Bahrain Grand Prix Recap: To The Max

Bahrain Grand Prix recap: to the Max

F1 2024’s season opener in Bahrain was a Max Verstappen masterclass. Stewart Bell explains how the Dutchman ruined his rivals’ competitive hopes.

RED BULL RACER Max Verstappen is looking undeniable in his quest to secure his fourth-consecutive Formula 1 World Championship this year, with the Dutch star untouchable en-route to victory in Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, a race in which he finished over 22 seconds ahead of his teammate Sergio Pérez.

Verstappen had the race locked-up from the first corner, in which the pole-sitter saw off a challenge from fellow front-row starter Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc—and scampered into the distance for his second-straight Bahrain victory on the race’s milestone 20th anniversary, his eighth-consecutive F1 win dating back to Japan 2023 and 55th overall.

Only Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz, opening his final year with Ferrari, could hold a candle to the dominant ‘bulls’—with the Spaniard completing the podium in third, less than 2.7 seconds behind Checo. So it’s late nights at the Scuderia’s Maranello HQ while solutions are found to close the gap.

 

How the race was won

 

No strategic masterstroke was needed here; Verstappen had the pace to outrun his rivals—which he showed with a fifth “Grand Chelem” (Grand Slam) for pole position, the win, every lap led, and fastest lap (with bonus point).

“I felt very comfortable with the car,” said Verstappen, who was on a two-stop strategy, with the pace to stop laps later than those behind on both occasions. “That really showed today, so I’m very happy to kick-start the season like this, but also as a team, to have a 1-2 [result] is just fantastic.”

Verstappen’s dominance may have left the paddock reeling, with the Dutchman earning the first Grand Slam at a season opener since Michael Schumacher back in 2004, though he’s not about to count his chickens.

“I think that everything just worked really, really well today,” said the 26-year-old, who now heads to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for this weekend’s second round, also a Saturday race to avoid Ramadan. “I, of course, don’t expect that to happen at every single Grand Prix in the near future but still, we’ll take it.”

 

 

Talking points for the gym

 

Can Ferrari get on terms with Red Bull?

The Prancing Horse believes the gap to the front has reduced compared with 2023’s curtain raiser. But, Sainz finished in third over 25 seconds behind leader Verstappen, while Leclerc was fourth due to brake issues that left him almost 40 seconds adrift—both a light-year in F1. “We will continue with our development and I’m confident we will be able to take the fight to them more often,” said team boss Frédéric Vasseur.

Is 2024 already a write-off for Mercedes?

Team boss Toto Wolff admitted that Bahrain was “one of our worst days in racing” with the Silver squad lacking the pace to challenge Ferrari and Aston Martin. George Russell finished in fifth, Sir Lewis Hamilton seventh. But the seven-time World Champion sees light at the end of the tunnel before he heads across to Ferrari in 2025. “We are lacking a lot of downforce, and we’ve got a lot of work to do to add more to the car. As soon as we put more on the front and rear, we will be able to pick up our pace,” he said.

Can the Aussies return fire in Saudi Arabia?

Oscar Piastri was outqualified and outraced by McLaren teammate Lando Norris, and finished where he started in eighth place—two places adrift. The Melburnian needs to lift his game, and take the fight to Norris consistently to take his top gun mantle at the team. Perth’s own Daniel Ricciardo was also outqualified by his teammate, but while he finished in 13th—one spot ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, the Japanese driver was left fuming after he was told to let the Honey Badger past to race Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. Both RB drivers are racing for their futures for 2025 and beyond.

 

From the expert

Tom Clark, Physio for Alpine F1 Driver Esteban Ocon

Men’s Health: How tough is Bahrain physically?

TOM’S RATING: 3.5/10

Tom Clark: As a standalone race, it’s kind of an intermediate. It’s not the hottest, and it’s not the highest grip. It’s somewhere in the middle. The key thing for Bahrain, though, is it’s the first race of the season, so the proof is in the pudding when it comes to the [pre-season] training. If you’re not well prepared, you’ll find out in Bahrain. And consequently, it sets you up for the rest of the season.

MH: How will the drivers prepare for Saudi Arabia?

TC: As soon as the race finishes, you’re switching attention to Saudi Arabia. We’re fortunate that it’s not a lot of travel, so even though it’s a back-to-back, it’s an easy transition to the next country, to the next race. We will stay in Bahrain for a couple of days before travelling on. We will train, rest, and eat well, and that will set us up in the best possible way to start Saudi Arabia in a good way as well. I think it’s also about keeping the pre-season training ticking over and there’s a lot of things we can do: in training the neck, cardio-vascular fitness, strength and power. These things can all help performance, and keep improving those areas of fitness further into the year.”

 

 

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Related:

Everything you need to know about the 2024 F1 season

Five Drive To Survive storylines that will decide the 2024 F1 championship

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