By KELIN DILLON
The 2021 Formula 1 season kicked off with the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, March 28, with a win from eight-time world champion Lewis Hamilton after an exciting battle with Max Verstappen for the top of the podium.
During Saturday’s qualifiers, the pole position of the race was snagged by Verstappen of Red Bull, vitally preventing a front-row shutout for Mercedes as its drivers Hamilton and Valterri Bottas placed at the two and three.
Mexican Sergio “Checo” Pérez, now driving for Red Bull Racing the first time in his 11th F1 season in what is a major seat upgrade for the Guadalajara-native to one of the consistently top-two teams in the association, qualified at the 11th position.
Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s secondary and lower funded team, pushed hard to earn the fifth place starting position, while four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, in his first season at Aston Martin, qualified for the last place in the race following his failure to respect the all-important yellow flags during Saturday’s qualifier.
However, as always in Formula 1, everything changed when the drivers hit the track.
Gasly, who had a strong position to start the race, fell back to finish at 17 following a tangle with McLaren’s Lando Norris at the beginning of the race that messed up his front wing and decimated the Frenchman’s momentum.
Mexico and Red Bull’s Pérez ended up beginning the race from the pit lane at the final position behind Vettel following an unexepted malfunction in his car during the warm-up lap.
Checo then managed to drive his way up to fifth place following the large setback, earning himself the title of Driver of the Day and gaining vital points for Red Bull as the team vies to take away Mercedes’ years-long grasp on both the world and constructor’s championships.
The first place position was up still for contention in the exciting final moments of the race as Verstappen and Hamilton battled it out on the track, with Verstappen overtaking Hamilton with only a few laps left in the race.
Unfortunately for Red Bull, the Dutchman had illegally taken the place from his rival with all four wheels off the track and had to surrender the spot to Hamilton as to not incur a costly penalty, and could never regain his position over the dominant Mercedes driver in the final few laps despite keeping behind Hamilton by less than a second.
Once again, Mercedes proved itself the dominant team on the track with Hamilton and Bottas picking up first and third place on the podium, but if Verstappen’s close-call and Pérez’s expert driving today showed anything, it’s that Red Bull Racing will a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the 2021 Formula 1 season.
…March 29, 2021