Formula One is back for 2021, and the opening race of the season has proved to be more chaotic than ever. It took a few tries to get the race started, but when it did, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes proved why he’s a seven-time World Champion by taking the lead and holding it despite disintegrating tires. But don’t let that predictable outcome let you think it wasn’t a good race, because it was fun as hell.
Sergio Perez proved that the second Red Bull Racing machine tends to be cursed when his car died on the warm-up lap. It caused an aborted start and resulted in an extra formation lap.
When the lights finally went out, Max Verstappen led from pole position with the Mercedes’ of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas following behind him. But the green flag didn’t last for long, since the Haas of Nikita Mazepin brought out a safety car when the driver spun in the third corner.
The Red Bulls pitted during that early safety car, which saw Verstappen running three wide with Hamilton and Charles Leclerc on the restart. But the action was postponed again when Pierre Gasly lost the front wing of his AlphaTauri and Mick Schumacher took a spin. A virtual safety car briefly halted the action before Verstappen took the lead again.
Hamilton nabbed the lead on the 18th lap of the race after Verstappen had a slow pit stop that saw him merge back onto the track in second, in front of teammate Perez.
Bottas later had a terrible pit stop on lap 31, with his car stationary for almost 11 seconds. The team didn’t get one of the tires off and lost out on several positions, with Bottas falling down to fifth place. In the meantime, Verstappen nabbed the lead, but it wasn’t long before Hamilton’s Mercedes headed back to lead the field.
On lap 45, Esteban Ocon in the Alpine and Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin had a little tangle, with both cars spinning after Ocon pulled in front of Vettel and Vettel ran into the back of him. Both cars managed to get back on track without a safety car needing to come out.
In the final laps, the gap between Hamilton and second-place Verstappen began to shrink, narrowing down to a second in the final five laps due to Hamilton’s older tires. As Hamilton locked up, Verstappen drew within DRS range and remained there as Hamilton continued to lose grip.
On turn 1 on the 53rd lap, Hamilton pushed Verstappen wide and maintained his position, but Verstappen nabbed it mere seconds later. But because Verstappen took the position with his tires off the race track, he had to give the position back to Hamilton.
But that turned out to be disastrous for the Red Bull. Verstappen just barely managed to get within DRS range on the final lap, but it wasn’t meant to be Verstappen’s day. Hamilton remained in front, but just by the skin of his teeth.
After the race, Verstappen disagreed with Red Bull’s decision; he felt he could have pulled ahead of Hamilton by five seconds, thus negating any time penalty he would have been given for the sketchy pass.
All that being said, we might just have an incredible battle between Mercedes and Red Bull Racing to look forward to this year.
- Lewis Hamilton
- Max Verstappen
- Valtteri Bottas
- Lando Norris
- Sergio Perez
- Charles Leclerc
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Carlos Sainz Jr.
- Yuki Tsunoda
- Lance Stroll