Sakhir, Bahrain (AP) – New season, another win. Max Verstappen won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday, leading almost the entire race as he began the defense of his back-to-back Formula One titles.
Red Bull took a 1-2 finish with Sergio Pérez finishing second, while 41-year-old Fernando Alonso took an impressive third place – and claimed a 99th career podium – on an impressive race debut for Aston Martin.
“I’m very proud of you guys,” a delighted Alonso told his team.
It was Verstappen’s 36th career win, but the Dutchman’s first at the flood-lit Sakhir circuit, where he had retired shortly before the end of last year’s opening race.
“It was exactly the kind of start to the season we needed,” Verstappen said.
This time it was Charles Leclerc, who had won the previous year, who retired on lap 41 of 57 when his Ferrari ran out of power.
“No, no, no, no,” Leclerc pleaded over his radio as his car slowed. Ferrari had changed an engine battery before the race, but that didn’t stop Leclerc from making a disappointing debut after such a year. Disappointing season in 2022.
“There was no more power. It is a pity because it is on these weekends where you have to maximize points,” said Leclerc. “Unfortunately we have taken a step back and Red Bull is on another planet. Third most Was as good as we could have expected.
Leclerc’s retirement sent Ferrari into an uproar, and Carlos Sainz Jr. did not even try to defend from Alonso – perhaps out of concern he might lose power himself – and the Aston Martin passed him with 11 laps left.
Sainz finished fourth ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll in sixth ahead of seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton in fifth. Hamilton’s teammate George Russell finished seventh for Mercedes.
Verstappen started from pole with Pérez. Leclerc and Sainz were on the second row, while the 41-year-old Alonso was starting fifth.
Logan Sargent, the first American driver on the grid since 2015, was 12th after starting 16th.
Stroll’s performance was impressive considering he had missed pre-season testing due to an injury sustained in a cycling accident that required minor surgery on his right wrist.