Max Verstappen wins season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

Red Bull secure one-two finish while Fernando Alonso lands on the podium in Sakhir

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Max Verstappen began 2023 on a dominant note as he won the opening race of the new season at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.

World champion Verstappen cruised to victory with Sergio Perez completing a Red Bull one-two.

Former two-time champion Fernando Alonso showed he still has a lot of fight left in him as he came home in third place in a memorable performance in his Aston Martin.

Verstappen's cruise from pole position, with Perez taking the chequered flag 11.9 seconds behind, was his first win in Bahrain and also the first time the double champion had triumphed in the opening race of a campaign.

"Very lovely that, really good result. We had good race pace. Very happy with that. Thank you guys. That is exactly the start to the season we wanted and needed," Verstappen said after the win.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was running in third place when he slowed and pulled over 17 laps from the end, shouting "No, no, no! No power" over the team radio.

Australian Oscar Piastri retired 14 laps into his F1 debut with his stricken McLaren wheeled into the team garage after suffering an apparent electronics issue.

The 21-year-old had complained over the radio of gearbox problems and was told the mechanics would swap his steering wheel when he pitted.

The stop then dragged on, with the pit crew waiting as the seconds ticked by after the tyres were changed and nothing happened.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton had a decent start to the season as he came in fifth in his Mercedes, having started in seventh.

Lance Stroll, in the second Aston Martin, George Russell of Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas in an Alfa Romeo, Alpine's Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon behind the wheel of a Williams rounded out the top 10.

Verstappen, the man who won 15 of last year's 22 rounds, put his Red Bull on pole and then raced off into the distance to deliver on his billing as the pre-season favourite.

Following a smooth getaway, the Dutchman – keeping a fast-starting Leclerc at bay – was six seconds clear of the Ferrari man after only eight laps, and 17.7 seconds clear of fifth-placed Hamilton with 10 of the 57 laps on the board.

Hamilton started seventh and moved past Russell and Alonso at the start to take fifth but the 38-year-old was finding it difficult to get up to speed in his Mercedes.

"Is Lewis managing or is he slow because I feel like I have a bit more pace," said Russell, one place back. "Struggling, struggling," came the response.

Hamilton was the first of the top six to pit, and after the opening stops unravelled, Verstappen held a 10-second lead over Perez, who, in his speedier Red Bull, had by now managed to get the jump on Leclerc.

With the Red Bulls in control, the attention turned to who would be best of the rest and it was Alonso, the 41-year-old on his Aston Martin debut, taking centre stage.

On lap 35, he emerged from his second stop right on Hamilton's gearbox, and the two oldest drivers on the grid rolled back the years as they diced for fifth place.

Alonso sniffed a chance at Turn 4 on lap 37 but the Spaniard was too hot on his brakes. Hamilton survived, but only for two laps before Alonso threw his Aston Martin down Hamilton's inside with a bold move at Turn 10 – a sharp left-hander.

“There was just no more power. It’s a pity because it’s at these weekends where you have to maximise points," Leclerc said after a disappointing day. "Unfortunately we’ve taken a step back and Red Bull’s on another planet. Third was the best we could hope for.

"We are very far behind Red Bull. I was not going to say it was positive. We were second, which was the best we could do, but we couldn't bring the car to the end and at the end this is what is very important."

Updated: March 05, 2023, 5:17 PM