Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton came through a tremendously exciting battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to win the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Milton Keynes-based team were dealt a rough hand before the race even began, as Mexican driver Sergio Perez, who was eliminated from Q2 yesterday, suffered a problem on the formation lap, and thus was forced to start from the pitlane.
Verstappen led from pole on an opening lap that saw Haas’ number 9 car spin off into the wall on the exit of turn 2. As a result, the Aston Martin safety car made its race debut, as Verstappen began to complain of problems under throttle just two laps into the race.
Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas, who was leapfrogged by Charles Leclerc off the start, managed to etch back ahead of the resurgent Ferrari, as the 2021 season got off to a frenetic start.
The returning Fernando Alonso instantly made some waves, taking full advantage of Aston Martin’s team orders to pass Sebastian Vettel; the German was going long on strategy after a grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags compounded his already-calamitous qualifying. The four-time champion, however, came back at the Spaniard as Alonso’s team mate Carlos Sainz got involved in the battle on his Ferrari debut.
Alonso’s first race back however, ended in retirement just over midway through the race due to a mechanical issue.
The other Alpine did not fare much better. Esteban Ocon was punted and spun by Sebastian Vettel at Turn One after the Frenchman had passed him down the home straight, and failed to score points after the incident. Vettel has now been given two penalty points in what turned out to be an abject Aston martin debut.
Back out front, it was a strategic war between Mercedes and Red Bull for the victory. Mercedes blinked first, bringing Hamilton into the pits to attempt the undercut on Verstappen on the Hard tyres. Red Bull refused to bite though, opting to stay out and pit later onto the mediums, sacrificing track position as a result. Interestingly, Mercedes pitted Bottas just a lap before red Bull’s change, but he was sent back out on Hards.
One more stop each for the leaders meant that Verstappen was chasing Hamilton with 17 laps to go, and we were set for a grandstand finish. We got a controversial one.
Verstappen passed Hamilton at Turn four, but was adjudged to have completed the move off the track, forcing him to return the position. This prompted Red Bull to protest Hamilton’s extensions at the same corner, as yet more stewarding inconsistencies reigned in the desert.
But it was Hamilton who survived the mammoth challenge from Verstappen to win the opener by just half a second.
Valtteri Bottas took the other spot on the podium, as Lando Norris scored an impressive fourth for McLaren. Sergio Perez recovered excellently to finish fifth, while Yuki Tsunoda scored points in his first Formula One race for Alpha Tauri.
After what seemed like an unusually long winter Formula 1 is back with a bang in the desert.
After winter testing, three practice sessions and qualifying all that we knew for sure was the grid had indeed tightened up, especially for the top two teams in Mercedes and Red Bull.
Max Verstappen had taken pole position from Lewis Hamilton by just under four tenths of a second with the sister Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in third and Charles Leclerc in fourth.
Even sitting thousands of miles away the anticipation at the start was palpable.
The instillation lap did nothing to calm the nerves as Checo Perez loses power initialising a second instal lap.
He did manage to power up the ailing Red Bull but had to start from the pit lane.
Five red lights go out and we’re away for the Bahrain Grand Prix and indeed the start of the 2021 season. Unsurprisingly to many fans the number two Haas crashes out at turn one and his race ends before it can even start, leaving Mick Schumacher the sole Haas driver as the safety car is deployed.
Leclerc had managed to snatch third from Bottas before the safety car was deployed! Sainz lost out at the start and is down in P10, with Alonso and Stroll both gaining a position from him.
Verstappen leads the pack away from Hamilton who is left to defend from Leclerc into turn one.
Bottas takes third place back as we settle into a familiar pattern.
Verstappen pulls out a small lead of just under two seconds.
Further down the pack Sergio Perez starts to haul the Red bull through the field.
Mercedes are first to blink and try the undercut, putting the hard tyres on and it looks like a great decision as Red bull stays out as Lewis starts pumping in purple sectors and is the fastest man on track.
Verstappen’s in at last! And goes from mediums to mediums, he will have to stop again. He exits the pits nearly seven seconds behind Hamilton!
The top three are Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas. Further down the field Vettel and Alonso are fighting it out for P8!
Max is putting in the strong laps now on tyres ten laps newer than Hamilton’s. He closes to within two seconds or so, as Mercedes once again throws the dice and pull Lewis in for a new set of hard boots.
He exits the pits in third behinds Bottas in second and Max in first.
Bottas stops but there’s a problem with the front left! It’s a 10.9s stop and he comes out behind Leclerc in P5
Verstappen pits for hards and is stationary for an incredible 1.9 seconds and leaves himself 8.7s to make up to Hamilton in the final 17 laps.
Hamilton’s trying to keep his tyres going until the end, andy it’s falling back into Verstappen’s hands as he starts to take chunks off Lewis.
Verstappen is eating into Hamilton’s lead like its an open buffet. Half a second out in the middle sector alone, and he can see the Mercedes on the straights now.
Hamilton brakes another record this time for the most laps led in F1 with 5,112!
Vettel and Ocon have come together. Both have got going again, but Vettel has some damage to his front wing. Looks like Sebs fault but that’s one for the stewards to decide.
Max is like a lion hunting down his prey with only the odd back marker to hold him back, Lewis locks up and goes wide at Turn ten! He keeps the lead but Verstappen is just a second behind now and within DRS range.
Lap 52 and Hamilton only has half a second over Verstappen as he tries around the outside of Turn one but Hamilton holds him off!
Down to Turn four and Verstappen goes around the outside again, and this time he takes the lead!
Max Is immediately told by his team to give the place back as he’s left the circuit whilst taking the position, if he doesn’t do it a penalty could be costly.
Verstappen’s loses grip in Hamilton’s wake but he’s now out of DRS range on the start finish straight.
Bottas stops for a new set of tyres as he attempts to grab the extra point for fastest lap.
Hamilton starts the final lap and Verstappen is back within DRS range, no matter how well Max has driven this weekend he just can’t get passed the exuberant Hamilton who takes the win from Verstappen and Bottas.
Norris, Perez, Ricardo and Yuki Tsunoda all make impressive debuts, Alonso and Seb looked good and should improve as we get further into the season.
Mick Schumacher had a quiet race finishing last but that’s all that can be expected in the under developed Haas.
Max Verstappen shone under the lights to take the first pole position of the season, his first back-to-back pole in his career.
What looked to be a dramatic showdown between Mercedes and Red Bull did not disappoint, both teams swapping places at the top of the time sheets all session.
After running wide on the penultimate corner in (Q1), a piece of carbon fibre came loose on Verstappen’s car, causing doubt as to whether the car would suffer as a result.
However, the Flying Dutchman took the fastest time by almost four tenths of a second, clinching pole and will also have the advantage of starting on the mediums, having set his fastest time on the compounds in (Q2).
Max Verstappen is the first non-Mercedes driver to take pole on F1’s opening weekend since Sebastian Vettel in 2013.
Lewis Hamilton had to eventually settle for second alongside Valterri Bottas who starts third.
Interestingly, if Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas finish on the podium together, they will be tie the record for most appearances on the podium as a trio (14), currently held by Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel.
The other superstars of qualifying were Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly who qualified in fourth and fifth respectively. Importantly, the Alpha Tauri driver will start the race on the medium tyres giving him a massive advantage on a track known for high degradation. Additionally, the Scuderia will see this as a sign of improvement and a turn of fortune for the coming season.
Daniel Ricciardo impressed on his first outing in McLaren in sixth, outqualifying his teammate Lando Norris in seventh. Carlos Sainz, who set the fastest time of (Q2) failed to improve on his first run and will line up in eight.
Fernando Alonso reached (Q3) for the first time since Monaco ’18 – a fantastic achievement for the returning two-time world champion. Alonso’s teammate Esteban Ocon failed to escape (Q1) in 16th. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin rounded out the top ten.
Sergio Perez failed to reach (Q3) and will start in 11th, but importantly with a free tyre choice for tomorrow’s race. Other notable mentions should include an improved Alfa Romeo who finished a respectable twelfth with Antonio Giovinazzi and 12th with Kimi Raikkonen 14th.
Sebastian Vettel had a difficult first outing for his new team Aston Martin going out in 18th place, Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda, the 20-year-old at his first F1 meeting put in a good run with 13th for AlphaTauri. George Russell was 15th for Williams, with his teammate Nicholas Latifi 17th.
Mick Schumacher, the 22-year-old son of seven-time world champion Michael, acquitted himself well on his F1 debut, keeping it clean in a very uncompetitive Haas. He was in 19th place, beating teammate Nikita Mazepin into 20th, who brought out multiple yellow flags in (Q1).
For the second year running, Albert Park in Melbourne finds itself unable to host the Formula One curtain-raiser, so instead the circus rolls back to the scene of the pre-season test – the 5.4 kilometre Sakhir International Circuit.
The venue played host to two races at the back end of last year, meaning that F1 has spent a lot of time here over the course of the last three months, but this now is set to be our last visit to Bahrain for at least a year.
Just as the two races last year, there is a sense of anticipation that this year’s edition will be an exhilarating one to watch.
Red Bull and Max Verstappen looked exceptional in pre-season testing, while Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton looked decidedly average, leading many to believe that we have a title fight on our hands this season.
Conversely, however, Mercedes have a history of “sandbagging” in testing – take 2019 for example – so exactly how much validity Red Bull’s title credentials have will be revealed when the cars are properly unleashed for the first time in qualifying on Saturday, but the outlook is certainly positive for Red Bull. Let’s not forget of course that Red Bull’s new driver Sergio Perez won the second of the two races last year for Racing Point.
Looking further down the grid, the midfield yet again promises to be a dramatic one. Fernando Alonso’s new-look Alpine team sport an eye-catching new engine cover, and they hope to achieve an equally flamboyant championship finish, but they face stiff competition from McLaren, Ferrari and potentially Aston Martin for what has become a coveted third spot.
Alonso’s return not only coincides with Renault’s transformation to Alpine, but also Racing Point’s re-brand as Aston Martin. They looked shaky in the test in Bahrain, with Sebastian Vettel completing the second-lowest tally of laps last weekend.
Bahrain will be the first of 23 races in 2021, but this calendar has already been adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, so just how this year will shape up remains to be seen.
One thing that is certain for now, though, is that Sakhir will play host to its third F1 race in four months this weekend, and we can get the long-awaited 2021 season underway
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set the pace as pre-season testing came to an end on day three, as Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda sprung a surprise to finish second.
The second session on day three brought some more big names into play, with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen joining the fray.
Early doors, Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda went for a spin through the chicane at turns six and seven, but left the incident completely undeterred, going on to set a an exceptional 91 laps.
Kimi Raikkonen, who completed 91 laps in the earlier session, briefly occupied top spot before being displaced once more by the scintillating Dutchman Verstappen. The Finn took his tally up to 166 for the day.
The second session saw seven drivers topple the Sergio Perez lap that led the opening three hours of the day. The slightly cooler conditions as night began to fall allowed for more ideal one-lap conditions.
The Ferrari of Carlos Sainz struggled with gearbox issues midway through the session, but recovered to put the Prancing horse into the top three, six tenths off the pace.
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel had to abandon a long run to allow the team to make some significant changes to the body of the car; he ended the day 17th fastest.
Mercedes’ unexpected struggles persisted, as Lewis Hamilton contrived to finish the day fifth fastest overall, seemingly fighting to the tame a volatile back-end; it is an issue over which his team mate Valtteri Bottas has been outspoken during the three days of testing.
The session ended dramatically, with Carlos Sainz and Kimi Raikkonen reportedly making contact into turn 10 – an indication that nobody can wait for the real racing to get going in two weeks’ time.
On a day in which Formula One was looking forward to the final day of testing and the anticipated start of the season, we were instead hit with the mourning of Formula One legend Murray Walker. The former F1 commentator and “voice of F1” passed way on Saturday, tainting what was to be an exciting day of F1 action.
On track though, it was back to business. The first half of the session was largely dominated by low fuel, quick-paced runs, before the teams began to switch their focus to long-run pace. The swelteringly hot conditions were not conducive to running the soft tyres, prompting the majority of the runners to use the medium and hard compound tyres.
It was Sergio Perez, with 48 laps, who topped the timing sheets at the end of the session with a 1:30.1. He took the lead from Charles Leclerc, before lowering the lap time after bolting on a fresh set of softs.
In a largely uneventful three hours, a big back-end loss for George Russel and some skittish front and back-end moments for Mick Schumacher proved the most entertainment for the morning. Red Bull meanwhile, with Mexican Sergio Perez in the car, looked far more swift to get onto the leaders’ pace than they have in previous years, with Perez exchanging fastest lap times with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with just over 90 minutes gone. The Monegasque driver set impressively consistent lap times, chartering 80 in total by the end of the morning session.
Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll were the first drivers of the session to surpass the race distance 57 laps, with the Finnish Mercedes driver completing the champions’ most laps in any session so far this test. It was as much progress as it was an indictment of what has been a surprisingly difficult three days for Mercedes. Bottas and Stroll set 86 and 80 laps respectively.
But it was Kimi Raikkonen, who set a brilliant 91 laps, who topped the lap counter, in spite of a ninth place finish by the end of the running. He spent the morning focusing on long run pace, along with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who was 10th.
The news that Murray Walker had died aged 97 was as heart-breaking as it was sudden, but he was a man who lived a long, excellent life – and he spent it entertaining and inspiring generations.
The more you look at the fallout from Murray’s passing, the more you realise that it was not just British fans that treasured the voice of Formula One, but the death of such a lovely human being is being mourned by motorsport fans around the world.
Murray was the voice of some of the most amazing moments in the history of Formula One and motorcycle racing; he even provided his emotive and unmistakable voice to the British Touring Car Championship too.
Honestly though, so much adulation and collective sentiment for a perpetual hero of Formula One cannot be summed up by one person in an article. Murray produced some infamous quotes, provided notoriously emotional soundtracks to some of the most incredible moments in motorsport, and touched the lives of many, so we thought we should include some thoughts from all of us here at the PitCrew Online.
For me, Murray Walker was, and always will be, the voice of Formula 1. I grew up listening to Murray and loved the way he could convey the excitement of F1 and his absolute passion for the sport. My fondest memory is of Damon Hill crossing the finishing line and winning the championship when he says he has a lump in his throat making you realise he had known Damon as a man and boy and obviously knew Damon’s father, Graham. – Karen
“I watched, F1 in the 80s, wanted to be a racing driver, then i choose more boring things, anyhoo. James and Murray guided me through F1, with James’s hate of slow back markers, and Murray’s enthusiastic and over optimistic ‘comms’. Oh and he had the curse all right, Australia’86 will stick in many peoples’ heads. Talking of heads. I’m sure Damon and Nigel, have forgiven him many moons ago. “Oh and he had the commentator’s curse all right” – Taras
My favourite moment was the 1998 Belgian GP at spa when Murray commentated on the biggest accident in F1 history on lap one, he showed genuine shock and concern for the drivers involved. He nearly jumped out of his chair when Michael Schumacher rear-ended David Coulthard in the rain, then saw Damon Hill and Ralph Schumacher secure the Jordan team’s first ever win and one-two in one of the most exciting and unforgettable races ever. Murray was not just a commentator he was a real F1 fan and that is why so many people loved him, he was captivating to listen to and embodied the essence and excitement of racing. – Mandy
Murray Walker is synonymous with Formula One. In fact, he IS Formula One. He was always more than just a commentator: He was the friendly voice that encouraged you into the sport, he was the passionate fan that infected you with his enthusiasm and he was an orator capable of wonderful storytelling. He was a man that simply wanted to share his love for motorsport with the rest of the world, and we thank him for that. We will miss you Murray. – Adam Wheeler
Mine and many others’ first voice of F1. The only voice of F1 for some. Murray Walker was a treasure to me, to Formula One and to Great Britain as a whole. An imperfect genius behind the microphone, and we’ll never see his like again. – Jack Prentice
As a small boy mum used to sit me down in front of the TV whenever Murray was on, it was the only way to keep me still and quiet, he’s literally responsible for my life’s greatest passion!
Thanks for all the amazing memories and for giving me a love of motorsports that is such a big part of my life. – Simon Tassie
My Murray Walker Memories
When I think of Murray Walker, I don’t just think of Formula One, but also British Rally Cross and the British Touring Car Championship. He was THE motorsport commentator, and his style was utterly unique! I discovered motorsport in my late teens, and by the end of 1991 was following the WRC, BTCC and Formula One. Murray was commentating on the BTCC and Formula One for the BBC and this meant that you would hear Murray’s commentary throughout the year as the races came and went.
He retired from commentating during the 2001 Formula One season, but remained a much-loved man, and would pop up from time to time with great interviews with the drivers and other characters from the motorsport community.
As we’ve seen, he will be massively missed by everyone. My thoughts are with his family and friends – Thank you for sharing him with us. – Warren Nel
Growing up in South Africa, Murray was the voice to an F1 world that we could only see on television. He made me feel connected to this world that was so far away (as a child I felt that way) and is the reason my love of F1 grew. He was and will always be the voice of the greatest sport ever and the voice I always hear in my head at lights out. – Rhea Morar
Murray was the best of us. His child-like enthusiasm was infectious; it resonated with us all. It was Murray who said that those who can do and those can talk about it, which is true to all of us who contribute to the PitCrew Online. Murray laid the foundations so we could run, and we are all eternally grateful. Murray’s unrivaled passion for racing has driven every single one of us. Thank you for everything Murray – Luca Munro
As a kid growing up my parents bought me a VHS – Murray’s Magic Moments. I watched it again and again, enthralled by his infectious commentary over some of F1’s most iconic moments. So much so that I know quote them verbatim when I see them on TV. Murray Walker was more than just a commentator, he was a fan first and foremost, and brought that passion to millions around the world. He’s an icon and a pillar of motorsport. His BTCC commentary is also hugely popular and something I love watching again and again. Sleep tight Murray, a gentleman and in a world of egos, his humble nature and passionate commentary will live on. “And now I’ve got to stop, cause I’ve got a lump in my throat.” – Aaron Irwin
Murray was the voice of F1 across the world not only the UK; he was just a legend in motorsport. The word legend at times is used too frequently, but I grew up listening to his iconic voice and murrayisms like ‘Go Go Go!’ He, in my view, should be immortalised at Silverstone on the national circuit as he was there when it all began! His legacy will continue to inspire all; he was truly unparalleled in knowledge and how to put it through the microphone. – Chris Lord
Murray brought races to life with his enigma and his pure passion for racing. He has inspired and will continue to inspire generations in motorsport and broadcasting. We will miss you, Murray.
Valtteri Bottas ended the second day of pre-season testing in Bahrain with the fastest time, despite more mechanical problems afflicting Mercedes and their customer Aston Martin.
Bottas set his pacesetting lap of a 1:30.289s late in the afternoon session, on a run on the softest C5 tyres. However, Bottas lost a considerable amount of running earlier in the session due to an issue with his car’s floor, which compounded the gearbox problems that held him back yesterday.
Similar Mercedes gearbox issues stopped Sebastian Vettel from getting any meaningful running with Aston Martin. The German managed just six laps in the morning session before his car began a lengthy spell on jacks in the garage. Vettel did return to the track before the end of the session, but only recorded four more laps before handing over to Lance Stroll for the afternoon.
Lewis Hamilton also had a troubled day of testing for Mercedes. The defending champion drove in the morning but spun into the gravel towards the end of the session and brought out the red flag. He ended the day 15th fastest, only ahead of Vettel.
Not all the Mercedes-powered teams had problems today, however, with McLaren continuing the strong pace displayed yesterday. Daniel Ricciardo was one of the early pacesetters and topped the morning session, while Lando Norris was quickest for a while in the afternoon before ultimately ending the day fourth behind Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Stroll.
Alpine also had a solid day with Fernando Alonso at the wheel of the A521. The Spaniard was second-quickest behind Ricciardo in the morning session, and logged a total of 128 laps by the end of the day. He also completed a comprehensive run plan that included testing three different floor configurations and two different engine covers.
Following Esteban Ocon’s 129 laps from day one, Alpine are now leading the way in terms of combined mileage heading into the final day of testing. Meanwhile, all four Mercedes-powered teams have the fewest total laps, with Williams on 215 followed by McLaren (195), Aston Martin (177) and Mercedes themselves (162).
However, Nicholas Latifi did record the most laps of any driver on day two, with 132 for Williams.
Here we go, four more hours but I can’t see much changing except for the odd driver and the weather.
Daniel Ricciardo still on top of the timing sheets as we start with Gasly and Verstappen close behind in the standings
This session can be described in one word, dusty! They can’t push the cars and are having to short shift and are actually off the throttle at some points on the track.
Coming up to the three hour remaining mark and very little has changed, we’re waiting on the first appearance of the seven time World Drivers Champion Lewis Hamilton
Will they refer to him as Sir Lewis?
First sight of Carlos Sainz in his new Ferrari, it’s a big year for the young Spaniard.
Three hours and two minutes and the World Champion joins the track for the first time and looks straight on it power sliding his way around the track. Times are still down on Ricardos best set earlier today in the morning session, laps are around four to five seconds slower.
Verstappen goes fastest on a 1:31.4O on the hard tyre After completing 80 laps.
Drivers seem to be finding some grip now as Max remains out gaining valuable data for the team.
Tsunoda has impressed on his first outing in the AlphaTauri it’s a little odd seeing the number 22 and not having Jenson Button driving behind the wheel.
With 1 hour 37 minutes left on the clock Lewis and the Mercedes seem to be getting into their stride with a lap still a full 1.5 seconds behind the pace set by Verstappen.
The first day of testing is always an exciting event for Formula 1 fans but this year with Covid still affecting global sports we kick of in Bahrain instead of what has become the usual annual pilgrimage to Barcelona.
What’s different? Well the big difference other than location is this year we have just three days of testing instead of the usual six.
It’s an early 7am start for us in Europe, first things first as Haas officially launch their 2020 challenger.
Flo fizz and aero rakes at the ready and off we go, for the first four hour session.
First shock of the day, Mercedes has a gearbox issues and Valtteri Bottas has missed over 100km plus of valuable testing time. With sands storms threatening every valuable minute needs to be taken advantage of.
The first couple of hours, how we’ve missed the sounds of Formula 1.
Early form Daniel Ricciardo is setting the pace in his McLaren Mercedes with Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda just behind and Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri with the third fastest time.
The Ferrari in the hands of Charles Leclerc in fourth seems to have made up some of the lost time from last years challenger.
Into the second half of the morning stint and Gasly is now on top of the timing sheets with a 1:32.5
Ricardo straight back out onto track and posts an even faster lap taking three tenths of Gaslys time. Still no sign of Bottas in his Mercedes.
It’s fantastic to see that Micks Schumacher’s three letter code is MSC and not SCH A nice nod to his dad who of course was MSC as he raced alongside his brother Ralf Schumacher.
With just 90 minutes remaining there’s still no sign of the Mercedes and Bottas
On the plus side the new liveries look resplendent in the sunshine. Personal opinion but the Alpine, Aston Martin and dare I say Haas are my favourites.
Roy Nissany driving the Williams has a green light on the back of his car indicating that he’s not got his super license points, I had to fact check this with my colleagues at Crow Towers. James Matthews pointed out that L plates wouldn’t stay attached to a F1 car at speed! He’s here all week.
Bottas is finally out in his Mercedes and is running almost five seconds off the pace with a large Aero rack on the back of the car.
The top three with under 30 minutes to go are Daniel Ricardo Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen.
Ten minutes to go and Charles Leclerc has stopped at turn four with what sounds like an engine miss fire, bringing out the red flag. After initially impressing the Ferrari isn’t looking on top of things, early days though.