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What the teams said – Race day in Bahrain

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes

Mercedes

Trailing the Red Bull of Verstappen off the line, Mercedes opted to go aggressive on strategy, bringing in Hamilton before his rival for both his first and second stops. That meant he had track position in the latter stages, but was on much older tyres. Verstappen closed the gap, Hamilton ran wide but somehow through a combination of experience and incredible tyre management, the reigning world champion kept his nose in front to win the season opener in incredible fashion. As for Bottas, a slow second pit stop dropped him out of the fight and he had to be content with third and the bonus point for fastest lap.

Lewis Hamilton, 1st

"Firstly, can I just say it's the first time I have seen fans in a long time, it's so good to see people out here and everyone keeping their distance and staying safe. I'm so proud of what Formula One has been able to do, to start on a normal schedule this year and wow, what a difficult race that was! Definitely by stopping early, we knew it would be difficult, but we had to cover Max and keep the track position in the lead. They have had an amazing performance all weekend, so it was going to take something pretty special to get the win tonight. We stopped for that last stint and trying to find the right balance between pushing hard and saving tyre performance for the end of the race was difficult. And Max was all over me right at the end but I just about managed to hold him off. It was one of the hardest races I've had for a while so I'm really grateful for it and massively thankful for the men and the women back at the factory and here, for continuously pushing the boundaries and never giving up, even if we do feel we're behind. But we love the challenge, I love the challenge, I love what I do."

Valtteri Bottas, 3rd

"We lost a lot of time on the slow pit stop otherwise it was a close race with Red Bull. The cars were quite close on pace but if you lose 10 seconds like that, racing against Max and Lewis, you are not going to get that back. On a personal level it's not satisfying but at least as a team, we have more points than Red Bull. It was the right thing at the end to stop for new tyres and set the fastest lap so we have an extra point. The car was more drivable today, it was better than yesterday and we are continuing to make steps forward. Hopefully we can make further progress. We have three weeks of work ahead of us before Imola. If you had said at testing that we would have two drivers on the podium and be top of the Constructors' table after the first race, we would have taken it."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"If somebody had predicted this would be the result on Sunday, I wouldn't have believed it. If you are 100% honest with yourself, we are still lacking pace in qualifying. Today we were definitely competitive, and the strategy made all the difference. We made a bold call in the beginning to take track position and the lead of the race, then at the end the racing gods were on our side. Bahrain was never the strongest race for Red Bull and they have never traditionally been the quickest out the blocks, so after today I have no doubt that they are going to be extremely difficult to beat in 2021. We have a real fight on our hands - and we're all excited about the prospect of a really close battle for these championships!"

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"Days like today remind us why we do this! Everyone in Brackley and Brixworth have been working flat out since the test; we knew that we had our work cut out but today was a great reward for all the extra hours that everyone has been putting in.

"Our hope going into the race was that we'd be able to put Max under a bit of pressure. Lewis did that brilliantly and was able to stay within undercut range which enabled him to take the lead at the first stop. He pushed the tyres pretty hard at the start of that second stint to gain the position and we were starting to drop too early. That's what forced us to come in when we did. It was earlier than we'd have liked but Max was close enough to try and undercut Lewis so we had to make a move. A few seconds behind, Valtteri was having a strong middle stint, and although we didn't have the gap to undercut Max, we boxed at a point where we thought they may be afraid to go to the end and wondered if they would let us undercut them and take P2.

"Unfortunately, we had a problem at the stop and lost precious seconds and places which prevented Valtteri from being in the mix at the end, but it also allowed Max to offset his strategy to Lewis. Honestly, once that had happened, we didn't think we'd win, but Lewis did an amazing job with the tyre management and defending.

"We're well aware this championship will be close so when we had an opportunity to go for fastest lap with Valtteri we took it, earning him and the team the extra point. It's great to walk away from here leading the championship but we're under no illusions that this will anything other than an incredibly difficult championship to win. We've made good progress in the last week or so, but Red Bull have the better package at the moment and if we don't improve, our lead may be short-lived."

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: Third placed Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP looks on in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Red Bull

Verstappen led off the line and looked in control in the early stages. The team opted not to pit him at the same time as Hamilton, instead playing the longer game. That played out to leave the Dutchman second, chasing on fresh tyres in the closing laps and he easily caught his Mercedes quarry with time to spare. But the Dutchman ran wide on his crucial overtake, completing the move off the track and having to cede the position. That cost him crucial momentum and he couldn’t make another move stick to trail Hamilton home by fractions of a second. As for Perez, breaking down on the formation lap was not part of the plan but after a pit lane start, the Mexican carved his way through the field to finish a credible fifth.

Max Verstappen, 2nd

“We definitely made good steps forward today but it’s of course a shame not to get the win. We were having to manage a couple of issues throughout the race which I had to drive around so we will have to look into that but there are positives to take from today and the whole weekend. Mercedes did the undercut but we stuck to our strategy which was working fine, the problem is that with these cars, it’s so hard to pass and once you have that track position it’s pretty powerful. As soon as I got close enough to Lewis I had one shot and I just went outside of the track at Turn 4 so I gave the position back, but by then my tyres weren’t in a good state anymore to put the pressure on. We have to look at the positives, we are taking the fight to Mercedes and I think that’s great, it’s good to start the season this way and we managed to score some good points for the Team. We will analyse what we can do better as there are always things you can improve and it’s great to get Honda’s 200th podium this weekend. Now it’s full focus on the next race.”

Sergio Perez, 5th

“Considering my race almost didn’t happen today, I think overall we can be pleased with today and take away the positives as the pace was really good and the potential is there. On the formation lap, all of a sudden the car shut down and I was so close to jumping out but I stayed in and somehow the car got going again which was a miracle really. That meant we had to start from the pit lane which wasn’t ideal but we managed to recover and I was just happy to complete the race and get that important mileage under my belt. It was really important to get that and of course it is a shame that Max didn’t win the race for the Team but it will come I’m sure and we will get there. We’ve got a lot of data to analyse now so that we understand everything and make sure we come back stronger at the next race in Imola.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal

“First of all, congratulations to Mercedes, it was a great race today. We are all racers in this Team and to lose by such a small margin obviously hurts but the positive is that we have put in a strong performance all weekend and pushed Mercedes all the way. Max was nursing an issue from early on, how much of an affect that had during the race I’m not sure but he drove his heart out as always and we can’t ask for anything more than that. He got the pass done to re-gain the lead but ran out wide and was instructed to give the place back, which he did immediately and then he pushed Lewis to the line. Hats off to Sergio as well in what was a great comeback drive for him, especially after starting in the pit lane. He kept a cool calm head after the issue on the Formation Lap and was able to deliver a strong points haul. I think the biggest winner today is the fans, this race sets up a great season and I really hope we see Lewis and Max have many more battles. The fact that we’ve been so competitive this weekend is a good signal for the championship. If we’re frustrated with second place, then that’s not a bad place to be and shows the determination within the Team. We're certainly in the fight and ready to take on the season.”

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

McLaren

Norris paid his team mate back for yesterday's narrow qualifying defeat by getting Ricciardo off the line, and from there the youngster showed maturity to drive a faultless race and come home fourth. As for the Aussie, he lost out to Leclerc and then was given a healthy whack by Gasly from behind. But despite being in the wars, he managed to nurse his MCL35M home in seventh place and admits there is more to come as he beds in at his new team.

Daniel Ricciardo, 7th

"First one down! I think overall it’s been a good weekend. We can’t complain with that result. I think from the team’s perspective as well it’s good to hit the road with fourth and seventh. I think there’s plenty to learn from. I wasn’t that impressed with my race. We couldn’t find the pace, so every time I tried to get a bit more out of it, it wasn’t really there – but I think there’s plenty to take from the race, plenty to learn from. If what I felt was an okay race ended with a P7, we’re looking alright. We’ll take the positives and learn from the data. Overall, a good weekend for the whole team, and a good first race for McLaren. Thanks to the guys back at MTC and here at the track for their hard work and preparation.”

Lando Norris, 4th

"Very happy. A good result not just for myself but for us as a team. A good amount of points for this first weekend, I stayed out of trouble and I'm very happy. It's encouraging that we were able to fight with pure pace. It's a good start – big thanks to the team here and everyone back at the MTC."

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal

“We’ve had a great start this weekend to the 2021 season. Congratulations to the whole team – here in Bahrain, back home at the factory and also, especially, to our colleagues at Mercedes, who worked really hard with our team over the winter to make sure we were ready to hit the ground running at the opening race. “Today the team executed the race very well, while Lando and Daniel drove strong races to bring us home in P4 and P7. It gives us good points in a Constructors’ Championship that looks already very, very tight. We had the third-quickest car today, but we acknowledge there’s going to be a tense battle for that spot this year. We leave Bahrain committed as ever to working hard, improving our car and ensuring we’re still as competitive at the final race as we were at the first.”

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Ferrari

It was a good opening salvo from Ferrari, with Leclerc in particular looking strong. He even challenged Bottas in the opening stages, before being picked off by Norris for fourth. While the Monegasque couldn’t chase down the McLaren ahead, he did at least keep Norris’ team mate at bay to collect a decent haul of points. Sainz was also in the thick of the action on his debut for the Scuderia, eighth a handy result to open up his Ferrari account.

Charles Leclerc, 6th

"It’s a nice start and a good feeling and I am reasonably happy with the race today. I cannot be extremely satisfied with P6, but at the end of the day we need to look at where we were last year and it’s clear we have made good progress. I had a very good start. I found myself in third place and managed my tyres quite well in the first stint. I think there was probably a bit more left in them, but we had to stop and try to push the others towards different strategies, which was the right thing to do, but it might have cost us a little bit in terms of pace at the end of the race.

"All in all, it was a good race and a positive weekend and we made a good step forward compared to last season. We’re still not where we want to be, so we need to keep working and pushing very hard to get better in the coming races."

Carlos Sainz, 8th

"I think we had a solid first race today. It was very important for me to complete all the laps and keep building experience with the car. Maybe that’s the reason why this time I didn’t take too many risks at the start and it cost me a couple of places. I was curious to see how the car reacted in the dirty air of a race start and I knew I would have the opportunity to fight back once I got into my rhythm.

"Once the race settled a bit, I started pushing lap by lap and I think we showed a very strong pace with the medium tyre and especially with the hard tyre during the last stint. I also managed to pull of some good overtakes.

"Today I’m happy for the work we have been doing the entire weekend. Ferrari wants more. I want more. But it has been a promising start and we’ll keep pushing to get there."

Mattia Binotto, Team Principal

"That was a very intense race. It was the first of 23 stages of what will be a very long season and we must take each one as it comes, working calmly and with determination, just as we did this weekend. In the race, we struggled a bit more than we had done in qualifying, but we acquired plenty of useful data that will allow us to understand where we must improve.

"There’s a long way to go, but we will continue working to improve in all areas. Now our attention turns to the next round in Imola, which is special for us given that, along with Monza, it is a home race for us."

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

AlphaTauri

Gasly started strongly, but caught the back of Ricciardo’s McLaren at the Safety Car restart and ripped off his front wing. He dropped down the field after limping back to the pits, and wound up retiring from the opener. That left Tsunoda to spare the team’s blushes and he did so in style, proving a dab hand at overtaking as he fought his way into the points after starting 13th.

Pierre Gasly, DNF

“I’m obviously very disappointed right now because we’ve had a very strong weekend since we arrived. Starting from P5 I was hoping for some good points today, but my race was pretty much over after the contact with Daniel in lap one. I broke the front wing, I had floor damage and I was obviously very far behind after just one lap, so my race was almost finished from there. It’s a big shame because we’ve shown some good pace all weekend and we haven’t managed to get the rewards of that today, but I think there are still quite a lot of positives to take-away from this weekend and that’s what we’ll look at for Imola.”

Yuki Tsunoda, 9th

“I’m happy I managed to score points in my first Grand Prix – I think this race showed how great the performance of the car is. I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed still as I lost a few positions on the first lap – due to being too cautious – and had to work throughout the race to recover these. I’ve learnt a lot here in Bahrain, which is really positive, and I will take this with me to Imola. I had some strong overtakes during the race and, for me, overtaking Fernando was quite an emotional experience, he’s a Formula 1 superstar that I’ve grown up watching, so that was pretty exciting. I’m really proud of my performance and I’m looking forward to seeing how we do next time out.”

Franz Tost, Team Principal

“After a satisfying qualifying session yesterday, Pierre started on the grid today in fifth position and Yuki in 13th. The start of the race was good, with Pierre coming back in the first lap to keep his fifth position. Yuki had a reasonable start too, but then he was passed by a few other drivers - behind Ocon he then had to brake quite hard, causing a flat-spot on the front right tyre which meant he started feeling some vibrations.

"After the Safety Car, Pierre had a collision which caused damage to his front wing, coming down to corner five, therefore we had to pit him to change it – which of course took some time. Maybe the softer compound would have prevented the accident, as the grip on the mediums after the safety car was quite low. From then onwards, Pierre’s race was compromised as he also had damage to the floor, which meant quite a big loss of performance. Nevertheless, in his last stint he showed some fantastic lap times and was really one of the fastest out there. Unfortunately, we had to retire him towards the end of the race for a suspected gearbox issue that we need to investigate further. At the end, he couldn’t score any points, but he did a fantastic job in qualifying yesterday and he showed the race pace was there today – he was just unlucky.

"Yuki had his first race in F1 and I must say he really did a fantastic job. We told him his aim was to come back from the first lap with a healthy car to be able to run his race, and that’s exactly what he achieved. He showed a lot of good overtaking maneuverers – I believe he was the car that completed the most overtakes – and his lap times were also very competitive, with the medium tyre as well as with the hard compound. He deserved ninth position and it was really nice to see how he fought against Kimi, Lance and others - I think we can look forward to the season ahead with him. He is the first Japanese driver to score points in the debut race, and it’s great he achieved this result with us. I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone at Honda for putting in so much work over the winter months to provide us with such a competitive PU, essential to our performance. Even if I expected a better result this weekend and today we couldn’t get it together in the way we should’ve done, having a really strong package makes us look forward to Imola now.”

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Aston Martin

It was a mixed bag at Aston Martin. Stroll drove a very mature race to come home in the points, making sure all his overtakes were clean and picking his battles wisely. But Vettel struggled on debut for the team. A five-place grid drop for yellow flag infringements set the tone, and he was later handed a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision after missing his braking point and hitting the back of Ocon’s Alpine. He limped home well out of the points.

Sebastian Vettel, 15th

"It was quite a tricky race. We tried to do something different with the strategy – by stopping only once – but it did not pay off in the end. I think we made the right decision to try it, but by the end of the race my tyres were falling off the cliff. The start of the race was strong: I made a good start and I was well positioned after lap one. But it was not easy to make progress after that. I picked up a small flat spot and we had to extend the first stint to try and make the one-stop strategy work. In the end, it just wasn’t possible to score points today. Even though it has not been the best weekend, we have continued learning together and understanding where we can improve. There is definitely the potential to take some good steps forward in the races to come.”

Lance Stroll, 10th

“I’m pleased to come away with a point, but it is fair to say we wanted more from today. We had a strong first half of the race and we made up some positions. I felt comfortable in the car and we were racing hard against the cars around us. We tailed off a little bit in the second half of the race on the hard tyres, but there are plenty of positives to take away. I enjoyed some good battles too, especially with Fernando (Alonso) early on. We know there are some areas where we can improve and everything we have learned this weekend will help us in the races to come. We have a few weeks before the next race to work on those things.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO

“It was important to mark Aston Martin’s return to Formula 1 with a finish inside the points. Lance drove a strong and intelligent race, making the two-stop strategy work well. I don’t think there was much more on the table, especially considering the long final stint on the hard tyres. In terms of race pace, Lance was there or thereabouts with the midfield pack, which is encouraging, but it is clear the new regulations have impacted more negatively on teams – such as ourselves – running a low rake aero philosophy. Sebastian’s race was always going to be tricky with having to recover from the back of the grid and we switched him to a one-stop strategy to give him the best chance of scoring points. In the end, it was too much of a stretch and his tyre performance fell away quicker than we had anticipated. We will take the positives and negatives from the first weekend of the season and work hard over the next few weeks to be more competitive at the next race in Imola.”

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes leads Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Raikkonen made an electric start and looked well placed to steal some points. But as faster cars recovered, he couldn’t quite cling on to P10. Giovinazzi also had a decent race, and wound up just trailing his team mate home. Those two look evenly matched and could well be set for a season-long battle for team supremacy down at Alfa.

Kimi Raikkonen, 11th

“It wasn’t a bad race, we had some good fights and the car behaved nicely, but it’s disappointing not to bring home points when we were in the top ten nearly all night. Had the race been a few laps longer, we probably would have been able to catch the cars in front but we will keep trying. The car felt good, as it did in testing, so it is clear we have made a step forward compared to last year: we still have a bit to work to close the gap with the top five teams, but we keep fighting to find that little bit extra.”

Antonio Giovinazzi, 12th

“Compared to the start of last season, we are much faster and have a much better car so we can be happy about the step forward we have made. It wasn’t enough to bring home points today, but we are very close to the top ten and we can consistently fight for the points. My race was good, I think I got everything I could out of the car, but of course we lost time at the first pit stop. In the end, mistakes do happen and we have to learn from them and make sure we don’t do them again next time; without the issue, I would have probably been close to where Kimi ended. Now my focus is on Imola, racing again in my home country and hopefully achieving a good result to make the Tifosi at home happy.”

Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal

“Tonight gave us a strong indication of the progress we have made in the last twelve months. We raced with authority, leaving the Alpines and an Aston Martin behind us and finishing on the tail of the other Aston. Even though we leave Bahrain with no points, we do so having reclaimed our place in the midst of the midfield – and results will surely come soon. We demonstrated to be the able to fight in and around the top ten and we can look with optimism to the rest of the season. It was an eventful race, even though the low attrition rate – just two retirements – meant we had our work cut out when aiming for a place in the points. We take a lot of positives, however, knowing we can go to the next race in Imola, in two weeks, ready to battle again for a place in the top ten.”

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy driving the (99) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari leads Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Alpine

Alpine remain a bit of an unknown quantity after the first race. Alonso was running well in the points for much of the afternoon, overtaking as much as he was overtaken in what looks to be a very tight midfield. But he retired with overheating rear brakes, and Ocon had never fully recovered from his lowly grid slot. Including being punted into a spin by Vettel’s Aston Martin, it is safe to say it just wasn’t his day.

Esteban Ocon, 13th

“It wasn’t the result we wanted today, but there were certainly lots of positives. We were fighting for most of the race with a number of cars with fun, wheel to wheel battles. Even with Seb [Vettel] at the end, he locked up and went into me. He apologised, we all make mistakes, and that happens sometimes. We were just a little bit short overall today. Qualifying didn’t help us as it meant we always had places to gain. We showed our fighting spirit during this race and that’s quite important. We move onto the next race as a team, aiming to get back to scoring points.”

Fernando Alonso, DNF

“Firstly, it was great to be back racing in Formula 1. The start was fun, we gained some places and I had some enjoyable battles with old colleagues. However, it was disappointing to not see the chequered flag in the end. The issue we had after the second stop was a rear brake issue as some debris entered the brake ducts and overheated the temperatures of the car. Looking at the race it was very close in the midfield, and just a couple of tenths seems to change the order quite significantly. I think it’s going to be a very interesting and competitive season to watch. We’ll go again and fight hard in Imola.”

Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director

“It’s not the best start to the season for us as we had our fair share of bad luck throughout the weekend; both in qualifying and the race. Both cars made a good start and gained some places on the first lap with Fernando holding firm in the top 10. After his first stop we had a small issue that forced us to reduce the performance of the car, then after the second stop, a sandwich wrap paper got stuck inside the rear brake duct of Fernando’s car, which led to high temperatures and caused some damage to the brake system, so we retired him for safety reasons. It was a very unlucky first race for Fernando considering how strong he looked. Esteban drove a solid race today starting from sixteenth and was heading towards a possible points finish. But then he was hit by Sebastian [Vettel], which led to some damage to the car. We’ve got some work to do ahead of Imola to bring more performance to the car to fight in a very competitive midfield where each tenth counts. We’re all looking forward to having another go in just a few weeks.”

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine A521 Renault leaves the pitlane during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Haas

Mazepin didn’t have the best of first races, spinning on the opening lap into the barriers to end his evening at the earliest of stages. Schumacher then showed that that VF-21 is pretty hard to handle himself, also spinning but managing to get going again. The German saw the chequered flag, but it was a lonely race at the back of the field.

Mick Schumacher, 16th

“In general, I’d say I was 90 percent happy and 10 percent not – because of the mistake I made, the spin, at the Safety Car restart. Luckily the car was still drivable, everything was alright so I could keep going and continue to build on my experience through the race weekend. Obviously, after that I went through the C3 and the C2, which felt really good. It was a bit of a shame that I wasn’t in the pack to be able to at least try to be close to the guys for a few laps. Fortunately, I did get through things like blue flags and I caught up to Nicholas (Latifi) – so I was able to feel how it was to follow a car closely and have DRS. Overall, I feel like I’ve learned a lot, and hopefully I’m able to convert that into something positive for the next race.”

Nikita Mazepin, DNF

“It was very simple – I made a mistake. It was just one of those things. My start had been good, I got into Turn 1 taking the outside line. I was then going through Turn 2 and I was really trying to avoid Mick (Schumacher) as he was close and got too much on power – the tyres didn’t take it. They were cold, I got on the kerb, took too much throttle and spun. It was totally my mistake, it’s very disappointing. I’m very sorry for the team as they deserved to do much better than that. Obviously, there’s always positives you can take – the learning experience is obviously there.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“We had a 50 percent success rate today. Mick (Schumacher) did a very good job – I think he learned a lot today, and the team learned a lot, the strategy’s working. Nikita (Mazepin), obviously, we all saw had a spin on the first lap which compromised his race. He doesn’t feel great about it, but we put it down as learning. He will get back at it again at the next race weekend, for sure he’s learned from this weekend. In general terms, the team worked very well over the whole weekend together with the drivers. I think they’ve all started to gel as a team. They’ve been working together, they understand each other. These things always take time. It’s very complex - the whole sport is so complex, and it’s only time that gives you some solutions. You cannot force these things and you cannot buy them. Every day we are together working is a plus.”

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: The abandoned car of Nikita Mazepin of Russia and Haas F1 is seen at the side of the track after a colllision earlier in the race during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Williams

Russell had a good race, and even looked to be in the fight for the last point on offer before his final pit stop dropped him back. As for Latifi, he couldn’t quite match his team mate, and wound up retiring with an issue with the boosting system. The Canadian’s search for a first F1 point continues.

George Russell, 14th

"It was nice to be racing and I had a good little tussle at the beginning, making a few places and losing a few places. I thought it was a well-executed race. The first stint was tricky but the second and third were as good as can be and our relative pace was quite strong. That was the maximum today and I think our relative pace was good. I’m now looking forward to Imola and assessing where we are there."

Nicholas Latifi, DNF

"I was pleasantly surprised with how the handling of the car felt in the race. We were expecting something quite tricky to handle but, irrespective of the issue that caused us to retire, I was surprised with the driveability of the car. It’s still not where we want to be, but I think that was a positive going forward.

"Straight away from the first laps, even with the laps to the grid, I felt we were getting some oscillations in the engine with power and it seems we had a suspected boost leak which is why we had to retire in the end. We tried to stay out for as long as possible, hoping that a few cars might retire, but in the last half of the race we were just circulating and not really racing. It’s not how you want the first race to go but that is just motorsport sometimes."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"We had a mixed day today, with George showing good pace and race craft to finish P14, and close behind Ocon; all the work, which we began in testing two weeks ago, paid off with three well-managed stints. Unfortunately, Nicholas’s race became very difficult early on when a suspected boost leak in the power unit cost him power and driveability. He was having to manage the power unit extensively, which began to cost him a lot of time and ultimately caused him to spin. Once he was no longer able to stay ahead of Schumacher, we chose to retire him from the race to protect the car from any potential damage.

"It’s good to get the opening race of the season under our belts and we now head back to base with a clearer picture of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the FW43B. We have a couple of weeks to review and improve the car before we regroup for the next race in Imola. We are looking forward to going back to such a fantastic track and are confident that we can combine the experience gained this weekend with the success that we enjoyed in Imola last year."

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 28: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"Tyre strategy was at the forefront of this exciting race, with Hamilton and Mercedes twice stopping earlier than Verstappen and Red Bull – meaning of course that Hamilton had to complete a longer final stint, which he managed brilliantly. All three compounds performed strongly throughout the race, with Verstappen also doing a long middle stint on the medium. We saw a number of different strategies, with five of the finishers using all the compounds during the race, and two three-stoppers in the top five as well. The strategies also reflected the tyre sets that each driver had available for the race. It was a similar story in Formula 2, where the new race format helped to put an accent on tyre strategy, delivering a brilliant weekend of racing in Bahrain throughout every category."

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What the teams said – Friday in Spain