'Let me go': Max Verstappen rages over Lewis Hamilton moment

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, pictured here during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton battle during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen was absolutely seething after being forced to hand the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to Lewis Hamilton.

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.

'FINAL INSULT': Red Bull 'still really annoyed' at Dan Ricciardo

NOT GOING ANYWHERE: Lewis Hamilton's big retirement statement

The Red Bull driver 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.

Verstappen was furious with the decision, asking his team why they didn't let him finish the race and try to get far enough away from Hamilton that a five-second penalty wouldn't have mattered.

“Why didn’t you just let me go, man?” he said on team radio.

“I could have easily pulled those five seconds. I am prepared to lose a win like that than be second like this.”

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," he said.

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."

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".

Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas was a distant third but gained a bonus point for fastest lap, while Australian Daniel Ricciardo finished seventh on his McLaren debut.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, pictured here celebrating on the podium after the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen celebrate on the podium. (Photo by Hasan Bratic/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Sebastian Vettel endures another nightmare

Lando Norris finished fourth for McLaren while Verstappen's new Mexican teammate 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 10-second penalty in the race for causing a collision with Alpine's Esteban Ocon and two penalty points.

Ocon's teammate 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 teammate Nikita Mazepin lasted only seconds before he spun off coming out of turn two, triggering the safety car.

with AAP

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.