Hamilton edges Verstappen in wild season opener

The world champion begins his title defence in style after a thrilling race in Bahrain
Verstappen and Hamilton fought it out from the startVerstappen and Hamilton fought it out from the start
Verstappen and Hamilton fought it out from the start

The F1 season exploded into life when Lewis Hamilton fought off Max Verstappen in the final laps to secure victory in Bahrain.

Verstappen, who had the pace over the weekend, looked on course for victory after his pole position but Mercedes strategy saw Hamilton take over the lead when he stopped earlier than the Red Bull.

The Dutchman hunted down Hamilton in the closing stages and launched an attack with three laps to go but was deemed to have done so off the track and was told to let the Brit back past.

Lewis Hamilton wins in BahrainLewis Hamilton wins in Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton wins in Bahrain

Unable to make another move stick though, Verstappen had to settle for second with Hamilton winning the season opener.

He said: "what a difficult race. Stopping early we knew would be tough but max has been amazing all weekend. We didn't have much tyre left at the end but I've just about managed to hold him off. I'm hugely grateful to the guys and girls back at the factory who haven't given up.

"I loved the challenge. I'm really looking forward to it. This is a really good start for us."

Verstappen said: "You have to take the positives, we're putting mercedes under pressure so we have to take the positives."

Valtteri Bottas stopped late on for tyres and was able to set the fastest lap and claim third place.

He said: "It was a disappointing race for me. We went defensive rather than aggressive with my strategy which wasn't normal. The pace was ok but it's disappointing."

Lando Norris claimed fourth spot in the McLaren ahead of the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who started from the pitlane after his car switched off on the formation lap.

Charles Leclerc came home sixth, with Daniel Riccardo's McLaren debut ending in seventh, with the man he replaced, Carlos Sainz Jnr eighth for Ferrari.

Yuki Tsunoda, the first driver in F1 to be born in the 21st century, scored two points in his debut in ninth spot ahead of Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll.