What we learned from the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

It was business as usual for Max Verstappen, but what did we actually learn from the F1 opener?

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The Formula 1 season opener at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix shocked some fans, but perhaps not in the way they expected as Max Verstappen cruised to a dominant victory in which he never had to get out of second gear.

Second came Sergio Perez, suggesting a return to form for the Mexican as he expertly managed his soft tyres to the end of the stint despite a determined Carlos Sainz never lurking far away in the Ferrari.

Then came Charles Leclerc, battling through a series of mechanical issues to demonstrate that the Italians clearly have a strong package to push on into 2024 with whilst Mercedes and McLaren seemed close on track, although it’s a bit of a false image according to Toto Wolff’s team.

The titles are staying in Milton Keynes

Amid all of the talk during testing that someone might be able to hold a candle to Red Bull this season, it proved to be nothing but talk.

Verstappen took off into the distance and lapped four tenths quicker than the next nearest non-Red Bull as he took a grand slam in the opening round of the season to become the first driver since Michael Schumacher to do so.

Meanwhile, Perez also appeared to have a response for anything Sainz tried to do to edge closer, despite theoretically being at a strategic disadvantage as he tried to run the softs in the final stint.

Red Bull showed practically no tyre degradation, no signs of unreliability and no signs of balance issues in the race, meaning that pure bad luck will be the only thing to stop one of their cars finishing on the top step at every single round.

Bahrain GP 2024 winner Max Verstappen and Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner celebrate | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Tensions are high at RB

Following on from that, Perez’s seat has been the subject of much discussion since the 2022 season and two of his potential usurpers, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda, had their own flash point in the newly-branded RB team.

As they ran in 13th behind Kevin Magnussen, Tsunoda struggled to overtake the Dane in the Haas whilst Ricciardo pitted for softs for his own final stint. In free air, with faster tyres, it was inevitable that the Australian would catch up to his teammate.

Then came the drama as RB issued team orders to allow Ricciardo a shot at the Haas, something Tsunoda was furious about as he blasted his engineer. He then watched as Ricciardo neither made a move on Magnussen nor surrendered the place back.

In response, he angrily divebombed him on the cool down lap before accelerating past him at the exit of a hairpin, almost crashing. So with Perez’s seat far from safe, it’s clear that these two will bitterly fight each other to the end to make sure that they keep on foot in the door. It could get very ugly.

Mercedes still aren’t as slow as they seem

Despite high hopes of being second fastest in race trim, it never quite materialised for Mercedes as their W15 hit the track in a race for the first ever time.

Marred by overheating issues, they couldn’t manage to hold back to Ferrari’s and couldn’t lay a glove on the Red Bull’s. George Russell did, however, manage to stay ahead of Lando Norris’ McLaren, the car Lewis Hamilton was also looming large in the mirrors of too.

So with Russell predicting that the cooling issues cost him four tenths a lap due to the knock on effect with the tyres, that gain would actually put them firmly in the fight with Perez and the Ferrari’s whilst they would remain 0.4 per lap behind Verstappen.

That’s consistent with their preseason projections, so we will see how that actually turns out at the Saudi Arabian GP on Saturday, March 9.

George Russell at 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix | Mercedes / Jiri Krenek

Carlos Sainz is done with Ferrari

The Spaniard received bombshell news in February when it was announced that Hamilton would be taking his Ferrari seat for 2025 and he has repaid them by proving he’s only out for himself as he looks to secure a seat for next season.

The Singapore GP winner made a series of very aggressive moves on Leclerc throughout the race that could have ended in disaster, and he clearly didn’t want to trust any team orders for a clean swapping of positions.

For what it’s worth, that could pay off wonderfully for Ferrari if Sainz pushes like he’s never pushed before because he’s actually a very good driver. Short term gain without any long term pain, provided he doesn’t run his car into the side of his teammate.

Aston Martin are all bark

Aston Martin took a good qualifying position into the race through Fernando Alonso, but they only went backwards once Crofty made his trademark call to start off the new season.

The Spaniard knew that the pace difference was so great that he didn’t even bother to attempt to defend his positions from Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes despite being a master in the art of defence.

They were the last team to occupy the points, showing it’s not a complete disaster but there is clearly a lot for them to improve upon if they hope to be competing for podiums in 2024.

On Lance Stroll’s note, despite a typically underwhelming qualifying, his race pace was good as he scythed through the field after being last at the end of lap one thanks to being rear-ended by Nico Hulkenberg.

Stroll’s performance showed that there is no real threat from behind as far as RB, Williams, Sauber and Haas are concerned as the Canadian recovered to finish 10th, 20 seconds behind his veteran teammate.

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