Lewis Hamilton after winning the Bahrain Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton after winning the Bahrain Grand Prix Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Defending Drivers’ Champion won an incident-packed Bahrain Grand Prix as the 2021 Formula One season god under way in thrilling fashion at Sakhir.

The Mercedes driver had to fight tooth and nail to fend of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the closing stages, after taking over the lead during differing pit stop strategies.

There was overtaking all the way through the field and throughout the race, with Verstappen and Hamilton battling it out over the closing stages — and the Red Bull clearly faster than the Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton held off Max Verstappen in Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton held off Max Verstappen in Bahrain Image Credit: Reuters

Verstappen actually overtook the British seven-time world champion, but was adjudged to had blocked Hamilton after running wide and was forced to redress the position and let Hamilton back through — and only just hold on for victory as he goes for a record eighth title.

“It was tough. Max was all over me at the end but he just about managed to hold him off. The Red Bulls have had a brilliant weekend and Max is really doing well. But I love the challenge and this is what we are here for. It will be a great season and this will is a great start for us.”

Hamilton's teammate, Valtteri Bottas, took third but was way behind the front two.

Verstappen took a superb pole position on Saturday, the fourth of his career, and started immediately ahead of Hamilton. Verstappen got away cleanly and held off Hamilton, while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc made a fine overtake on Bottas but lost that position after the safety car came out on Lap 1.

Fernando Alonso failed to finish the race on his F1 comeback with Alpine.