Bahrain Takeaways: Are we still in 2023?

Bahrain Takeaways: Are we stuck in 2023?

Bahrain Takeaways: Are we still in 2023?

The 2024 Formula 1 season has started in earnest with the Bahrain Grand Prix now behind us, but we can’t be blamed if we feel we are still racing in 2023.

No it’s actually 2024 because there was a different Spaniard on the Bahrain podium…

And it’s all because of Red Bull, Max Verstappen, and Adrian Newey, as they are all accomplices in delivering the RB20/Verstappen package which, as of now, seems set to dominate the longest season in F1’s history. One race down, 23 to go.

Now seriously, good on the folks at Red Bull. It’s not their fault as much as it is their rivals who should be blamed when teams like Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren are unable to challenge them. Some other teams are still having weight problems… Yes Alpine after three years are still producing plump cars.

So like Bahrain 2023, Verstappen won and Sergio Perez came second in the 20th instalment of the race around the Sakhir Circuit.

Now behind them, the story is a bit different, Ferrari are second best and not Aston Martin like it was last year, and McLaren, despite their failure to impress are nowhere as bad as they were in 2023.

Mercedes… Well they have not changed a lot. Their car has, it has sidepods and Lewis Hamilton is happier with his seating position; maybe that’s the only thing he is happy about, but speed-wise, nothing much has changed.

Now the field behind Red Bull has bunched up a bit more compared to 2023, but this means the fight for the “first of the losers” honor will be exciting, the top spot is spoken for.

The F1 action is back, and so are our Takeaways, and here are the first bunch, from the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Brace yourselves, the 2024 Verstappen F1 show has premiered

Now this is by no means a bad thing. Yes, we will go to every race knowing who will win unless something unexpected happens, but again we are set to see some F1 greatness is action, while the off-track pre-season action we witnessed lately –  some good, some bad – will have further repercussions that will keep us entertained, better say hooked.

Red Bull have admirably taken a calculated risk with the RB20, with its new sidepod design, ambushing their rivals who for a second thought they have found the Holly Grail of ground effect F1 cars.

That shows the reigning F1 Champions have confidence in abundance, not to mention the personnel with Newey seemingly relishing the ground effect era, and Verstappen in the peak of his powers, probably even getting better.

It seems Red Bull anticipated that their rivals may close the gap a bit after copying their design, so they took a drastic change in direction to restore the gap to what it was in 2023.

Granted, Carlos Sainz was closer to Perez in Bahrain, but he was around 25s off Verstappen, and keep in mind that venue is a bit particular and with it being the first race, both RB20’s wouldn’t have been fully dialed in, the team will definitely need more time to master the new car.

The way Verstappen delivered his pole lap with ease is an ominous sign to the others and the fact that he made the used Soft tyres last longer than any of his rivals on the opening stint, and then using another set for the final stint shows the RB20 has inherited all the good traits from the RB19.

Singapore will show us if Red Bull have managed to get rid of the only weakness they showed in 2023.

The chasing pack

The top five teams for 2024 are clearly led by Red Bull, with Ferrari chasing in second, while Mercedes and McLaren squabble for third, and Aston Martin bringing up the rear.

Ferrari seem to have retained their one-lap speed, and Bahrain showed their race pace is better, especially when you take into consideration the abrasive track surface of Sakhir.

Now they messed up Charles Leclerc’s brakes so we were robbed of the chance to see the RB20 vs the SF-24 in the hands of the faster drivers, but then again, Sainz is a great racer, but starting behind Leclerc on the grid meant the comparison could not be made.

As for Mercedes, George Russell’s qualifying showed the W15 has potential, but the team may need some time to unlock it and with 2026 dawning sooner that one might expect, their is no chance for the eight-time F1 Constructors’ Champions to really threaten Red Bull.

McLaren had a better start this season, but given how they finished off in 2023, their 2024 start is no doubt a disappointment, while Aston Martin started off steadily – if not spectacularly – with the hope that they develop their AMR24 properly this time.

So in summary, that is the initial order of Red Bull’s desperate chasers and it will probably change from track to track like last year. Another reason to feel we are still racing in 2023…

Still, an interesting F1 season awaits us

Horner: Not commenting on motives behind the leak

The F1 off-season was far from the boring, news-depleted three months we are usually used to as several stories broke that have awaken us from the winter hibernation.

That started with Formula 1 One Management rejecting Andretti Cadillac’s application to become an 11th team, and was soon followed by the announcement of Hamilton’s shock more to Ferrari in 2025.

The the bomb dropped with the Christian Horner investigation into “inappropriate behavior” towards a female colleague, of which he was cleared, only for alleged evidence to be leaked to 149 F1 related personalities in teams, media , FIA and FOM. We are still going through the pains of this story.

Last but not least, the news that dropped just when these line were written, the investigation into FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem for alleged interference in the 2023 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

All these events will ensure 2024 will still be an F1 season to follow despite the expected on-track monotony, but the word interesting does not always mean positive.

Andretti Cadillac being denied an F1 entry is definitely a negative thing, something we at GrandPrix247 have always stressed, not to mention the ludicrous FOM statement justifying their decision. So let’s see how this story develops.

hamilton ferrari logo

Hamilton’s move to Ferrari is a positive thing no doubt for the sport, but his final season with Mercedes will definitely be awkward, and the seven-time F1 Champion’s demeanor from Bahrain says as much.

The dynamic between him and Russell as the season progresses will be something to look out for, especially when the younger gets prioritized with everyone suddenly getting quiet in the Mercedes engineering room when Lewis walks in.

The situation at Ferrari also is worth watching with Sainz, on his way out, eager to show his next employer his worth, not having to worry about his teammate, his team and their orders. It’s every man for himself at Maranello now.

As for the Horner saga, nothing positive there sadly, especially when people’s personal lives are dragged into the spotlight and by that we mean both Horner’s and the female complainant.

It is also sad for the F1 as it affects a great team on a great run of results and it is a pity that such matters will divert attention from the on track performance.

After Bahrain, no one is talking about Red Bull’s one two as much as they are covering speculation about Horner, the investigation, the leaked “alleged” texts and the reported power struggle within Milton Keynes between the Horner camp and everyone else – the Verstappens, Marko, Salzburg…

It is no doubt an ugly topic, but we sadly and carefully have to report on it, as it affects the fate of all those working at Red Bull, all hard working F1 staff delivering perfection every weekend. Let’s hope we get a conclusion very soon and get back to focusing on what matters… Racing.

Now we also have the Ben Sulayem investigation happening, but this will develop in the coming days no doubt, and we will have enough time to delve into it.

All interesting, but not necessarily positive…