The Formula One season kicked off Sunday in Bahrain, and it was smooth sailing for Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen.
The 25-year-old Dutch star led wire to wire and finished with a time of 1:33:56.736 after he had secured pole position the day before. His Red Bull teammate, Sergio Pérez, joined him on the front row in qualifying and finished second (+11.987). For the first time since the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Red Bull posted the first- and second-place finisher in an F1 race after it had two drivers qualify in the first two spots in pole setting.
‘That was exactly the start to the season we needed,’ said Verstappen, who retired from three of his first four career races in Bahrain. ‘I’m very happy to finally win a race here.’
To round out the checkered flag, Fernando Alonso (+38.637) of Aston Martin, made his 99th trip to a podium. Charles Leclerc appeared to be in line for third place, but his Ferrari stalled with engine failure with just 17 laps left in the race.
‘To finish on the podium first race of the year is just amazing,’ Alonso said. ‘What Aston Martin did over the winter to have the second best car on race one is just unreal.’
The race took place at Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain.
Here’s everything you need to know about the F1 season opener in Bahrain.
Who is Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen?
Born in Belgium, Verstappen races under the Dutch flag. Verstappen, 25, emerged onto the F1 scene as an instant star, becoming the youngest competitor at 17, and then becoming the youngest race winner (18 years and 228 days) with his 2016 performance in Barcelona. Verstappen won his first F1 driver’s title in 2021, after he fended off Lewis Hamilton. Then, last season, he defended his championship and won an F1-record 15 races throughout the campaign.
Verstappen’s victory in Bahrain marks his 36th career first-place finish. It was his 10th visit to the Bahrain International Circuit and his first top finish. It is his first season-opening victory.
What does this mean for the start of the Formula One season?
The Bahrain Grand Prix means one down, 22 more to go. In what will be the longest F1 season in history, Verstappen and Red Bull’s quest for a third consecutive championship couldn’t have started much better. The third-place finish for Alonso, 41, spells good news for his pairing with Aston Martin, after he signed with them in 2023 on a multiyear deal to replace Sebastian Vettel, who retired. That Alonso passed a pair of star British racers in Lewis Hamilton (+50.977) and George Russell (+55.873) deepens concerns for Mercedes, whose cars never appeared to be threats to compete for a podium. Hamilton finished fifth and Russell finished seventh.