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Max Verstappen supreme in first GP in Bahrain: 'I was one with the car'

Published on 02 March 2024 by Misha van der Kroon

Max Verstappen has won the first Grand Prix of 2024 in a dominant way. Starting from pole position, Max led the entire race in Bahrain unthreatened, ultimately finishing 22 seconds ahead of Sergio Perez, his teammate at Oracle Red Bull Racing. The Ferrari’s of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished in third and fourth place. Also taking a point for fastest lap, Verstappen will leave Sakhir with 26 points on his name.

“Simply lovely,” Max says after crossing the finish line. “What a great race, and unbelievable balance as well. One-two finish as well, great start to the year.” Talking about the start of the race, Max says: “The start was good. The first corner is a very tight hairpin, so naturally you want defend the inside, to be safe, so that’s what we did. And from there on we focussed on our own race.”

He adds: “Today went even better than expected. The car was very nice to drive, on every compound. We had a lot of pace, and it was super enjoyable to drive today. It’s very special to have these kinds of days, because they don’t happen very often. It all went perfect, and I was just one with the car, everything felt great.”

After the sun set in Sakhir, at the Bahrain International Circuit, the race starts with Verstappen on pole position. Like the entire field, Max starts on softs and immediately takes the lead, followed by Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and George Russell (Mercedes). Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) gains a spot and moves to P4, ahead of Carlos Sainz (Ferrari).

Going into the first corner, Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas touches the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, and the German driver has to pit and put a new nose on his car. On the third lap, Russell manages to overtake Leclerc for P2, while Max is already almost two seconds ahead. On the seventh lap, Perez overtakes Leclerc’s Ferrari, climbing to P3. By now, Max is already six seconds ahead, partly thanks to the DRS train that has formed behind Russell.

On the tenth lap, Logan Sargeant’s Williams stalls as his motor overheated, but the American is able to continue on his way after some delay. The two Ferraris battle on track for P3, and Sainz manages to pass Leclerc with the help of DRS, after which the Monegasque pits for set of hard tyres. Russell also makes his first pit stop, switching to the hard compound. On lap thirteen, Perez does the same. A lap later, Perez overtakes Russell again, virtually moving to second place.

 After his pit stop, Sainz joins the track behind teammate Leclerc, who has already gone wide a few times due to locking of his front tyres. On lap eighteen, tyre whisperer Verstappen is the last of the field to change his soft tyres for hards, and continues to lead the race with a five second gap to Perez.

Sainz keeps attacking, and after Leclerc, he now overtakes Russell. The Spaniard climbs to P3. Max, who each lap is about eight tenths faster than Perez, has extended his lead to ten seconds after the 24th lap. On lap 37, Perez pits when Max has a 19-second lead on him. One lap later, the Dutchman also pits and puts on a new set of softs for the last stint.

On lap 40, Max speeds up a bit more and sets the fastest time so far on the clock, a 1:32.608. After his last pitstop, Leclerc is in the wake of Russell, who is in P4 at the moment. The Mercedes driver makes a mistake on lap 47 and is then overtaken by the Ferrari. In the meantime, Verstappen is saving his material and drives unthreatened to the finish line for his first victory in 2024, his eight victory in a row and his 55th Grand Prix win. Perez completes the party for Red Bull Racing by making it a one-two finish, and Sainz takes the final spot on the podium by finishing third in his Ferrari.

Results Grand Prix Bahrain:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT571:31:44.74226
2Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT57+22.457s18
3Carlos SainzSAIFerrari57+25.110s15
4Charles LeclercLECFerrari57+39.669s12
5George RussellRUSMercedes57+46.788s10
6Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes57+48.458s8
7Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes57+50.324s6
8Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes57+56.082s4
9Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes57+74.887s2
10Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes57+93.216s1
11Zhou GuanyuZHOKick Sauber Ferrari56+1 lap0
12Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari56+1 lap0
13Daniel RicciardoRICRB Honda RBPT56+1 lap0
14Yuki TsunodaTSURB Honda RBPT56+1 lap0
15Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes56+1 lap0
16Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari56+1 lap0
17Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault56+1 lap0
18Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault56+1 lap0
19Valtteri BottasBOTKick Sauber Ferrari56+1 lap0
20Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes55+2 laps0