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Sainz enjoys ‘pleasant surprise’ F1 opener whilst Leclerc struggles

Carlos Sainz claimed P3 at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix while teammate Charles Leclerc struggled after starting from the front row

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Carlos Sainz was the surprise package of the Bahrain Grand Prix, securing a podium finish whilst Charles Leclerc struggled to get to grips with the Ferrari SF-24.

Sainz F1 Leclerc Ferrari Bahrain
Charles Leclerc repeatedly struggled into Turn 10 during the Bahrain Grand Prix, locking up multiple times. (Image Credit: @ScuderiaFerrari on X)

With the first race of 2024 concluded, there is no doubt that Red Bull remain the class of the field. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez crossed the first to take an ominous one-two, despite the latter only starting P5. Meanwhile, his triple-champ teammate completed the grand slam by claiming the fastest lap, following yesterday’s pole position.

Even though Red Bull showed their dominance on race day, Ferrari’s Sainz was never completely out of the equation during the race. He cruised past George Russell and Leclerc having fallen back to P5 at the start, making an amazing move on the Mercedes driver and overtaking his struggling teammate twice.

A race to forget for Leclerc

After the fight with Sainz, Leclerc opened his radio to report a brake issue, deeming it “dangerous,” saying:

“My car is fully going to the right when I’m braking. Like this I cannot fight. It’s **** dangerous.”

Starting from P2, Leclerc’s race looked promising, but the hopes of a podium disappeared with the brake issue. He ran wide or off the track entirely on six occasions in the opening 10 laps, struggling with lockups.

After the race, Leclerc reflected on his difficult race:

“It’s been a very, very frustrating race because I was waiting for this race for a long time. I wanted to show what we were capable of and at the end we cannot show anything on my side because we were completely out of place with brake balance, and the car in general wasn’t where I wanted it to be.

“We will have to analyse what went wrong in order to stop all these issues from happening.”

Sainz with a point to prove

Sainz, who is to be replaced at Ferrari by Lewis Hamilton after the 2024 F1 season, fared better. Following some strong overtaking, he secured P3, finishing over 14 seconds ahead of his teammate and under three behind Perez.

Sainz said it was a “pleasant surprise” to be able to give the reigning F1 Constructors’ Champions something to worry about.

“I felt really good out there today,” the 29-year-old told David Coulthard at the post-race interview.

“[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.”

Perez also mentioned in the post-race interview that he had to manage excessive sliding across tyre compounds in addition to an engine braking issue, which might have given Sainz some advantage.

Even though Leclerc claimed P4, it was a contrasting ending of the season-opener for both drivers; Sainz leaves Bahrain as “the driver of the day,” whilst Leclerc heads to Jeddah hoping for a better showing during next week’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Featured Image Credit: @ScuderiaFerrari on X

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