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Verstappen wins F1's season-opener in Bahrain


Defending Formula One champion Max Verstappen won the opening race of the season in Bahrain on Saturday, 22.4 seconds ahead of teammate Sergio Perez who rounded off a 1-2 finish for Red Bull. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz finished third ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen, who won 19 of Red Bull's 22 victories last season, led from pole position and throughout the 57 laps to kick off a promising start to pursue a fourth consecutive title. Meanwhile, he and Perez are also on course of refreshing their record of 1-2 six times last year.

Max Verstappen wins the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain in Bahrain, March 2, 2024. /CFP
Max Verstappen wins the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain in Bahrain, March 2, 2024. /CFP

Max Verstappen wins the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain in Bahrain, March 2, 2024. /CFP

"Unbelievable. I think today went even better than expected. The car was really nice to drive on every compound," said the Dutchman.

"We had a lot of pace and it was just super enjoyable to drive today. We stayed out of trouble and it's a great start of the year, it couldn't have been better.

"It was a lot of fun and I felt really good in the car. It's always very special to have these kinds of days because they don't happen that often where it all goes perfect and you are at one with the car," he added.

This was the 55th career win for Verstappen himself, and the 114th for Red Bull since they joined 20 years ago. It also puts the 26-year-old eight points ahead of Perez in the standings and extends his record run at the top to 40 races since May 2022.

China's Zhou Guanyu with Kick Sauber finished 11th, and was satisfied with the result, despite narrowly missing on claiming points.

"Honestly think that was the maximum we could achieve today, been a difficult weekend for us but we made good progress. Still a long season ahead I'm fully committed, let's keep working hard together to improve as a team!" wrote Zhou on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Also on Saturday, George Russell finished fifth for Mercedes, two places before seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton who will be joining Ferrari next year. Lando Norris finished sixth for McLaren. Oscar Piastri, also with McLaren, finished eighth, followed by Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll in the top 10.

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