The first race of the Formula 1 season wasn’t much of a race at all.

Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing started the defense for his world title with a dominant performance Sunday at The Bahrain Grand Prix, winning by 12 seconds — an eternity in A sport that measures gains in the hundredths of seconds — and sending a message to the rest of the series that he will not surrender his championship easily.

Fastest in Saturday’s qualifying, Verstappen pulled away from the starting line on Sunday, beat his top rivals and his teammate Sergio Pérez to the first turn and never looked back. He gradually increased his lead, first by two seconds, then three, and then four seconds. Then five. He beat Pérez by just under 12 seconds and the rest of the field by at least 38.

Surprise of all was Fernando Alonso who drove the Red Bulls along the entire line. in Aston Martin surprised everyone by making it onto the podium at the age of 41 in His first race as part of the team. Carlos Sainz, in a Ferrari, was a distant fourth but his team had bigger problems: His teammate Charles Leclerc didn’t even finish.

Aston Martin was a controversial choice due to its speedy performances. in testing and practice sessions the past two weeks, but even Alonso wasn’t sure that would translate to Sunday’s race. That is, until it happened.

“I had the same feeling from testing — it’s too good to be true,” Alonso spoke of his ability stay with the best teams Sunday. “But it seems real. I could have driven for another hour on the track.”

Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, had been just as uncertain before the race, calling the first start of any season “a bit of a trip into the unknown.” Und Verstappen’s ride was not flawless: He grumbled about some gear troubles on his radio, worried about tire conditions and, afterward, suggested Red Bull could still get better.

“Nothing big,” Verstappen said. “Just little things that you always want to fine-tune.”

Verstappen surrendered the lead only once on Sunday, to his teammate Pérez, and only briefly. He quickly regained the lead and ran off from the field.

This was the end of it. Verstappen The gas was pressed. Starting from the pole, he was fastest to the first corner, and then second, and the third … you get the idea. Charles Leclerc gave Ferrari a few seconds of hope when he passed Red Bull’s Pérez in He won the first sprint. But it wasn’t long before he was behind both Red Bulls and, like everyone else, wondering where Verstappen Had gone.

  • Esteban Ocon. It was a landslide win in This contest. Alpine driver managed line up in Incorrectly served the penalty after the incorrect place was marked on the grid. bringing on a second one. A third penalty — for speeding in the pit lane as he tried to make up the seconds he had lost — just seemed comical. It’s not like there were a way for him to unlock the keys. in An F1 Ocon most likely would have done it.

  • Oscar Piastri. After Alpine announced that he was a driver in 2023, his much-discussed decision to move to McLaren last winter produced one of most exciting moments of the new year. “Drive to Survive” season. But Piastri’s debut race for McLaren was a disaster: He was out after roughly a dozen uninspiring laps, part of a miserable day for his team.

  • Charles Leclerc. He was running third when his car’s power unit suddenly gave out. He was just going around corners when his car’s power unit suddenly died. It was not possible to begin the season with the points. in his plans, or Ferrari’s. The Garage was closed in A million-dollar racecar to ride on a Vespa back to it? Ouch.

  • “That was exactly the start to the season we needed.” — Max Verstappen Red Bull was ranked 1-2.

  • “Yes! Bye-bye.” — Fernando Alonso on the radio, after a late-race pass of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz put him in Third place, and eventually Aston Martin on top.

  • “Unfortunately we’ve taken a step back and Red Bull’s on another planet. Third was the best we could hope for.” — Charles Leclerc, after his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz finished fourth and he didn’t finish at all.

March 19 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah Corniche Circuit.