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Bahrain Grand Prix: F1 Race Results

After months of build up, F1 returned for a spectacular season opener under the lights

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Max Verstappen dominated the season opener in Bahrain to take a convincing first win of 2024, with a close battle following behind him.

Max Verstappen leading the Bahrain Grand Prix (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)
Max Verstappen leading the Bahrain Grand Prix (Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images)
Pre-race

As darkness fell in Sakhir, the teams and drivers prepared for the Bahrain Grand Prix, hoping that Red Bull could be caught. Reigning world champion Max Verstappen took pole position by three-tenths of a second in qualifying, a margin that hinted the field may have closed up.

Red Bull wanted to continue its utterly dominant run of victories. Verstappen won the remaining seven races of 2023 after losing out to Carlos Sainz and Ferrari in Singapore during his record-breaking season. Victory in Bahrain would take his consecutive victory tally to eight.

Still processing the news that Lewis Hamilton had signed for 2025, Ferrari’s drivers had a point to prove. Sainz needed to kick off his season with a strong performance to keep himself at the top of the grid’s shopping list. Charles Leclerc needed to assert himself with the arrival of Hamilton now on the horizon.

Mercedes were happy with their car after qualifying, but George Russell played down hopes of challenging Red Bull from P3. Hamilton had his work to do from back in P9.

McLaren enjoyed a more positive qualifying than in 2023, with the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg putting in a stellar performance for P10. He would likely struggle to keep his position in the race. Alpine found themselves at the back of the field, facing an uphill climb in the desert.

All 20 cars started on soft compound tyres, with a two-stop strategy likely to play out as the race unfolded.

Lights out

Verstappen converted his pole position at lights out, with Leclerc in pursuit. Lining up a move into turn one, the Ferrari tried to pass around the outside but could not pull the move off.

Chaos ensued into turn one, with Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg caught in a first-corner melee. Piastri passed Norris on the first lap, while the Alpine’s took advantage of the chaos to move up the order. Valtteri Bottas and Sauber were lucky not to incur damage after he, too, hit Hulkenberg’s Haas.

Hulkenberg’s Haas pitted at the end of lap one for a replacement front wing, ruining his strong qualifying performance. Fitting the hard tyres, the German rejoined at the back of the pack.

Norris and Piastri passed Fernando Alonso, demoting the Aston Martin to P7. Further up the order, Russell moved into P2 on lap 3, the Ferrari locking up into turn ten, as Sergio Perez’s second Red Bull. menacingly loomed in.

Early battle for second

As the drivers settled into the opening phase of the race, the race behind Verstappen intensified. Four cars were separated by barely a second, all vying for P2.

Perez moved into P3 on lap 7, leaving Ferrari in a difficult position. Leclerc looked to be visibly struggling with his tyres, having locked up three times already in the opening laps. Teammate Sainz gained on Leclerc but seemed unable to pass. The team did not order a swap-around. The McLarens wanted to join in on the battle and began to push. Norris and Piastri were 2.7 seconds behind the Ferrari’s, with faster pace.

Hamilton lined up a move on his old adversary Fernando Alonso, pulling the move off on lap 10. The Aston Martin had no answer, seemingly playing the long game.

The intra-team battle at Ferrari reached boiling point on lap 11. Sainz forced his way past Leclerc in a statement of intent by the Spaniard. The move kicked off a flurry of activity in the pits. Leclerc pitted, forcing a reaction from George Russell. All fitted in hard compound tyres. Perez, Norris and Hamilton were next, all pitting to avoid the powerful undercut.

Logan Sargaent’s opening race of 2024 was not going to plan, a big lockup requiring a pit stop sending the Williams to the back of the pack.

The drivers that had pitted early needed to pass the traffic quickly, but Russell found himself under attack from Perez. Pulling off a move in turn four, the second Red Bull now had a net second place once Sainz pitted.

Drivers on the move

Sainz rejoined the track behind Sainz, and the two red cars duelled once again. Having to abandon a move on lap 16, he pulled off an audacious move into turn one on lap 17. Leclerc radioed in to advise his car was pulling to the right. The Scuderia advised they were checking, but the race in Bahrain looked to be a tough battle for the Monegasque.

Verstappen became the final driver to make a pit stop and did not relinquish his lead.

Not content with passing his teammate, Sainz swept past Russell a lap later, while the second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton appeared to be struggling with battery draining. He and Alonso passed Zhou Guanyu, but both cars were a long way behind the battle for the podium places. Russell also struggled with a power unit issue.

With Leclerc’s issues, the McLarens began to close in on the Ferrari, aiming to move into the top four after their qualifying session left time on the table.

Further down the order, Zhou Guanyu’s strong opening stint netted him P10, and he had to defend from a rapid Yuki Tsunoda. The Sauber kept the RB behind for now, the point on offer for both teams vital.

Alpine’s miserable weekend continued. Pierre Gasly ran down in P18, complaining of poor traction and balance. Teammate Ocon was not faring better, only running in P16, unable to make progress on catching the cars in front.

Mercedes-powered cars looked to be suffering from high temperatures. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were instructed to increase lift and coast, while Alex Albon also looked to be suffering from the same issue.

Second-stop chess games

The second pit stops began on lap 28. Lance Stroll blinked first, with Aston Martin attempting to save their disastrous race pace compared to the front runners. Zhou Guanyu followed him in one lap later, unleashing Tsunoda, who had been caught behind the Sauber. The second Sauber of Bottas suffered a wheel nut issue at his second stop, ruining his race and placing him a lap down.

The front runners pitted a few laps later. Russell was the first to blink, pitting on lap 33 for hard tyres. Rejoining two seconds behind Fernando Alonso, the Mercedes had work to do to make his strategy work.

Norris was next to pit a lap later, exiting in clean air. Piastri and Leclerc reacted to attempt to get out ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who pitted a lap earlier. On cold tyres, Piastri ran wide at turn one, with the Mercedes going through.

Sainz’s second stop was more uneventful. Exiting comfortably in P3. Perez reacted to Ferrari, with the gap to Sainz reduced. Norris and Leclerc passed the Aston Martin of Alonso, Norris targeting passing the Ferrari next.

Verstappen pitted on lap 38, his lead substantial enough to exit without second-placed Perez in sight. He was on track for his eighth consecutive victory in dominant style.

Hamilton passed Alonso on lap 39, hoping to move back into the top six.

Final battles

With the race entering its final phase, the stage was set for a battle for second and third. Red Bull had run out of hard compound tyres, forcing them to fit softs. While Verstappen was safely out of reach, Perez had to be vigilant against Sainz and Russell on the harder tyres in the closing laps.

Hamilton found himself sandwiched between the two McLarens, the Mercedes slowly beginning to catch Lando Norris. Alonso pitted on lap 42, but the best he could hope for now was P9. He passed Zhou Guanyu on lap 45 and set off after his teammate.

Despite his car issues, Leclerc had moved to within striking distance of the second Mercedes of Russell. The Mercedes ran wide at turn ten after a lock-up, his tyres hurting. Leclerc passed with ease on lap 47 but stayed within striking distance of the Ferrari. Both were still just over three seconds away from Perez on his soft tyres.

The Aston Martins swapped places on the same lap, Alonso aiming to close a 27-second gap in ten laps. Hamilton closed the gap to Norris to under four seconds with ten laps to go but needed more pace to reel in the McLaren. An off-track excursion did not help the cause, and the Mercedes lost considerable time.

Last laps drama

Down the order, the two RBs were engaged in a battle with Magnussen’s Haas. RB instructed the Tsunoda to let teammate Ricciardo by but did not do this for two laps, much to the ire of both drivers.  The three battled hard until the chequered flag, but Magnussen defended his position.

Norris and Hamilton found a sudden turn of pace in the last few laps. With three laps to go, Russell found himself at risk of attack but repelled the assault.

At the chequered flag, Max Verstappen took victory by over twenty seconds in a race that underlined the dominance of Red Bull. Sergio Perez followed him home to make it a one-two for the team. Sainz finished P3, with Leclerc P4. Russell took P5, Norris P6, Hamilton P7, Piastri P8, Alonso P9, with Lance Stroll completing the top ten. All 20 cars finished.

Final Classification

 

Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images 

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