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Formula 1

Our verdict on the scale of Verstappen's Bahrain GP domination

6 min read

After moments in testing, practice and qualifying that hinted the chasing pack might have closed on Red Bull a touch, Max Verstappen dominated the 2024 Formula 1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix with ease.

Are we in for another season that looks exactly like the last one? Or are there still reasons to believe Sakhir might’ve been deceptive and there will be closer races to come? Is this bad for F1, or should we stop moaning and appreciate a level of dominant brilliance up there with the greatest in F1 history?


Scott Mitchell-Malm

The size of Verstappen’s winning margin isn’t as concerning to me as the ease with which he seemed to accrue it. And that’s saying something when he’s just cruised to a win by more than 20 seconds.

I suspect it could’ve been a lot bigger if he had ever needed to really push. Which is extremely ominous.

One thing I would say is it didn’t look like we saw exactly what Ferrari was capable of. If Ferrari had executed a perfect race maybe one or both of its cars could’ve beaten the second Red Bull, which is about as much as we ever hoped for in 2023.

Grasping at silver linings aside, it was a destruction of the opposition that shows that while there were fleeting moments of optimism creeping through as this weekend progressed, the underlying concern that Red Bull had a lot more up its sleeve for the race was valid.

And proven in the most emphatic way by Verstappen with nobody even closing to giving him any reason for concern.


Ben Anderson

Verstappen’s domination of this race was expected. He simply picked up where he left off last season and enjoyed a trouble-free run.

But the scale of that domination is slightly skewed by circumstances. No one else in the lead group, other than his team-mate Sergio Perez, enjoyed a clean race.

Carlos Sainz came closest, but spent the early laps bottled up behind George Russell and Charles Leclerc.

Lewis Hamilton started too far back and both Mercedes had engine cooling problems. Leclerc’s persistent brake issues held back the driver who came closest to denying Verstappen pole.

McLaren never goes well in Bahrain - too many slow-speed corners - and Aston Martin seems to have made less progress over the winter than the teams around it and so slipped to the back of the leading group of teams around a track where Fernando Alonso made the podium in 2023.

So a muted McLaren, a disappointing Aston Martin, two hobbled Mercedes, one hobbled Ferrari.

I think Verstappen would have won comfortably anyway, but he won’t always have it this easy.


Josh Suttill

At a certain point, you've just got to stand back and applaud the job Red Bull has once again done.

After an entire winter where its rivals were spending every minute searching for answers to beat it, Red Bull has returned and once again raised the bar.

No doubt its crushing 2023 and its early switch to the 2024 car will have helped that, but it's still a phenomenal feat that cannot be underestimated.

There was so little wrong with its race.

Verstappen could have won it by 40 seconds if he needed to, he beat everyone else by 1.4s to the fastest lap just for fun and Perez did the perfect number two driver job to secure an almost equally comfortable second place despite good pressure from Sainz.

The other teams barely looked better than the '23 Red Bull, let alone get anywhere near the '24 Red Bull.


Gary Anderson

I suppose the question really is: should we have expected anything different?

Once again Red Bull has shown that it knows what makes these ground effect cars tick and when it comes to getting the best out of that car, without doubt Max is the man for that.

I’m sure the season will have its ups and downs (wishful thinking) but beating the next best team, Ferrari, by over 25 seconds, is roughly 0.44s per lap advantage for Red Bull. And the best Mercedes being 47 seconds behind, that’s roughly 0.82s per lap. These sort of gaps in race conditions are a real kick in the teeth for both these teams and it’s not going to be easy to close them.

Ferrari and Mercedes are supposed to be the real competition but in these very early stages of 2024 they look like also-rans.


Valentin Khorounzhiy

I'm mindful of being too negative - it gets annoying really fast if that's all you're bringing to the table. And there's nothing to be gained from pretending there was no enjoyment to be had from that race (mostly for the partisan fans, I'd imagine, but that needn't be exclusive).

But - as someone who follows F1 so closely not just because it's my job but because I can't imagine not doing that - I can't believe we've gone through an entire interminable launch season and test to end up here. 2023 mark II, with 23 more races of it to follow.

The only obvious differentiator, apart from a livery here and a livery there, is Alpine, by virtue of being bad - so I guess thanks are in order there.

Nothing more to say.


Matt Beer

OK, no one really went into 2024 expecting anything other than Verstappen winning the Bahrain GP. Not many people went into this morning expecting anything other than that.

But there had been enough hints in testing, practice and qualifying that we’d at least get something from this race that suggested this year might be closer than last year. Not the opposite.

Even Red Bull needs the opposition to do a bit better than this. F1 can’t afford it to be this easy for its admittedly brilliant champion driver/team combination for the next two years.


Jack Benyon

Part of the fabric of F1 is that it isn’t a single-make formula, there are 10 teams out there trying to build the fastest possible car and they have a relatively open rulebook to do it.

While many other racing championships out there try to meddle, limit and control their participants, F1 does that to a much lesser extent and as a result you get to witness absolute greatness.

Make no mistake, that’s what we’re seeing from Red Bull - delivering another stonking car that is only going to get quicker - and to a greater extent, Verstappen.

Sure, F1 would be more interesting as a whole if there was a different winner every week. But if there was a different winner every week, you wouldn’t get to see the type of dominance in its purest and glorious form that makes people fall in love with said sports. Ali, Messi, Jordan, you get the idea. These people weren’t forced to wear weighted boots or compete with an arm behind their back. They were free.

That’s exactly what we’re seeing now. A free and spectacular Max Verstappen. For better or worse, this is a symptom of F1’s DNA.

Although I'd be against it, perhaps it's time to look at changing that DNA, because in a race where you got to witness one of F1's best-ever drivers deliver an absolute masterclass, the driver of the day was well over 20 seconds behind and didn't even have that spectacular a race.

People should embrace and appreciate the greatness unfolding in front of them instead of pushing back against it.

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