Verstappen Continues Doing Verstappen Things At F1 Bahrain GP

Jackson Wheeler
15 Min Read


Max Verstappen’s quest for a fourth successive Formula 1 world title began in emphatic fashion on Saturday night as he pulverised the opposition at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Autoweek rounds up the key talking points.

Victorious Verstappen, Again

formula 1 bahrain grand prix

Anadolu//Getty Images

Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing during Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir, Bahrain on March 2, 2024.

Grab the script from F1 2023, and CTRL+C, CTRL+V it.

This was relentless brutality from Verstappen as any feint hopes rivals may have harboured about a closer title fight were well and truly extinguished before the season opener had even reached its halfway mark. At times Verstappen lapped 0.8-1.0 seconds faster than the chasing pack, guiding the RB20 around the floodlit Sakhir Circuit with ease, as he opened the year with a Grand Chelem: pole position, fastest lap, all 57 laps led, and the race victory.

It was Verstappen’s eighth triumph in a row, after he rounded off 2023 with seven successive wins.

It raises the prospect of another season of crushing dominance. Last year Verstappen won 19 from 22, surpassing his previous record of 15 in 2022, and there is every chance that tally could be immediately beaten given 2024’s extended 24-round season. The supremacy of Verstappen and Red Bull, and in being bold with the design of the RB20, has to be applauded, but the display in Bahrain was bad news for a championship that desperately needs an injection of excitement and uncertainty up front.

“I just think that today, everything just worked really, really well,” said Verstappen, understating the situation. “And I of course don’t expect that to happen every single Grand Prix in the near future. So still, we take it, we look back at it, of course, we analyse it, and we’ll try to improve further.”

Teammate Sergio Perez rose from fifth to second to complete a Red Bull 1-2, giving the team a perfect start, but boss Christian Horner was quick to be caution.

“I’ve been in this business too long to draw too many conclusions from a single race,” he said. “It’s a fantastic start, we’ll enjoy this moment, maximum points score. But it’s a long season, many different venues, different challenges, different conditions. And what we saw in the testing is that things are closer. Now we got it right this weekend, we took the right cars into the race, we executed a perfect race with both cars and we got a great finish. But I think that it will converge.”

But Mercedes boss Toto Wolff summed up the situation by declaring that “I think today Max is not in a different league but he’s in a different galaxy, the performance is extraordinary.”

Battling Sainz Provides a Reminder

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GIUSEPPE CACACE//Getty Images

Ferrari’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr drives during the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 2, 2024.

Carlos Sainz has been something of the forgotten man already in 2024, amid the news of his replacement for 2025 at Ferrari by Lewis Hamilton. Sainz reminded prospective employers of his quality with a stirring drive in Bahrain, recovering from a slightly slow getaway to rise from fifth to third, working past George Russell and Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, a move he twice had to complete owing to their pit stop strategies

“I think it’s just important to start the season well, start the season with a strong race, just not for my future, just for myself, you know, because last year I spent a lot of the races, you know, looking in my mirror, saving tyres, defending my position,” said Sainz. “And I remember at the car launch saying, yeah, this year I wish we had a car to go racing, you know, and attack people and don’t care too much about the tires and make some overtaking moves and look forward rather than look backwards. And it’s exactly what we got. You know, I got an attacking race, a really good race pace. And from there, everything felt really good to finish P3. It was a straightforward and easy race, but yeah, I enjoyed it a lot.”

Leclerc, meanwhile, was hamstrung by a braking issue which left the car pulling to one side, causing inconsistent lap times and frustration for the driver. He nonetheless salvaged fourth – “considering everything it’s a really good effort” – but felt second was within reach without the problem. Nonetheless, he did reveal the problem had previously manifested itself during testing and a cause is as yet unknown.

Boss Fred Vasseur was cautiously optimistic.

“It’s a very long season and you have room for improvement,” said Vasseur. “Yesterday we were fighting for pole, but in the race in Bahrain the degradation is always huge for everybody and we will have other occasions to start from pole and other occasions to win races. We will keep this approach, push like hell and everybody in the team is motivated and I am quite happy with the step we did compared to 12 months ago. We will continue to push out in front.”

Did Mercedes George Russell Already Concede The 2024 Title?

f1 grand prix of bahrain

Clive Mason//Getty Images

George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W15 on a cool down lap as fireworks are seen in the sky during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

It was a curious display from Mercedes, with the ultimate performance of the W15 masked by cooling issues. George Russell had a fast opening stint, rising to second place, but was overhauled by both Ferrari drivers as he had to cool the car for reliability purposes.

“As soon as I overtook Charles, I had big red alarms on the steering wheel,” said Russell. “We had to turn the power down to stop the engine overheating. It cost us 0.4 a lap, and by that point we went backwards.”

Russell downplayed notions that it is a longer-term concern – given how atypically cool the conditions were in Bahrain – and said that Mercedes had simply been too aggressive. But he was open about the state of play.

“We’ve definitely got a much better car this year.,” he said. “Red Bull have always been strong here. So is Ferrari, I’d say this has been a bit of a bogey track for us in the last few years. But you know, Max is a favorite. I don’t think anybody’s going to be fighting him for the championship this year.”

Lewis Hamilton made only marginal gains from ninth on the grid, passing the slower Fernando Alonso before getting by Oscar Piastri through the pit stop phase.

Awful Alpine

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ANP//Getty Images

Esteban Ocon (Alpine) ahead of Pierre Gasly (Alpine) and Valtteri Bottas (Kick Sauber) during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Alpine endured an appalling start to the 2024 campaign as Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly followed up being slowest in qualifying by effectively being the slowest drivers in the race. Their finishing positions of 17th and 18th were only enhanced by Valtteri Bottas enduring a minute-long pit stop, and by Logan Sargeant briefly stopping on-track after a steering wheel issue. Alpine was braced for a slow start with its new design concept and have updates coming in the pipeline – perhaps as early as round three in Melbourne – but any new components will have to yield massive gains to avoid 2024 being a write-off. There are already rumors of departures from within the technical structure.

“Today was a continuation of what we saw in qualifying and, overall, it has not been the weekend we wanted,” said Esteban Ocon. “Most importantly we had a clean race and collected valuable data that we can take into the race in Jeddah. We’ll dig in and put our heads together during the short break between races and see where we can improve.”

Gasly agreed that “we have many areas to keep improving and I know the hard work will continue behind the scenes. We have to keep making steps forward as we are not where we want to be right now.”

It could be a very bleak season for Alpine.

Haas Start 2024 With Encouraging Outing

f1 grand prix of bahrain

Joe Portlock – Formula 1//Getty Images

Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

Haas did not score points, with Kevin Magnussen 12th and Nico Hulkenberg 16th after first lap contact left him out of sync, but this was an encouraging display. Haas was stymied in race trim in 2023 with chronic tire wear and the pattern of its grands prix were Magnussen and Hulkenberg holding positions for a few laps before sinking like stones through the lower midfield. In Bahrain Magnussen rose from 15th to 12th on the opening lap and retained that position through to the checkered flag, running a conventional two-stop strategy, in a race with 20 finishers.

“We didn’t score points, okay, and we still need to find more speed to be a regular points scorer but we were two positions out [of the top 10] with nothing crazy happening at the front, so this was a pretty normal race, a decent result,” said Magnussen. He cautioned that “it’s one track, one [type of] tarmac and that “we still need to prove we’ve made progress [at other tracks] but this felt better than last year’s race.

“I feel like I’m on par with the guys I’m racing out there in terms of tyre performance, I don’t feel disadvantaged today, we need to find more speed, we need to sharpen up our pit stops and lose less positions around the stops and stuff like that. If this is the case that we have this tire performance then suddenly we need to look at other things that we weren’t looking at before – that’s a positive.”

Hulkenberg added that “our race pace and tire degradation looked pretty reasonable compared to the other midfield runners, and I think we’re fighting Williams, Sauber and RB, so I guess we take that as a positive.”

FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX 2024 – RACE RESULT

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT 57 1:31:44.742 26
2 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT 57 +22.457 18
3 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 57 +25.110 15
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 57 +39.669 12
5 63 George Russell Mercedes 57 +46.788 10
6 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 57 +48.458 8
7 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 57 +50.324 6
8 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 57 +56.082 4
9 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 57 +74.887 2
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 57 +93.216 1
11 24 Zhou Guanyu Kick Sauber Ferrari 56 +1 lap 0
12 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 56 +1 lap 0
13 3 Daniel Ricciardo RB Honda RBPT 56 +1 lap 0
14 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB Honda RBPT 56 +1 lap 0
15 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 56 +1 lap 0
16 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 56 +1 lap 0
17 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 56 +1 lap 0
18 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 56 +1 lap 0
19 77 Valtteri Bottas Kick Sauber Ferrari 56 +1 lap 0
20 2 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 55 +2 laps 0

Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.


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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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