South Australia was welcomed by the Supercars championship in 2021, with a single visit to The Bend Motorsport Park which has become a mainstay on the calendar with its Bend SuperSprint.
Lewis Hamilton has won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix for Mercedes after an epic, knife-edge battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen over the final laps.
Verstappen, who passed Hamilton with four laps to go only to have to hand back the lead for going off the track, finished a mere 0.74 seconds behind after starting on pole position.
Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas was a distant third but gained a bonus point for fastest lap, while Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished seventh on his McLaren debut.
“Wow, what a difficult race that was,” said Hamilton, who started second on the grid and took another of Michael Schumacher’s all-time records with his 5,112nd race lap led.
“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.”
Verstappen appeared to have won the race after passing Hamilton around the outside of the fourth turn with just three laps remaining.
But the Dutchman was instructed by his team to give the position back to Hamilton, fearing their star driver would be penalised for running off the track.
Seven-time Formula One champion Hamilton had to negotiate the final laps on older and more worn tyres than his rival.
Towards the end, he simply told his race engineer to “leave me to it”.
The win was a record-extending 96th for Hamilton, and continued his record of winning in every season since his debut with McLaren in 2007.
Verstappen said he had “one shot” when he went outside the track before giving the position back.
“I tried again but my tyres were not in the right state to put the pressure on,” said Verstappen.
The Dutch youngster had hoped he might be able pull far enough clear to absorb the inevitable time penalty, but Red Bull were clear on what he had to do.
“Once you have that instruction you have to move out of the way. It is tough racing, it is fair racing,” said team boss Christian Horner.
“I think the biggest winner today was the fans. It sets up a great season and I hope we see more battles between Max and Lewis this season.”
Lando Norris finished fourth for McLaren while Verstappen’s new Mexican team mate Sergio Perez went from starting in the pit lane, after his car had stopped on the formation lap, to fifth place.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was sixth and Spaniard Carlos Sainz finished eighth in his first race for Ferrari.
Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda scored on his F1 debut in ninth for AlphaTauri and Lance Stroll took the last scoring place for Aston Martin in the marque’s first race as a constructor since 1960.
Stroll’s team mate Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion who has joined from Ferrari, had another of his nightmares.
The German collected a five-place grid drop for not respecting warning flags in qualifying and went to last on the starting grid.
He then collected a ten-second penalty in the race for causing a collision with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and two penalty points.
Ocon’s team mate Fernando Alonso, returning after a two-year absence at the age of 39, retired from the race after debris was trapped in a brake duct, causing it to overheat.
Mick Schumacher, F2 champion and rookie son of seven-time champion Michael, was lapped and the last finisher in 16th for Haas.
The debut of his Russian team mate Nikita Mazepin lasted only seconds before he spun off coming out of turn two, triggering the safety car.