Red Bull’s Max Verstappen began the new season with a dominant victory in the Middle East, just as he ended the previous one.
The two-time champion led the Bahrain Grand Prix almost from start to finish, initially outpacing his competitors and then dominating the race.
Verstappen’s 36th victory underscored his status as the favorite to win a third consecutive world title.
Sergio Perez led Red Bull to a one-two finish, with Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin finishing third.
Perez had won a battle for second place with Charles Leclerc before the Ferrari driver retired with 16 laps to go after losing drive.
Alonso created the most excitement in the race by dropping from fifth on the grid to seventh behind Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on the first lap, but fought back to take the final podium spot.
Before the first pit stops, Alonso passed Russell, then caught and passed Hamilton after their second pit stops, before closing in on Sainz.
The moves on Hamilton and Sainz were outstanding.
For a few laps, Alonso and Hamilton battled, with the Spaniard passing the Briton into Turn Four before a snap from the rear allowed the Mercedes back past.
Then Alonso returned to Hamilton and overtook him on the inside of Turn 10, which is an extremely rare place for a move.
As Alonso attempted to pass out of Turn Four, he collided with Sainz. Sainz then made the same move at Turn 10, but Alonso had a better drive down the next straight and passed into the fast Turn 11.
Sainz was able to hold off Hamilton for fourth place. The seven-time champion appeared to be closing in on the Ferrari, but he was unable to do so as both suffered tyre issues and had to settle for fifth.
Lance Stroll’s second Aston Martin finished sixth, despite hitting Alonso at Turn Four on the first lap, costing the Spaniard a place to Russell, who finished seventh.