Motorsport: Three-time defending champion Max Verstappen begins new Formula One season with victory at Bahrain

Red Bull's Max Verstappen has started his bid for a fourth successive Formula One title with a commanding Bahrain Grand Prix win from pole position, plus fastest lap, ahead of teammate Sergio Perez.

The Dutch driver led every lap and took the chequered flag a massive 22.457 seconds clear of Perez, as Red Bull repeated last year's one-two and sent a clear message to rivals yearning for change.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz completed the podium under the floodlights at Sakhir. with teammate Charles Leclerc finishing fourth.

Max Verstappen celebrates his Bahrain Grand Prix victory.
Max Verstappen celebrates his Bahrain Grand Prix victory. Photo credit: Getty Images

The win was Red Bull's 114th since they arrived in Formula One 20 years ago, lifting the team level with former champions Williams at fourth equal in the all-time lists. Verstappen now has 55 career wins.

He has led the championship for 40 successive races dating back to May 2022 and is on an eight-race winning streak going back to Japan last September.

He looked even more dominant this year than last, when he beat Perez by 11.987 seconds, but did not take the fastest lap.

"That was simply lovely what a great race," said Verstappen, who ended up with 19 wins in 22 races last year. "Great start to the year guys, one-two as well... fantastic."

Mercedes' George Russell was fifth, with McLaren's Lando Norris sixth.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton started ninth and finished seventh for Mercedes, with McLaren's Oscar Piastri eighth, Fernando Alonso ninth for Aston Martin and teammate Lance Stroll 10th.