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Max Verstappen opened his title defence with a bone-chillingly emphatic win in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Chasing his third successive world championship, the Dutchman started on pole and finished 12 seconds in front. It was an ominous warning and it will take a minor miracle to stop his charge anytime soon.

Sergio Perez made it a perfect night for Red Bull in the small Gulf kingdom by completing one of the most predictable one-twos in grand prix history. 

Fernando Alonso, 38 seconds back, finished third for Aston Martin – but only after a Ferrari nightmare, an apparent engine failure on the car of Charles Leclerc, then lying third.

His misfortune came 17 laps from the end. ‘No, no, no, come on,’ wailed the Monegasque. ‘No power.’ He hopped on to a scooter. Back in the garage, Piero Ferrari, the younger and only surviving son of ‘the old man’ Enzo, removed his headphones. Ferrari, eh! Plus ça change

Max Verstappen won the first race of the Formula One season

The Red Bull star triumphed comfortably at the Bahrain Grand Prix

Max Verstappen opened his title defence with a bone-chillingly emphatic win in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon

Constructor Red Bull's dominance continued in the Gulf kingdom in the first race of the new season with a predictable 1-2

Constructor Red Bull’s dominance continued in the Gulf kingdom in the first race of the new season with a predictable 1-2

Dutch star Verstappen, who is searching for his third championship in succession, fist-pumped on top of his car after finishing

Dutch star Verstappen, who is searching for his third championship in succession, fist-pumped on top of his car after finishing

Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez (right) finished second, with Spanish veteran Fernando Alonso (left) completing the podium

Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez (right) finished second, with Spanish veteran Fernando Alonso (left) completing the podium

Carlos Sainz was fourth for Ferrari after being passed, after a slight wheel-bang, by Alonso on lap 46 of 57.

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As for Mercedes, beset by self-doubt and shorn of hope in the near term, the race transpired approximately no better and no worse than expected. 

Lewis Hamilton finished fifth, 51 seconds adrift, and George Russell seventh, 56 short. The pair were separated by the Aston of Lance Stroll.

They had started sixth and seventh, Russell ahead on the grid.

At one early stage, Russell asked: ‘Is Lewis managing (his tyres) or is he slow? Because I feel I have a bit more pace.’ To which the response came: ‘Struggling, struggling.’ That about covered their predicament.

One of the best duels on a night that fizzed on occasions without bubbling throughout, was Hamilton versus Alonso. 

The Spaniard came out from his second stop on lap 35 some second-and-a-half behind the Briton. He gradually narrowed the gap.

On lap 39, Alonso got ahead at Turn 4. He took too much pace into the corner, however, lost shape and let Hamilton through again. 

Fireworks exploded in the sky as hot favourite, 25-year-old Verstappen, took the chequered flag in the Middle Eastern nation

Fireworks exploded in the sky as hot favourite, 25-year-old Verstappen, took the chequered flag in the Middle Eastern nation

The trio on the podium could have plenty more success to come in the 2023 campaign, given their highly competitive cars

The trio on the podium could have plenty more success to come in the 2023 campaign, given their highly competitive cars

It was a great day for Fernando Alonso

He revealed he loves the new Aston Martin car

It was a great day for Alonso, who revealed he loves the new Aston Martin car after several glorious overtaking manoeuvres

But it was more misery for Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, after his car ran into engine problems and stopped while on the track

But it was more misery for Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, after his car ran into engine problems and stopped while on the track

He finally made his greater pace stick, diving through on the inside six corners later, a sharp left-hander. Aston Martin have made real progress.

But for all of them, the Red Bull dominance was clear. In the first 10 laps, Verstappen opened up a seven second advantage over Leclerc, who was lying second at that stage, having passed Perez by getting his elbows out at the start. 

Yes, seven seconds, and you can bet he would have found fractions more rocket-speed had it been required.

A miserable day for McLaren. Oscar Piastri retired. Lando Norris was in and out of the pits all evening and finished last, two laps down.

Alonso was enjoying himself: ‘This car is lovely to drive,’ he said. Yes, but Verstappen wouldn’t swap him for it.

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