18/04/2024

Ferrari and Charles Leclerc celebrate after winning the Bahrain Grand Prix. Photo:@ScuderiaFerrari/Twitter.

Ferrari has made a statement finishing first and second in the opening race of the season, while Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren had a very disappointing opening weekend.

After 46 races Ferrari has returned to the mountain top to win the Bahrain Grand Prix and in the process their first Grand Prix since Singapore 2019 in stunning fashion, having been the fastest team all weekend.

It was behind Charles Leclerc that Ferrari was able to secure the victory with the Monegasques qualifying fastest to start in pole position, which he held the entirety of the race to win his third career Grand Prix.

To cap off the weekend for Ferrari, teammate Carlos Sainz came in second place to record Ferrari’s first one, two finish since Belgium 2019.

Leclerc had to fight to hold first place with 2021 World Champion Max Verstappen threatening throughout the race, with attempts to undercut the Ferrari. On lap 17 the action intensified when Verstappen was able to get ahead of Leclerc on the first turn, however Leclerc who had DRS was able to reverse the position on turn four to hold the lead.

The identical happened on the following lap and again on lap 19, however this time Verstappen locked up as he overtook the Ferrari on turn one with Leclerc essentially getting the position back instantly.

From there is relatively smooth sailing for Leclerc, even after the race was slowed down due to a safety car after Pierre Gasly’s car caught on fire on lap 46. When racing resumed back to normal on lap 51 Leclerc was able to hold onto first place without any resistance, where he remained to win the opening Grand Prix of the season.

For teammate Sainz, he spent a large portion of the race in third place battling with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez. Everything changed for the Spaniard on lap 54 when Verstappen experienced engine power issues which allowed Sainz to get ahead of him and into second place.

Ferrari secured maximum points from the race with Leclerc also getting the fastest lap.

The podium was rounded out with seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton in third place after Red Bull had a disastrous final five laps of the race.

Red Bull’s heartbreak

After having Verstappen and Perez qualify second and fourth, there was expected to be a good fight between Red Bull and Ferrari in Bahrain, which was the case for most of the race.

Verstappen and Leclerc battled out for first and second, while Perez and Sainz battled for the final place on the podium.

However, tragedy struck for Red Bull on lap 52 shortly after the end of the safety car when Verstappen who already was dealing with steering issues began experiencing power loss. In a matter of moments Verstappen went from second place down to sixth with Sainz, Perez and both Mercedes overtaking him.

Ultimately Verstappen was forced to retire from the race with only three laps remaining.

Things only got worse for Red Bull when Perez started experiencing the same power issues which eventuated in his engine turning off on turn one of the final lap, causing his car to spin and allowing the rest of the grid to pass him.

After a promising weekend, Red Bull leave Bahrain with no points to show for it in cruel circumstances.

McLaren’s weekend to forget

It was a disappointing race weekend for McLaren and their drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris who qualified poorly and were unable to make an impact in the race.

Norris began the race in 13th while Aussie, Ricciardo qualified 18th. Ricciardo had some excuses however for his poor qualifying result since he missed all three days of testing in Bahrain last week after catching COVID and therefore had a lot less experience in the new car compared to the rest of the grid.

Things went from bad to worse for McLaren on the opening lap of the Grand Prix, with both Ricciardo and Norris needing to go off track to avoid collisions. This caused Ricciardo to be in last place and Norris in 18th after the opening lap.

With both drivers being the only ones on the grid to start on the medium compound tyre, the thought was their tyres would last longer and therefore aid them later as the rest of the grids degraded quicker. This proved not to be the case with neither driver able to capitalise on this as when both pitted they came out still near the bottom of the grid.

Both Ricciardo and Norris jostled between 20th and 17th for the large majority of the Grand Prix until the chaos of the final 15 laps which saw three cars retire allowed them to move further up the grid. Ricciardo ultimately finished 14th while Norris came in 15th however the result did not completely reflect how much McLaren struggled throughout the race.

There are now some questions surrounding the Mercedes engine which McLaren use and whether it is no longer as strong as it has been in previous seasons. Other teams which use the engine such as Williams and Aston Martin were also slow this weekend, with all three teams making up the bottom six drivers who finished the race.

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Kevin Magnussen’s empathic return

Two weeks ago Kevin Magnussen was not a Formula 1 driver, however with Nikita Mazepin’s contract with Haas being terminated, he made his return to the sport.

With Haas having little expectations after a disappointing few years, Magnussen shock the grid when he got his car into the third qualifying session for the first time since 2019 to qualify seventh.

While the Haas and Magnussen had shown good pace it was unknown if they could sustain it throughout all 57 laps of the Bahrain Grand Prix, but the Danish driver proved he could.

Magnussen remained in seventh place for most of the race, until the eventual retirements of both Red Bulls meant he moved up the grid to finish in fifth place, having the best result of any driver not in the top three teams.

The result is Magnussen’s best finish since Bahrain 2018 where he also finished fifth.

How drivers did at their new teams

George Russel made good on his Mercedes debut to finish in fourth place after starting in ninth. Russel was able to quickly move up the grid and behind teammate, Hamilton on the opening lap where he remained.

With his result, Mercedes now sit in second place in the Constructors Standings on 27 points.

Valtteri Bottas proved he is still one of the best drivers on the grid since leaving Mercedes, to finish in sixth place in his Alfa Romeo debut. Teammate and F1 debut Zhou Guanyu also had an impressive showing coming from 15th to secure a points finish with a 10th place result.

Alex Albon’s first race back in Formula 1 and with new team Williams was uneventful, remaining in the middle of the pack for most of the race to finish 13th.

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