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2024 Bahrain Grand Prix Wrap Up

Staff Writer, Will Black, comments on the first Grand Prix of the F1 Season, assessing the performance and of each team and the ramifications for the season ahead.

The Formula 1 season kicked officially with the Bahrain Grand Prix. Red Bull have seemingly begun another dominant season with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez finishing P1 and P2 respectively and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz ending the race P3. But outside of the usual Red Bull dominance, what can Bahrain tell us about the rest of the season? 

Alpine

Alpine started and ended disappointingly down the order with Esteban Ocon finishing P18 and Pierre Gasly finishing P19. The French team seemed very far off the pace for a team which had stints of success last season. Gasly complained about traction issues as well as poor tyre degradation all race. Alpine’s performance almost certainly made any French F1 fan not hopeful for this 2024. Alpine’s story is no better off the track too with their technical director Matt Harman and chief of aerodynamics Dirk de Beer resigning before qualifying on Saturday. Alpine have a long way to go before they can even begin to compete for points.

Aston Martin

Although not his fault, Lance Stroll did not help with the comments regarding his position at Aston Martin being solely due to his father, Lawrence Stroll owner of the team, as he spun on turn one of the first race of the season following contact with Nico Hulkenburg. Stroll did make the positions back up, finishing P10 just behind his teammate Fernando Alonso who ended the race P9. Despite a strong qualifying from Alonso (P6) Aston Martin’s car lacked race pace, pushing both cars down the order. 

Ferrari

Both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc seemed to struggle for pace at the start of the race. Although Leclerc qualified ahead of his teammate with a P2, Sainz pipped the Monagasque during the race and the two swapped positions with Sainz finishing and P3 and Leclerc finishing P4. There was a decent amount of fighting out on track between the two but Leclerc greatly struggled with his rears throughout the race suffering multiple lockups. Following the news of Hamilton’s move to Ferrari, replacing Sainz, the Spaniard no longer has any desire for teamwork and I am sure his racing this season will be all about showing the nine other team bosses on the grid that he deserves a seat in F1. 

Haas

Nico Hulkenburg had a very strong qualifying on Saturday, pushing his Haas into Q3 and starting on the fifth row of the grid but his incident on turn one with Stroll pushed him instantly down to P20. He was unable to make up all of the places he lost and finished P16. His teammate Kevin Magnussen had a steady race starting P15 and making his way up to P12. New team principal Ayao Komatsu will be disappointed not to have scored points following Hulkenburg’s qualifying performance, but the car seemed to have enough pace to score points, hopefully more than in the 2023 season. 

Kick Sauber

The brightest new livery on the 2024 grid did not stand out as much on the leader board as it did on the track. The two bright green cars driven by Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu qualified P16 and P17 respectively but Bottas was immediately pushed right down the order to P19 after becoming involved in the collision between Stroll and Hulkenburg and he was unable to make his way back up, finishing there too. Bottas’ position was not helped following a wheel nut issue during a pit stop on lap 31. Zhou Guanyu, however, showed surprising pace finishing just outside the points in P11. Perhaps there is more pace in the Sauber than we might expect.

McLaren

The two McLaren’s showed solid pace throughout the race with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finishing P6 and P8 respectively but were seemingly not quite as quick as the Mercedes throughout the race. The two drivers qualified P7 and P8 and while Norris was able to make an improvement to P6, Piastri showed greater maturity in the start to his second F1 season. He was able to manage his tyres much better than in races last year and was closer to the pace of Norris mid-race than last year. It seems that the McLaren’s pace has not been fully unlocked however as the philosophy of the car, being based on fast corners, makes Bahrain not suited to the car. Perhaps we will see more from the car in Jeddah next week. 

Mercedes

After a very strong qualifying for George Russell with a P3 and a disappointing P9 for Lewis Hamilton, there were strong hopes for both drivers to score good points in Bahrain. While the Mercedes cars were able to outperform McLaren, the drivers faced cooling issues due to an issue with the tightness of the bodywork to the engines according to George Russell post-race. This cooling miscalculation perhaps reveals even greater pace for Mercedes but Russell and Hamilton were still able to finish P5 and P7 respectively. 

RB

After a disappointing qualifying for Daniel Ricciardo, he hoped to make his way up the field during the race and did just that. His teammate Yuki Tsunoda had gotten stuck behind the Haas of Kevin Magnussen in P12 following various undercuts from the rest of the grid and this is where the most interesting drama of Bahrain happened. Following team orders from the RB pit wall, Tsunoda was forced to swap with Ricciardo who was running just behind him in hopes he would be able to overtake the Haas on his fresher soft tyres. While we can speculate as to whether Ricciardo would have overtaken Magnussen if Tsunoda had swapped earlier, the dive bomb which Tsunoda taunted Ricciardo with following the chequered flag presented a hot-headed and petulant side to the young Japanese driver. Despite the RB drivers being two of the most charismatic characters off the track, perhaps fractures within the team could splinter the image and damage the race performance of the junior Red Bull team. This comes at a precious time for both drivers too, with Ricciardo hoping to make his way back into a Red Bull seat and Tsunoda hoping to move up into a faster car for the 2025 season.

Red Bull

It seems 2024 is going to be another season of hearing the Dutch national anthem at every podium with Max Verstappen taking pole and finishing P1 in Bahrain. While his teammate Sergio Perez did not have the strongest qualifying only being able to achieve P5, the unmatched pace of the Red Bull was able to help him secure a podium spot as he finished P2. The most impressive part of Verstappen’s win perhaps comes with the huge gap to Perez that he was able to achieve, finishing over 22 seconds ahead of his teammate. Verstappen truly is in a league of his own and while it is very early in the season, I am sure he will be hoping to win his fourth world championship in a row. The main fear for the Red Bull team comes with the internal issues the constructor’s parent company Red Bull GmbH. Despite being cleared of guilt by an internal investigation into controlling behaviour towards a female employee, team principal Christian Horner faced further accusations after evidence was leaked to F1 executives and F1 press in an email during FP2 on Friday. You can read more on the Horner case here

Williams

Williams’ performance was nothing special. While Alex Albon qualified decently with a P13 he was unable to maintain the position on Sunday being pushed down to P15. His teammate, Logan Sargent similarly had a poor performance finishing dead last in P20. It seems the Williams car is still far off the pace despite team principal James Vowles’ unending positivity in interviews. 

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