Max Verstappen ran Lewis Hamilton close in a frantic 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix finish to claim second in the FIA Formula One World Championship season opener around the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday.
The Dutchman started on the pole at Sakhir and drove confidently early on, however lost the lead to the seven-time world champion midrace during the pit stops before he took advantage of better tyres to chase Hamilton down – only for his overtaking move late on to be adjudged unfair.
New Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Pérez managed to work his way through the field to finish fifth, while Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda earned his first F1 points for Scuderia AlphaTauri in ninth as Frenchman Pierre Gasly failed to finish with the next race on April 18 at Imola.
We have definitely made good steps forward and it’s been a strong start to the championship but it’s, of course, a shame not to get the win when it is so close like that. We were having to manage a couple of issues throughout the race which I had to drive around so we will have to look into that but there are positives to take from today and the whole weekend.
Mercedes did the undercut but we stuck to our strategy which was working fine, the problem is that with these cars, it’s so hard to pass and once you have that track position it’s pretty powerful. As soon as I got close enough to Lewis I had one shot and I just went outside of the track at Turn 4 so I gave the position back, but by then my tyres weren’t in a good state anymore to put the pressure on.
We have to look at the positives, we’re taking the fight to Mercedes and I think that’s great, it’s good to start the season this way and we managed to score some good points for the Team. We will analyse what we can do better as there are always things you can improve and it’s great to get Honda’s 200th podium this weekend. Now it’s full focus on the next race.
Considering my race almost didn’t happen today, I think overall we can be pleased with the race and take away the positives as the pace was really good and the potential is there.
On the formation lap, all of a sudden the car shut down and I was so close to jumping out but I stayed in and somehow the car got going again which was a miracle really. That meant we had to start from the pit lane which wasn’t ideal but we managed to recover and I was just happy to complete the race and get that important mileage under my belt. It was really important to get that and of course, it’s a shame that Max didn’t win the race for the Team but it will come I’m sure and we will get there. We’ve got a lot of data to analyse now so that we understand everything and make sure we come back stronger at the next race in Imola.
First of all, congratulations to Mercedes, it was a great race today. We are all racers in this Team and to lose by such a small margin obviously hurts but the positive is that we have put in a strong performance all weekend and pushed Mercedes all the way. Max was nursing an issue from early on, how much of an effect that had during the race I’m not sure but he drove his heart out as always and we can’t ask for anything more than that. He got the pass done to re-gain the lead but ran out wide and was instructed to give the place back, which he did immediately and then he pushed Lewis to the line.
Hats off to Sergio as well in what was a great comeback drive for him, especially after starting in the pit lane. He kept a cool calm head after the issue on the Formation Lap and was able to deliver a strong points haul. I think the biggest winner today is the fans, this race sets up a great season and I really hope we see Lewis and Max have many more battles. The fact that we’ve been so competitive this weekend is a good signal for the championship. If we’re frustrated with second place, then that’s not a bad place to be and shows the determination within the Team. We’re certainly in the fight and ready to take on the season.