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‘It couldn’t have been better’ – Verstappen hails ‘unbelievable’ start to title defence with statement win

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull

Max Verstappen was full of smiles after storming to victory in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, the Dutchman kicking off his third successive title defence with a dominant performance at the Sakhir circuit.

Verstappen started Saturday night’s encounter from pole position and, after holding his lead on the opening lap, steadily pulled clear of the competition to eventually finish 22 seconds up on Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez.

READ MORE: Verstappen storms to victory in action-packed season-opening Bahrain GP

Speaking post-race, Verstappen reflected: “It’s unbelievable. I think today went even better than expected. I think the car was really nice to drive, on every [tyre] compound I think we had a lot of pace.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen kept his lead at the start of the race and never looked back

“It was just super enjoyable to drive today, we really stayed out of trouble and it’s a great start to the year – it couldn’t have been better.

“It’s always very special to have these kind of days because they don’t happen that often, that it just all goes perfect, you are at one with the car and everything just feels great.”

RACE START: Watch the first getaway of 2024 as Verstappen holds off Leclerc in Bahrain

Verstappen described the start of the race, where he moved over the track to defend from fellow front-row starter Charles Leclerc into Turn 1, was the key to setting up his comfortable win.

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2024 Bahrain Grand Prix: Verstappen crosses the line to take victory in the opening race of the season

“I think the start was good,” he said. “Of course, the first corner is a very tight hairpin, so naturally you want to defend the inside just to be safe, so that’s what we did and basically from there onwards we just focused on our own race.”

As for only having a few days to celebrate before returning to action with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen added: “That’s fine. It’s a long season. It’s a great place in the world to be anyway so for me, a couple of days of rest and we go again.”

LIVE COVERAGE: All the action from the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

Verstappen’s triumph marked the 55th of his F1 career as he takes an early advantage over Perez and third-place finisher Carlos Sainz in the drivers’ standings heading to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

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