Verstappen wins the opening race in commanding style

Three-time world champion Max Verstappen continued his winning form by taking a commannding Bahrain Grand Prix victory, leading home his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez with a 1-2.

The reigning world champion crossed the finishing line with a 22.4 seconds gap over Perez to clinch his eighth successive Formula 1 win, going back to his Suzuka win last year.

Verstappen faced little in the way of competition, only having to contend with a brief play for the lead from Charles Leclerc into the first corner as the Ferrari driver attempted to make a pass around the outside. But the Red Bull driver held the racing line and kept Leclerc at bay

Although Leclerc may have hoped for some early assistance from the revised DRS regulations, which allows the overtaking aid to be activated from the second lap, Verstappen had already disappeared up the road with an one-second advantage to ensure there were no challenges on the next lap.

Early battles for second gave Verstappen more breathing space and, after George Russell had mounted a pass on Leclerc, the Mercedes was not able to make further inroads and the Red Bull driver extended his lead to three seconds by the end of lap four.

It was a typical Verstappen drive, with relentless consistency and excellent tyre management as Red Bull arguably took a less conservative strategy relative to the other runners; having saved a set of softs from earlier in the weekend, Verstappen and Perez both ran to a soft-hard-soft two-stopper while the others elected to stick to a soft-hard-hard strategy.

Verstappen managed to take his opening stint as far as the end of lap 17 as he became the last driver to pit, but was far enough ahead of Perez – who had since passed Russell for second on lap 14 with an up-and-under overtake into Turn 4 – to maintain a five-second lead.

This grew as Perez faced challenges from Russell and Carlos Sainz behind him, ensuring that Verstappen could focus on maintaining a consistent pace at the head of the field.

He made his final stop on lap 37, switching from his sole set of hard tyres back to the softs, which he was able to press into service for a statement one minute, 32.608 seconds lap before easing back into a strong race pace.

Perez had to spend the race’s second half keeping Sainz at bay, as the Spaniard proved the quicker of the Ferrari drivers throughout the course of the race.

Sainz had earlier reeled off impressive overtakes on team-mate Leclerc and Russell to provisionally occupy a podium position and, although he sometimes had Perez within two seconds, he was unable to make any further inroads towards Checo.

Told on lap 44 that his hard tyres should start to perform more strongly compared to Perez’s softs, Sainz had to settle for third despite an impressive drive especially his inch-perfect racecraft when battling for third place.

Leclerc struggled early on in the race with a series of front lock-ups, notably struggling at Turn 10 as he complained of his car pulling to the right under braking. His later switch to the hard tyres seemed to quell some of those issues, and he managed to dispatch Russell on lap 46 with a move into Turn 11 – Russell had echoed Leclerc’s earlier travails with an off in the previous corner.

Russell’s impressive start to the race could not be carried forward, having had to nurse a suspected power unit issue, which left him having to opt for a lift-and-coast approach through the race, but the Mercedes driver nonetheless beat his McLaren rival Lando Norris into sixth.

Lewis Hamilton could not enjoy the same heroics as Russell early on, as he was largely stuck in lock-step behind Fernando Alonso in the early stages, while fighting the discomfort of a broken seat, but was able to clear Alonso and jump Oscar Piastri in the final round of stops to finish seventh.

Piastri ensured McLaren had both cars in the top eight, while Alonso slipped backwards throughout the race to finish ninth. Lance Stroll recovered from Nico Hulkenberg’s rear-end contact into the first corner to finish in P10 thanks to solid strategy from Aston Martin, which brought him back into the race.

Stroll had been nudged into a spin by Hulkenberg among the Turn 1 contact, which also caught Valtteri Bottas off-guard, but this was the only major moment of note in an incident-free race.

Zhou Guanyu was in with a shout of the final point, having made his first stop early, but could not stop the Astons from making their way through, and thus the Sauber driver had to be content with P11.

Improved race pace ensured that Kevin Magnussen could hold P12 from the chasing RB duo, despite team orders between the drivers; Yuki Tsunoda was asked to move over for Daniel Ricciardo, much to the Yuki’s annoyance, but Ricciardo could not make any further gains on K-Mag.

Alex Albon had to coax an overheating car into P15, ahead of the recovering (and three-stopping) Hulkenberg, while Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were right at the back with P17 and P18. A damaged Bottas beat Logan Sargeant to P20, as the Williams driver appeared to suffer from a braking issue that forced an off-track excursion at Turn 4 on lap 10.

So this was a reality check for the other teams as the Red Bull RB20 is still the best. Excellent team effort with Max Verstappen winning with teammate Sergio Perez finishing in the runner-up spot.

Bahrain Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:31:44.742
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull +22.457
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +25.110
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +39.669
5 George Russell Mercedes +46.788
6 Lando Norris McLaren +48.458
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +50.324
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren +56.082
9 Fernando Alonso Aston Martis +74.887s
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +93.216s
11 Zhou Guanyu Sauber +1 lap
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
13 Daniel Ricciardo RB +1 lap
14 Yuki Tsunoda RB +1 lap
15 Alexander Albon Williams +1 lap
16 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1 lap
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1 lap
18 Pierre Gasly Alpine +1 lap
19 Valtteri Bottas Sauber +1 lap
20 Logan Sargeant Williams +2 laps

5 thoughts to “Verstappen wins the opening race in commanding style”

  1. Max Verstappen converted pole position into the race win with a controlled drive in Saturday night’s Bahrain Grand Prix, leading home Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez and Ferrari rival Carlos Sainz to start his latest title defence in perfect fashion.

    Verstappen maintained his advantage as the encounter got under way and never looked back over the 57 laps that followed, ultimately crossing the line 22 seconds clear of Perez, who made up for his low-key qualifying effort to complete a Red Bull one-two.

    Carlos Sainz rounded out the podium places for Ferrari after a thrilling exchange with team mate Charles Leclerc, who struggled with tyre degradation and suffered multiple lock-ups en route to fourth, having cleared the lead Mercedes of George Russell late on.

    Russell and team mate Lewis Hamilton encountered issues with their batteries across the race, with the seven-time world champion – who also reported a broken seat – having to settle for seventh position behind McLaren’s Lando Norris.

    Oscar Piastri made it two McLarens in the top 10 with a run to eighth, while Aston Martin also scored a double points finish thanks to Fernando Alonso crossing the line ninth and Lance Stroll taking 10th, despite being punted to the back of the field in a Turn 1 incident.

  2. Ferrari Formula 1 driver Carlos Sainz reckons it was a “pleasant surprise” to be able to keep up with the leading Red Bulls during the 2024 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

    Sainz rounded out the podium a further 2.5s in arrears, the Spaniard having twice passed struggling Scuderia stablemate Charles Leclerc into Turn 1 as he fights to secure the most competitive available drive for 2025 now that Lewis Hamilton will take his place at Ferrari.

    He said: “I felt really good out there today. The start wasn’t ideal but from then on, I just managed my tyres well and then from there, I could do my pace, overtook two or three cars on the way to the podium and then keeping up with a Red Bull there at the end, which was a pleasant surprise.

    “Still, not enough. Not where we want to be. But a good step forward compared to last year and a solid start to the season.”

  3. Max Verstappen says the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix “couldn’t have gone better” and that he was at one with the Red Bull as he dominated the Formula 1 season-opener.

    The reigning world champion kick-started his title defence with a maximum score, leading from lights to flag plus earned the bonus point for recording the fastest lap of the race.

    Verstappen’s assessment was: “Unbelievable. I think today went even better than expected.

    “I think the car was really nice to drive on every compound. We had a lot of pace.

    “It was just super enjoyable to drive today; we really stayed out of trouble. Great start to the year. I mean, it couldn’t have been better.”

    He continued: “It was a lot of fun. I felt really good in the car. It’s always very special to have these kinds of days because they don’t happen that often it just all goes perfect, and you’re just one with the car and everything just feels great.”

  4. Charles Leclerc revealed his Ferrari Formula 1 car suffered “more than 100 degrees split” in temperature between his front right and left brakes, which triggered lock-ups during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    The Ferrari driver was constantly locking up his front tyres throughout the 2024 F1 opener, as he dropped from second to an eventual fourth place.

    “It was impossible in the first 15 laps, the issue was getting a lot worse every lap,” Leclerc said. “I was obviously basing my braking for Turn 9-10 with the previous lap, which obviously fell too late all the time, but the issue was getting a lot worse.

    “Every time I would brake three meters earlier, but I would still look up, then at lap 15 or 20, the issue stabilised.

    “The team told me on the radio that it was more than 100 degrees split between from front right and front left, which is huge.

    “At that moment, I understood that the best thing I could do was just to bring the car home to the chequered flag.

    “Honestly all in all, considering that the issue didn’t get any better throughout the whole race… we started to be more consistent when the issue didn’t worsen and every lap, which was helping me to be more consistent.”

  5. Toto Wolff reckons Mercedes was losing 0.5 seconds per lap in the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix due to engine issues that also hobbled Formula 1 customer team Williams.

    George Russell led the Silver Arrows charge with fifth place in Bahrain as team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished the season-opener in seventh, the pair having started third and ninth respectively.

    Asked by to explain the reliability woes, Mercedes motorsport boss Wolff explained: “[Pre-season] testing was pretty good. Also, the performances on Thursday and on Friday were encouraging. The car was stable, was good. The drivers like it.

    “When we started the race on the soft tyre, everything pretty much [was] to plan. And then, unfortunately, we had to start cooling the engine more than we expected. We can’t understand yet where that came from.

    “We have one of our customer teams, Williams, who had the same issue. The other two [McLaren and Aston Martin] not. That was unexpected.”

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