The wait for the 2021 F1 season was long but the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix proved to be worth it, as a motivated Lewis Hamilton held off Max Verstappen's charge in the final laps.
All through practice and qualifying, Red Bull looked like the superior car and Verstappen the driver to beat, but Mercedes' superior pit strategy and Hamilton's on-track heroics won them the season-opener.
Max Verstappen began the Bahrain Grand Prix from pole position, ahead of the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. His teammate Sergio Perez qualified back in 11th place but had to start the race from pit lane following a technical problem during the formation lap.
The opening laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix were marked by numerous incidents, beginning with Haas debutant Nikita Mazepin spinning into the barriers to bring out the Safety Car, which was then followed by a Virtual Safety Car period as well. Max Verstappen was able to nail both subsequent restarts whilst under pressure from seven-time champion Hamilton.
While Verstappen was stretching his legs out front, Mercedes and Hamilton were able to get back into the hunt with a masterclass of an undercut which saw them come out in the lead once the pit stops cycled through.
Verstappen was eventually able to catch up with Hamilton, who then decided to pit with 16-lap-old hard tires. Once again, Verstappen stayed out longer, and after his second and final stop, he came out about nine seconds behind the Briton's Mercedes. With blistering pace and a clear track ahead of him, the Dutchman was on Hamilton's gearbox with six laps to go and challenging for the lead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
But catching is one thing and passing is another, and this point was driven home by Hamilton, who placed his car at all the right places on the track to fend off whatever Verstappen could throw at him.
Verstappen finally got past Hamilton but had to venture outside track limits to pull it off, forcing him to return the place a few corners later. Hamilton did not put a foot wrong from that point and motored on to greet the checkered flag first.
Other points finishers in the Bahrain Grand Prix
Valtteri Bottas finished third in the Bahrain Grand Prix and managed to scrape together the fastest lap in the dying stages of the race to earn an extra point. Lando Norris came home in fourth place to round out an outstanding weekend for McLaren.
Sergio Perez made a brilliant recovery to finish fifth after his troubles, ahead of Charles Leclerc in sixth, with Ferrari looking like a much-improved team compared to last year.
Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz enjoyed good outings in the first race for their new teams, coming home in seventh and eighth respectively. AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda managed to score points in his F1 debut, slotting in at an impressive ninth place in the driver standings while Lance Stroll was the last of the Bahrain Grand Prix point scorers in 10th place.