Verstappen credits victory to dominant F1 Bahrain GP start

The two-time champion kicked off his title defence in imperious fashion by scoring his first win at the Bahrain International Circuit by 11.9s over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

Despite starting on used softs compared to Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc’s brand-new Pirellis, Verstappen escaped DRS range and boasted a 1.8s lead at the end of the second lap.

He then stretched his rubber a lap longer than Leclerc before pitting for another set of softs.

With the Dutch racer able to manage his degradation aboard the RB19, Verstappen stopped again for hards and never faced a serious threat from another driver to his victory chances across the 57 laps.

Verstappen said his strong first phase allowed him to focus on managing the tyres.

“It was a very, very good first stint where I basically made my gap,” he explained.

“From there on, it was all about just looking after the tyres because you never really know what’s going to happen later on in the race.

“We just wanted to make sure that we had the right tyres and in good condition as well.”

The only possible scare came when Verstappen complained that he was having to manage some locking of the rear axle when downshifting. But a cycle through the steering wheel settings soon had this under control aboard an RB19 that he “can definitely fight with”.

On the glitch, Verstappen said: “Nothing big. Just little, little things. You always want to fine tune so I think they’re quite easy to get on top of.”

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Meanwhile, Perez lamented his poor getaway – which meant he ceded second place to Leclerc into Turn 1 – as the decisive factor in not being able to challenge Verstappen.

The Mexican said: “[It was] that start that really put me out of contention from the race. But it was all about minimising the damage. Finishing second is the maximum I could do today.

“It’s a long season. I think I’m getting closer [to Verstappen] every single session.”

Perez reckoned he could “certainly” give Verstappen a run for his money over the coming season, adding: “I’m feeling comfortable with the car and we have a strong package. I will give my best.”

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Red Bull had kicked off the 2022 campaign, ahead of its dominant 17-race-winning record, with a double DNF in Bahrain owing to two fuel system failures.

On the change in fortune, Perez added: “It’s a great start. When we look back at last year, how we started here, it is really nice.

“It’s a nice comeback as a team. We work really hard over the winter. So, it’s great to see all the boys enjoying the first race.

“We have a strong package. It was important today to get both cars until the end.”

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