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F1 champion Max Verstappen wins season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix

By By James Ellingworth AP Sports Writer
Posted 12:18PM on Saturday 2nd March 2024 ( 2 months ago )

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen eased to victory in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday despite the turmoil surrounding his Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

Verstappen started on pole position and was never seriously challenged on his way to a commanding one-two win for Red Bull ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez.

“Today went even better than expected," Verstappen said. “It was a lot of fun."

He said he felt “one with the car.”

Carlos Sainz Jr. was third for Ferrari after fighting hard with teammate Charles Leclerc.

At the start of the longest-ever F1 season at 24 races, Verstappen already shows signs of repeating his near-perfect record from 2023, when the Dutch driver won 19 of 22 races on his way to a third straight title.

Saturday was the eighth win in a row for Verstappen going back to September last year. He set an F1 record of 10 consecutive wins last season.

Horner arrived on race day hand in hand with his wife Geri Halliwell, also known as Ginger Spice of the pop group the Spice Girls. The race came after FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said the turmoil around Horner was “damaging the sport,” in comments to the Financial Times.

The F1 paddock’s focus has firmly been on the Red Bull team principal this week, with Verstappen saying Saturday his boss was “probably a little bit distracted.”

On Wednesday, the team’s parent company dismissed a complaint of alleged misconduct by Horner toward a team employee. A day later during practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, a file alleged to contain evidence against Horner was emailed to nearly 200 people in the F1 paddock, including Liberty Media, F1, the FIA, the other nine team principals and multiple media outlets.

The authenticity of the files has not been verified by The Associated Press; the file came from a generic email account.

Charles Leclerc was fourth and George Russell was fifth, with Lando Norris sixth for McLaren and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton seventh after an uneventful race in the second Mercedes. Oscar Piastri of McLaren was eighth, ahead of the two Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.

 

The checkered flag is waved as Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands crosses the finish line to take first place during the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (Ali Haider, Pool Photo via AP)

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