Bahrain Grand Prix: Two winners and two losers from opening F1 race

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F1 2021 returned in fantastic style over the weekend as the opening race of the year in Bahrain lived up to plenty of the pre-season hype.

During the course of the 56-lap Grand Prix in Sakhir, we got an exciting hint that all the subplots being predicted before a wheel had been turned in anger during the off-season were going to come to pass, potentially teeing us up for a thrilling campaign.

In the end, Lewis Hamilton took the spoils to record his 96th Grand Prix win, holding off a hard-charging Max Verstappen in a dramatic final few laps that appear to have set the wheels in motion for a true title tussle this season.

And, further behind, the midfield battle was just as entertaining with several teams showing good race pace throughout as McLaren, Ferrari, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin all recorded points finishes.

Who, though, were the winners and losers from the opening race? We take a look at two of each...

Winner - Lando Norris

Norris will be delighted with how his opening race went for 2021 as he finished fourth, earning 12 points in the process.

Not only did he finish 20 seconds up the road ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo, he proved his race-craft and pace throughout with some fine battles against the likes of Charles Leclerc, who impressed himself in the Ferrari.

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Qualifying had disappointed a little, but he bounced back in fine style, underlining both his and the car's race pace in a promising first race of the new season.

Loser - Nikita Mazepin

Promising, meanwhile, is certainly not the word you'd use for Nikita Mazepin's debut behind the wheel of an F1 car.

In truth, it only lasted three corners of the first lap before he dropped it into the wall, writing off his Haas car.

The stop-start nature of the beginning of the Grand Prix naturally would have played into more experienced heads and it was clear that Mazepin just got too happy on the throttle, very much having his own crash on cold tyres before paying the ultimate price with a retirement.

He's already got many on his case for off-track matters and this will have only increased the scrutiny on him early on.

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Winner - Yuki Tsunoda

Another rookie, meanwhile, had a stellar Grand Prix.

Tsunoda scored two points on his debut for AlphaTauri, underlining why there's such excitement around him in the sport.

He was second-fastest in testing and also showed decent pace in qualifying, but it was in the race where we really saw his true talent.

Happy to mix it with the senior heads like Kimi Raikkonen on his way to a ninth-place finish, the buzz around Tsunoda and, indeed, the quick-looking AlphaTauri car, doesn't seem set to dissipate any time soon.

Loser - Sebastian Vettel

A weekend to forget for Seb.

Natural hype built around Vettel's debut for Aston Martin, but it ultimately proved to be a damp squib in the desert.

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Starting right at the back of the grid after a yellow flag infringement in qualifying, the German's weekend gradually spiralled down from there.

He finished 15th, well off of the points-paying places, and suffered a pretty clumsy incident with Esteban Ocon as he got his braking all wrong and drove into the back of the Frenchman who'd just gone past.

He got a 10-second penalty for that and also five points on his superlicence for his troubles - he'll hope things can only go up in Imola later in April.

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