Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton clinched a nail-biting Bahrain Grand Prix season opener, beating Max Verstappen of Red Bull in a duel that went down to the last lap of the race. Valtteri Bottas, also driving a Mercedes, completed the podium.

Starting from fourth pole position of his career, Verstappen had taken control of the race early on, but lost advantage as Hamilton got into lead in the first round of pit stops.

Following a second stop for both drivers, a thrilling finale was set up. Verstappen ate into Hamilton’s lead before attempting a pass on Lap 53 but running too wide and giving the place back.

That would be Verstappen’s last opportunity, with Hamilton able to hold on until the flag to take his 96th career win by less than a second.

Hamilton also passed Michael Schumacher;s record of 5,111 for the most laps led in Formula One history.

Behind the lead pair, Bottas finished a distant third after a late stop to successfully gain the fastest lap bonus point.

–IANS

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