Lewis Hamilton wins Bahrain Grand Prix in perfect start to title defence

Lewis Hamilton defied the odds to hold off Max Verstappen and win the Bahrain Grand Prix.

In a fascinating conclusion to the opening race of the year, Hamilton and Verstappen raced all the way to the chequered flag, with the former crossing the line just 0.7 seconds ahead of his rival.

Verstappen appeared to have won the grand prix after driving past Hamilton around the outside of Turn 4, with just three laps remaining.

But the Dutchman was instructed by his team to give the position back to Hamilton, fearing their star driver would be penalised by the stewards for running off the track.

Hamilton then managed to keep Verstappen at arm’s length for the concluding laps to win the 96th race of his life in his pursuit of an unprecedented eighth world title.

Valtteri Bottas finished third, with British driver Lando Norris fourth for McLaren.

Standing with his hands on his hips, Verstappen, who started from pole position, said: “It is a shame but you have to see the positive because we are taking the fight to them.”

Hamilton added: “What a difficult race that was. Stopping early was going to be difficult but we had to cover Max. It was going to take something pretty special.

“Max was all over me right at the end but I just about managed to hold him off and it was one of the hardest races I have had for a while.

“Each year they are talking about when you hit your peak, and I’m at that and Max is really doing well, too, so it’s going to take everything and more from us but I love the challenge, and I love what I do.”

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