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Formula 1

Winners and losers from F1's 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

6 min read

Max Verstappen and Red Bull breezed into the 2024 Formula 1 season in the same crushingly dominant spirit they've been in since mid-2022.

So dominant in the Bahrain Grand Prix, in fact, it was almost tempting to make him the only winner in our usual post-race rundown of the stars and flops.

We didn’t quite go that far. But the list of disappointments is pretty big this time.

WINNERS

MAX VERSTAPPEN

Even if you hadn’t taken the hints from testing, practice and qualifying of closer challenges to Red Bull too seriously, the ease with which Verstappen left the field standing was still striking.

It almost felt as if he had even more in hand than before.

The best seems to have got even better. He's not even getting bored with it either, declaring this yet another "just lovely" win.

And he still didn’t look like he was even showing his full hand either. - Matt Beer

CARLOS SAINZ

Given how close everything in Verstappen’s wake was, whoever emerged as best non-Red Bull in Bahrain was always going to have really earned it.

And Carlos Sainz gets extra credit for the attacking style of his drive to third place and for keeping the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez just about in his sights.

He gets even more credit for making such a statement in the first race of his season of job-hunting.

Amid all the justified excitement about Ferrari signing Lewis Hamilton, it was too easy to forget that Sainz has been doing a very, very good job for the team for the last two years.

Not the sort of flawless job that means your team spurns a seven-time world champion when it has the chance to sign them. But a good enough job that only a driver of that calibre and profile should be enough to oust you.

Bahrain 2024 won’t make Ferrari regret its 2025 driver decision. But it’s another reminder that it’s relinquishing a very good driver to make way for its new big star. - MB

Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll's race started well, with a good launch from 12th on the grid, but that was soon ruined by Nico Hulkenberg tipping him into a spin at Turn 1.

That dropped Stroll to last, but he fought his way back through the field, making good use of an early first pitstop.

Aston Martin rightly ordered Stroll to let through team-mate Fernando Alonso (on much fresher tyres) in the final stint, but for Stroll to still finish on the lead lap and with a point was a testament to the strength of his recovery. - Josh Suttill

LOSERS

MERCEDES

By the standards of the last two years, Mercedes’ fifth and seventh in the Bahrain Grand Prix was not a horrendous result. It's certainly had worse days.

But it was a deflating one considering the undercurrent of optimism about winter progress and the drivers’ improved feeling with the new car, and the tantalising opening laps in which George Russell got up to second.

The amount of problems littering Mercedes’ race made it feel like little had changed - a lack of hard-tyre pace, unexpected overheating, Hamilton’s broken seat (and his total lack of pace from qualifying onwards) - this wasn’t just a team whose car wasn’t fast enough, it was still coming across as a team misfiring and tripping over itself.

Perhaps all those problems will be very easily solved, the car will show its true pace in Jeddah next week, all will work smoothly there and Mercedes' 2024 will take off.

But in the Sakhir race, Mercedes didn’t look like a team that was making the progress it needs to. - MB

McLaren

Considering its mid-year leap and Red Bull-challenging heroics last season, this has to be a disappointing start to McLaren's 2024.

Yes, Lando Norris finished ahead of one Mercedes and right behind another, but he was 23s off the final place on the podium and benefiting from cooling issues thwarting the Mercedes.

Team-mate Oscar Piastri looked a step behind Norris all weekend long and though he finished within eight seconds of Norris, considering the top four teams had a clear advantage, eighth was really the least he could have hoped for.

Bahrain's never been McLaren's strongest track, so expect this to be far from McLaren's early-season peak. But Norris has made clear that without upgrades, his team can't expect to be anywhere close to Red Bull. - JS

Aston Martin

Fernando Alonso was "extremely surprised" to qualify sixth on Friday but said finishing a distant ninth was exactly in line with expectations.

He says he's known since around late December/early January that the team was keeping its expectations in check and wasn't expecting anything like its flying start to 2023.

The hope is that a more steady winter will allow Aston Martin to keep pace with the development race in 2024, unlike in 2023.

For now Aston Martin looks firmly fifth-best. Alonso finished almost 20 seconds behind the second McLaren of Piastri, but was more than that margin ahead of the sixth-highest team - Sauber.

That has to be a disappointment given all those 2023 podiums. - JS

RB

RB's difficult opening grand prix was a one-two punch of misery.

First Yuki Tsunoda, who initially ran 11th, fell away from the top 10 - and neither RB driver looked a points threat.

And then the end of the team's race was compromised by a messy team orders row.

Tsunoda was instructed to let Daniel Ricciardo through, which he did but not without clear distaste for the order expressed through a sarcastic "yeah thanks guys, I appreciate it".

The aim of the swap was to let Ricciardo attack Kevin Magnussen for 12th place but that didn't prove fruitful. 

Instead Tsunoda divebombed Ricciardo at Turn 8 on the cooldown lap after the race, and prompted this angry response from Ricciardo: "What the f***...I'll save it...he's a f***ing helmet."

It was all a far cry from the lofty expectations pre-season for Red Bull's second team.

No sign of nipping at the leading teams' heels, instead a messy race to forget. - JS

ALPINE

Sometimes when an F1 team struggles in testing, things turn around sufficiently in the season-opener that it's soon forgotten.

Or when it has a poor qualifying session, it picks its way forward for a result respectable enough to minimise the negative headlines.

That was not the case for Alpine in Bahrain. This was blow after blow and misery after misery for the team with the slow, overweight and visibly ill-handling car.

A back-row sweep in qualifying, 17th and 18th in the race for Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, ahead of only the delayed Valtteri Bottas and Logan Sargeant, and a full 14 seconds behind a Haas that broke its front wing at the first corner.

And it emerged that technical director Matt Harman and head of aerodynamics Dirk de Beer had resigned.

This time a year ago, Alpine began the 2023 F1 season aiming to hold fourth in the constructors' championship but get closer to third than fifth. Then it finished the year sixth.

At present, this year already feels like it will make last year seem a massive success. - MB

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