It seems as though a fuel pump issue was responsible for ending Max Verstappen’s race before Sergio Perez suffered the same fate on the final lap…

    Full results

    Here’s the full rundown of today’s final order.

    Kevin Magnussen will be thrilled after securing a hugely impressive fifth-placed finish upon his return to Haas, while Guanyu Zhou should also be pleased after picking up a point on his F1 debut.

    Hamilton weighs in

    “I’m so happy to see them doing well again,” says Lewis Hamilton when quizzed on Ferrari’s dominance at the Bahrain International Circuit.

    “They’re such a historic epic team so it’s great to see Charles and Carlos up there.

    “This is really the best result we could have got. Of course it was unfortunate for the other two drivers but we did the best we could and we’re grateful for these points.”

    Sainz: Ferrari are back

    “Ferrari is back and it’s properly back,” adds Carlos Sainz.

    “We had a one-two and it’s where the team should be. The hard work is paying off and we are there.”

    The drivers speak

    Charles Leclerc is understandably thrilled after claiming the first victory of the new season and embraces his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz before speaking to Martin Brundle on Sky Sports F1.

    “I’m so happy,” he says. “The last two years have been extremely difficult for the team.

    “One-two today with Carlos, we couldn’t hope for better. It’s incredible to be back at the top.”

    CHARLES LECLERC WINS!

    Charles Leclerc crosses the line to register his first win since 2019 before Carlos Sainz completes a Ferrari one-two!

    Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will be thanking their lucky stars after coming home in third and fourth respectively.

    It was heartbreak for Red Bull in the end, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both retiring with unspecified problems during the final few laps.

    What a race to kick off the new campaign!

    Perez out

    What is happening to Red Bull?!

    Sergio Perez spins on the final lap to gift Lewis Hamilton a remarkable podium finish!

    Verstappen retires

    Max Verstappen slows down and is passed by Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell!

    The Dutchman is forced to limp into the pit lane to retire the car. It’s a nightmare start to the new season for the defending champion.

    Hamilton now has a real shot of making the podium if he can force his way around Perez, who also looks to be slower than before…

    Hamilton chasing Perez

    Lewis Hamilton is trying his best to catch up to Sergio Perez and now finds himself within DRS range of the Mexican.

    The seven-time champion would surely love to sneak into fourth place before the end of this race…

    Safety car ends – Leclerc stays ahead

    The safety car returns to the pit lane at the end of lap 50 and Charles Leclerc stays ahead of Max Verstappen, who is nearly overtaken by Carlos Sainz!

    The Ferrari driver still has plenty of work to do, though, with the entire field now on soft tyres.

    The top 10

    Haas could be on for a remarkable double-points finish if they manage to avoid dropping down the order when we get racing!

    1. Leclerc 2. Verstappen 3. Sainz 4. Perez 5. Hamilton 6. Russell 7. Magnussen 8. Bottas 9. Ocon 10. Schumacher

    Verstappen unhappy

    Max Verstappen appears to have a problem with his steering and is speaking to his race engineer in order to get to the bottom of the issue.

    However, the Dutchman is quickly told: “We are staying out, we don’t believe it’s a reliability concern at this stage and we’ll go through it a bit later.”

    It remains to be seen whether he will be able to get the jump on Charles Leclerc when the race is restarted.

    Each of the top six drivers have pitted for new tyres under the safety car.

    Safety car

    Pierre Gasly pulls over and jumps out of his car, which is on fire at the edge of the track.

    The safety car is deployed and Charles Leclerc, who still leads, is called in to the pit lane.

    10 laps to go…

    Red Bull drivers pit again

    Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have been called in for their third pit stops of the afternoon.

    Carlos Sainz responds by stopping for his own new set of boots and drops back down to third place.

    Could Red Bull’s decision change the trajectory of the race? Surely not…

    Verstappen dropping back

    Charles Leclerc finds himself 4.8 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen, who is struggling to keep up with the Ferrari ahead of him.

    Sergio Perez is beginning to close up to Carlos Sainz and could be within DRS range of the Spaniard over the next few laps.

    Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are still in their original starting positions, though, and will not be in with a chance of finishing on the podium as things stand.

    There are 15 laps to go…

    Sainz and Perez fit new tyres

    Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez are called into the pits to see Charles Leclerc retake the lead once again.

    Verstappen has been told that he is free to push his tyres but it remains to be see whether he will be able to catch up to Leclerc before the end of the race.

    Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton is warned by his race engineer after exceeding track limits at Turn Four.

    Leclerc pits

    Charles Leclerc responds by pitting at the end of the next lap and it’s a quick stop.

    He comes out in third place ahead of Verstappen, who is not at all happy!

    “That’s two times I’ve been taking it easy on the out lap when I could have easily got ahead, I’m never, ever doing it again,” he fumes.

    Verstappen stops for mediums

    Max Verstappen is called in for a new set of yellow-walled tyres and may be looking for another undercut on Charles Leclerc…

    Hamilton pits again

    Mercedes have decided not to risk the one-stop strategy with Lewis Hamilton, who pits for a fresh set of mediums before he is told not to push too hard on the out lap.

    Meanwhile, Max Verstappen is not happy with the state of his own tyres, telling his engineer via team radio: “They’re almost dead again.”

    Halfway point

    We’re on lap 28 of 57 and your top 10 is as follows…

    1. Leclerc 2. Verstappen 3. Sainz 4. Perez 5. Hamilton 6. Russell 7. Magnussen 8. Gasly 9. Ocon 10. Tsunoda

    Mercedes looking to gamble?

    Lewis Hamilton is 23 seconds adrift of Charles Leclerc and looks to be dropping further back with each lap.

    However, the 37-year-old and George Russell are the only drivers currently running hard tyres, which suggests that they may be trying a one-stop strategy.

    It remains to be seen whether they will be able to make their plan work over the coming laps…

    Leclerc fends off Verstappen

    Max Verstappen passes Charles Leclerc at Turn One but is promptly overtaken by the Ferrari man at the next available opportunity.

    The Dutchman takes another bite of the cherry on the next lap before Leclerc retakes the lead once again in a carbon copy of their previous duel!

    Verstappen goes on to try for a third time but locks up heavily and drops outside of DRS range as a result.

    Verstappen and Leclerc follow suit

    Max Verstappen pits for new soft tyres on lap 15 as he looks to make up lost ground on Charles Leclerc with an undercut.

    The Ferrari driver is called in on the very next lap and emerges just ahead of Verstappen, who is now within DRS range of the race leader.

    Meanwhile, Hamilton does not seem to be too happy with his race strategy, telling his engineer: “That was a really early stop.”

    Hamilton into the pits

    Lewis Hamilton is called in at the end of lap 11 to fit a new set of hard tyres and almost collects Guanyu Zhou as he exits the pit lane!

    The seven-time world champion had almost no grip and did well to avoid spinning out as he slid across the track at Turn One.

    He retakes 11th place from Zhou on lap 13 after getting some much-needed heat into his new set of boots.

    Perez overtakes Hamilton

    Lewis Hamilton is overtaken by Sergio Perez, who easily drifts past his Mercedes rival and into fourth place.

    Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc has stretched his lead over Max Verstappen to 3.1 seconds after just 11 laps of running.

    Trouble for Verstappen?

    Max Verstappen does not appear to be happy with the performance of his car, telling his race engineer: “The engine is doing funny things at the corners.”

    Meanwhile, George Russell passes Kevin Magnussen to move up into sixth place.

    Esteban Ocon has also been given a five-second penalty for making contact with Mick Schumacher on the first lap.

    Perez moves up

    Kevin Magnussen locks up and is promptly overtaken by Perez, who moves up into fifth place.

    Valtteri Bottas finds himself all the way down in 14th after dropping eight places on the first lap, while Daniel Ricciardo is in last place.

    Mick Schumacher spins out after tangling with Esteban Ocon and drops to 13th place as a result of the incident.

    LIGHTS OUT! Leclerc holds the lead

    Charles Leclerc holds off Max Verstappen into Turn One!

    Sergio Perez drops two places after a slow start and every driver gets away from the first corner unscathed.

    Lewis Hamilton makes his way up to fourth, while George Russell moves up to seventh.

    Here we go

    The formation lap is underway and we’re just seconds out…

    The wait is almost over…

    This season will have plenty to live up to over the coming months after last year played host to arguably the most exciting F1 campaign in recent memory.

    The next 57 laps will paint a better picture of what is to come as the sport enters a new era and it seems as though we could be in for a real treat if yesterday’s qualifying session was anything to go by.

    We’re just 10 minutes away from the start of today’s race and most of the drivers are strapped in and ready to go.

    Today’s grid

    Here’s a final reminder of your starting order in Bahrain…

    Lewis: I’ll give it everything

    Lewis Hamilton has warned that he will be taking no prisoners on track despite conceding that he is unlikely to trouble the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari over the course of this afternoon’s race.

    “I feel great and I’m honestly just grateful to be back racing, doing what I love,” said the Mercedes driver.

    “We probably don’t have the performance to keep up with the guys ahead but I’ll be giving it everything we have to maximise. I just want to make it to the end of the race.”

    Max: It’s a difficult race

    Max Verstappen has insisted that he will need to perform at his very best to stand any chance of beating pole-sitter Charles Leclerc at the Bahrain International Circuit.

    “We have to score points,” he told Sky Sports F1. “We have a competitive car and we’ll try to of course fight for the win, but let’s see how the race is going to go.

    “It’s a long race, it’s always a difficult race on tyres, so hopefully we’ll be good on them. I think it will be very close again, [we have to] play the long game.

    “Last year around here the race was decided in the last few laps and probably it will be pretty similar. We just have to stay focused and try to attack of course.”

    Qualifying recap

    Charles Leclerc of Ferrari will line up on pole position today after setting the quickest lap at the end of yesterday’s qualifying session.

    The 24-year-old will be closely followed by Max Verstappen, who also starts on the front row of the grid ahead of Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez in third and fourth respectively.

    Fifth-placed Lewis Hamilton will line up alongside his former Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in sixth, while George Russell is set to start from all the way down in ninth after being out-qualified by Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso.

    Read more from yesterday’s session here.

    Good afternoon

    Hello and welcome to Express Sport’s live coverage of the Bahrain Grand Prix as the new F1 season finally gets underway this afternoon.

    Today’s race will set the tone for the rest of the campaign and Max Verstappen will be looking to make the perfect start to his Drivers’ Championship title defence by taking the chequered flag under the lights at the Bahrain International Circuit.

    It seems as though Red Bull and Ferrari will be in the ascendancy at this early stage of proceedings, with Mercedes still working to iron out a number of the issues that plagued their efforts in pre-season testing.

    Lewis Hamilton, who controversially missed out on claiming last year’s end-of-season honours at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, will start from fifth place on the grid after a dismal qualifying session on Saturday in which George Russell could only manage to seal a ninth-placed finish at the end of Q3.

    We’re just one hour away from lights out in Bahrain and will be providing live updates throughout the day as F1 returns after a three-month absence.

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