BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 and the rest of the field during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Bahrain GP: Verstappen still on another planet blows them all away

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 and the rest of the field during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

As expected Max Verstappen powered to a comfortable at the Bahrain Grand Prix Round 1 of the 2024 Formula 1 World Championship season, on the twentieth anniversary of the race at Sakhir.

We previewed the Bahrain GP: “Verstappen chasing begins!” Indeed it did as they all chased in vain, only to be humbled (embarrassed ?) by a driver in harmony with the Red Bull’s Adrian Newey has penned for him in recent years.

As we and many pundits said and wrote so many times last year: “Max was on another planet!” No different this year if Round 1 is anything to go by.

Yes, it was a one-two, as Sergio Perez did exactly as expected to finish second, even if he was well behind, maximum points are all that can be asked of the Mexican veteran as there no driver is capable of delivering such masterclasses, which Verstappen did today does with such robotic regularity and consistency.

Yesterday, Verstappen whose Champion #1 replaced his usual #33, claimed his 33rd Pole Position start, equaling F1 legends Jim Clark and Alain Prost. Today at the Bahrain GP the Red Bull driver delivered a masterclass. Yes, we had to dust off that word.

He then proceeded to blast off the line, take the lead from Turn1 and power to victory number one of this 24-GP F1 season with a commanding 20-second gap over teammate Perez in P2. Last year, same place, same time, the gap was 12-seconds that night.

The Masterclass included the longest first stint with the Pirelli softs, taking them until lap 29. With new Hards bolted onto his car he set a flurry of fastest laps, a whopping one second faster than anyone else as he pounded around.

Horner: Brilliant, brilliant start to the year

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Then, to really rub the collective noses of the nine losing F1 teams in the poopoo, while all bar one of the drivers got shod with Hards for the final stint, Red Bull bolted on softs for their lads and that was that.

Verstappen obliged and went even faster, Perez too but less so and thus the best of the chasers were kept at bay. The gap from the best RBR to the next best, Ferrari was 24 seconds! And it’s only the first race.

Crossing the line, Max reported over the radio: “That was simply lovely. What a great race. Great start to the year guys, 1-2 as well. Fantastic.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner added: “Well done Max. As you said 1-2, pole position and fastest lap, clean sweep. Brilliant, brilliant start to the year.”

In parc ferme before celebrating his second win at the venue, Verstappen said: “Unbelievable. I think today went even better than expected. I think the car was really nice to drive on every compound. I think we had a lot of pace and it was just super enjoyable to drive today. We stayed out of trouble and it’s a great start of the year, it couldn’t have been better.

“It was a lot of fun and I felt really good in the car. It’s always very special to have these kind of days because they don’t happen that often where it all goes perfect and you are at one with the car,” added the 2024 F1 Championship leader.

In the sister Red Bull, Perez reported: “I think it was the maximum we could have achieved. It was quite a tricky race with the management of the tyres, there’s plenty we will learn from tonight’s race which will be important for the championship.

“But overall it’s a great way to start the season. It was really [tyre] compound to compound the amount of sliding we were having. We were having some issues with the engine braking, the driveability, which is not easy around here.

“But I’m sure we will analyse all of that tonight and make sure we learn for Jeddah. It’s a good team momentum and we’ve got to keep it up for the coming weekends,” added the Red Bull number two driver.

Sainz was voted driver of the day by F1 fans

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That Sainz finished third and Driver of the Day. Also a big wake-up call for any team boss needing a class driver. And even though Lewis Hamilton moving to Ferrari is pure logic, the Spaniard will be missed by all at Maranello. A class act he has turned out to be. P3 was well deserved.

Sainz said in parc ferme after his 19th GP podium: “I think it was a very good race after a tricky start. I settled into my pace and knew I had good race pace from testing and settled into my rhythm. I started overtaking cars, kept it up with Checo which wasn’t easy because the Red Bulls had really good pace and a good strategy with the new soft. But, very happy and an encouraging start.”

P4, in the other Ferrari, Charles Leclerc was strong in Qualifying as he tends to be, but in the race, he was scrappy with what seemed to be a brake problem, while Sainz found the sweet spot and maximised it.

He outdueled George Russell whose Mercedes is not what they think it is. Or put this way, they are well behind Red Bull and trailing the Ferrari duo in race pace as their best car was 46.7s behind the winners.

Lewis Hamilton was even further behind in P7, on a lacklustre day for the Mercedes driver, a five time winner once upon a time in Bahrain.

The McLarens were there or thereabout, in Mercedes territory rather than at Ferrari level. Lando Norris delivered a solid race performance to finish P6, with Piastri in P8 for a solid early points haul.

Fernando Alonso’s fears that Aston Martin’s race pace might be suspect were realised as his P6 starting spot turned to P9 by the chequered flag on Saturday night.

Teammate Lance Stroll nabbed the final point as five F1 teams hogged the top ten places in the 20th Grand Prix run at Sakhir. The rest of the five teams went home pointless.

Horner: The perfect start and a very dominant race

Horner: The perfect start and a very dominant race red bullbahrain gp

Final word to Horner, after his team’s 29th one-two finish: “The perfect start and a very dominant race. I have to say a big thank you to all the men and women back at Milton Keynes who have worked so hard over the winter.

“It’s testimony to all that hard work that goes on behind the scenes. A great team performance to get that one-two finish and maximum points today. You can see it’s an aggressive revolution. The whole team have done a wonderful job.

“They haven’t rested on their laurels. They have pushed hard and pushed the boundaries. You can see there’s a lot of innovative ideas on the car. It’s a strong evolution.”

As for the F1 World Champions being united amid his own personal and professional strife, Horner said: “We are a very strong team. We have got tremendous support, tremendous partners and great shareholders behind us as well.  You don’t achieve this kind of result by not being united.”

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix Result

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How the Bahrain Grand Prix race unfolded:

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 and Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 prepare to leave the grid for the formation lap prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Top 10 start order: VER-LEC-RUS-SAI-PER-ALO-NOR-PIA-HAM-HULK

The entire grid line-up with the Pirelli red strip Soft tyres. Great reaction from Verstappen with Leclerc tucking in behind followed by Russell, and Perez with a good start to swap with Sainz.

At the end of the opening lap, Hulkenberg was in the pits after tagging Stroll who dropped down to P19. Bottas also involved.

Lap 2: Verstappen is 1,3s ahead of Leclerc who has Russell in his slipstream. On the next lap, Norris got by Alonso to take P6, followed by a smart move by Russell to take P2 from Leclerc with Perez watching.

Lap 5: Verstappen 3.0s ahead of Russell. As expected, Max was powering ahead, leaving everyone in his dust which was packed and tight with the chasers, P2 to P6 within five seconds.

The #1 Red Bull is seven-tenths of a second per lap faster than anyone at this stage. Norris gets past Alonso, shortly after Perez into P3 past Leclerc who had Sainz in his mirrors. Tsunoda into top ten.

Lap 10, Top 10: VER-RUS-PER-LEC-SAI-NOR-PIA-ALO-HAM-TSU

Verstappen leads by over seven seconds to Russell in p2, followed by Perez 1.2 seconds behind the Mercedes in the podium spots, with the two Ferrari drivers close behind the #11 Red Bull.

Alonso was in freefall his race pace fears realised, as Hamilton gets past into P8. At the same time, Sargeant misses his brake markers and goes straight, same old story for the Kid who just has not got it to be in F1.

Sainz and Leclerc go wheel to wheel, the outbound Spaniard had to fight harder than necessary between teammates. Leclerc dives into the pits on lap 11, emerging 14th. Backmarkers start pitting as does Russell from P2.

A flurry of stops begins, leaving Verstappen, Sainz, Norris and Alonso at the top of the timing screens, as it goes crazy with position changes with the pits super busy.

A key moment, as Perez gets past Russell on Lap 14 thanks to a good stop, and the Red Bull driver takes second place on the track, albeit fifth on the timing screens. Verstappen 31 seconds up the road without a stop made.

The World Champion ran the longest first stint, until lap 17 emerging with the Hards. like the rest of the field. Perez was now in P2, six seconds adrift.

At this stage Sainz was in inspired form, overtaking his teammate in style and then chasing Russell before lunging past to take P3 on lap 18. The Spaniard proving a point to his team who have ditched him, and a wake-up call for Mercedes or Red Bull to sign him ASAP.

Lap 20, Top 10: VER-PER-SAI-RUS-LEC-NOR-PIA-HAM-ALO-ZHO

On lap 21. Verstappen started a flurry of fastest laps, one second faster than anyone else and the gap up to eight seconds and growing fast. Talk about a slam dunk! Notably the highest climber, seven places into P10 was Zhou having an impeccable race to this point.

Sainz was still on a charge targeting Perez who was not as comfortable in the RB20 as Verstappen 10 seconds up front by Lap 24. Leclerc had Russell in his sights, the Mercedes nursing a PU issue reportedly.

It was a stale-mate at around the halfway mark up and down the field. Sargeant is last of the runners, a lap behind and over a minute behind Hulkenberg in 19th!

Lap 30, Top 10: VER-PER-SAI-RUS-LEC-NOR-PIA-HAM-ALO-ZHO

No change in ten laps at the front, with Verstappen well gone and a massive 14 seconds ahead of his teammate. The Bull heading for another season-opening one-two as they did last year. F1’s Groundhog Day!

Lap 32, big ball drop by Alpine as Ocon’s pit stop went embarrassingly awry on a very disappointing weekend for the French team.

Lap 35 and the second pit stops begin with Verstappen 18 seconds ahead. Hamilton getting by Piastri as he emerged with the Mercedes alight in this final stint. Verstappen, Perez and Alonso stay out while most behind dive in for fresh rubber.

Lap 38 stops for a second time, and another blitz serice by his Red Bull crew sending him out into a 16.5 seconds lead. The top two Red Bulls with Softs, all the others on hards barring Ricciardo down in 15th.

Lap 40, Top 10: VER-PER-SAI-RUS-LEC-NOR-HAM-ALO-PIA-STR

Stroll the new face in the Top 10, taking it from Zjou. Alonso in the other Aston Martin the only one not to stop a second time, 18 seconds ahead of his teammate.

Russell was stalked by Leclerc but other than that another stale mate until Alonso pits on Lap 42, emerging 11th and looking to move upwards.

On Lap 46 Leclerc lunged at Russell, whose Mercedes could not defend despite a hearty try by the Briton to hold on to P4.

Lap 50, Top 10: VER-PER-SAI-LEC-RUS-NOR-HAM-PIA-ALO-STR

Up front Verstappen still setting the fastest laps had the gap to Perez of 18 seconds, with Sainz a further four seconds back and the Top 10 pretty much set at this point. The Aston Martin boys are in P9 and P10, the only change during the preceding ten laps.

At the front, it was game over. Verstappen winner, P2 for Perez and Sainz in P3 for the podium barring force majeure

Interesting moment on lap 52, when Tsunoda questioned why a call to swap with Ricciardo before letting the Aussie pass for who knows what reason, as they were way out of the points.

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

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Yes, folks. As expected from day one of 2024 Formula 1 testing in Bahrain it was apparent Max Verstappen will be the man to beat in this 74th edition of the FIA-sanctioned World Championship.

[This report will be updated with the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix Report. Please refresh your browser for updates after the race. And enjoy the F1 season opener.]

For many who now racing, in retrospect, that wicked smile Gianpiero Lambiase unleashed when he witnessed his man go top of the timesheets on the first day of testing at Sakhir last month, was an early hint of what we witnessed during Qualifying on Friday, in Bahrain.


As expected (again) in Qualy on Friday evening, Verstappen put the potent Red Bull RB20 on pole position. His 33rd in the top flight to match F1 legends Jim Clark and Alain Prost, by a quarter second, ahead of a very tight field behind him and chasing. Sound familiar?

Because it is and is likely to be for the foreseeable future of the current F1 rules era that runs until the end of 2025. And it is highly unlikely that Adrian Newey’s RBR design team are not going to deliver their benchmark car for the 2026 F1 rules.

The Max Show on steroids. You were warned here!

leclerc verstappen russell qualifying red bull f1

But that’s very far away in the future. For now, this is a disclaimer for our readers and F1 fans: this could be another Verstappen walkover, The Max Show on steroids. You were warned here.

As for today’s race, Verstappen will give us a glimpse of what the RB20 has in race pace from P1 on the grid. The man to beat with bookies having him as the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix winner with 1/6 odds offered by Betway All suggesting the Dutchman will be unbeatable and will be a 55-time Grand Prix winner, by the end of the night in Bahrain.

On the 20th anniversary of the Bahrain Grand Prix the man most likely to beat him lines up in P2. The odds are long though, Charles Leclerc and Ferrari beating Verstappen winning the season-opener gets 7/1 odds from the same bookie.

Can Leclerc win? Ferrari’s race pace suggests they might have a long shot, but even their own drivers are not convinced and also have Mercedes to contend with. There appears little between the two great teams for todays race at Sakhir.

George Russell lines up in P3, behind Verstappen and will fancy a good start to mix things up, with Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari. That’s the top two rows.

Red Bull will line up Sergio Perez’s #11 car two rows behind the #1 car, in P5. When the dust settles after what should be a frantic start, with the pace in the RB20, Perez will be expected to lead the chase of Verstappen.

Unless something goes amiss in that sandstorm of an opening lap, but that can be said for the whole gaggle behind row one, hurtling into Turn 1, Perez will be expected to be P2, and by the end of the 57-lap race at least within ten or so seconds as he was last year when they finished P2 here.

Then that Guy! Fernando Alonso!

alonso bahrain f1

The oldest driver in F1, Alonso put the Aston Martin P6, and his declaration that he feels “one with the car” means it will be no surprise if the Spaniard pops up on the podium this evening. The occasion of the 42-year-old’s 379th F1 start.

Behind the wily veteran, it is all orange with Lando Norris in P7 and Oscar Piastri in P8 (combined ages of 46 years, a mere four more than Fernando!) If there are Dark Horses today it could well be the McLaren lads. They have not quite let on what kind of race pace and perhaps have downplayed their chances down a tad too much for Qualifying to really write them off for a podium.

In his final Bahrain Grand Prix as a Mercedes driver – a record five-time winner for them at Sakhir – before his sensational move to Ferrari in 2025, Lewis Hamilton made light of P9 on the grid, instead hailing a “real race car ” that has him inspired.

However, Hamilton lacked the speed when it mattered on Friday while Russell found a couple of tenths more than his teammate and thus starts today’s race further up, on row two with Lewis heading row five.

In our season preview on NewsDesk Unplugged, we discussed the dynamic between Russell and Hamilton, as well as how Mercedes’ attitude toward the Ferrari-defector will evolve as the season progresses. Ditto at Ferrari between Leclerc and Sainz.

On the opposite side of the coin and needing a mention, on the wrong end (bowels?) of the grid, the demise of the once great Renault team under cover of an Alpine PR campaign that is failing abysmally.

Spare a thought for ‘poor’ Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly facing a 24-race F1 season driving a “tracteur” as the homies are calling the A524, as they contemplate the not-nice sounding All-French last row for the Bahrain GP.