F1: Five talking points from boring Bahrain

F1 kicked off its 2024 season on Saturday, and here are the five things to take from what was a lackluster weekend.

1) Red Bull picks up where it left off.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 02: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) /
Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

While the RB20 is a very different concept from the RB19, it has recreated the pace that its predecessor had. With Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez finishing one and two and Max having a 22-second gap, this could cause concern that the 2024 title is already decided. Still, it is worth remembering that Bahrain is a unique track with a rough and well-aged surface that is hard on tyres. The track was laid twenty years ago and hasn’t been repaved since.So it will take until the start of the European season at Imola before we can fully decide if the title will be won as early as last season. 

2) Ferrari delivered a quick car over one lap, but in the long run, it looked poor.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 02: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 leads Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Pauline Ballet – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

After qualifying, most were left thinking Ferrari could easily challenge Red Bull in the race, with Charles Leclerc only being just under three-tenths off in Q3. But throughout the race, Charles was miles off the pace, suffering from a lack of brake balance and badly locked front tyres. However, his teammate Carlos Sainz managed to outperform his car and prove himself on this year’s transfer market with a P3.

However, Ferrari was strong in testing, so as long as they solved the balance issues, they could challenge Red Bull later in the season.

3) Mercedes takes two steps forward but three steps back.

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, Saturday – Steve Etherington

With Lewis Hamilton topping FP2 and George Russell qualifying for P3, it looked like the team finally had a base they could improve on and start to close in on Red Bull. But the race looked like they had taken two steps forward and gone three steps back, with both cars suffering from a lack of battery charge, which cost them on average four-tenths of a lap. This was further compounded by overheating issues caused by a too-tight bodywork package.

The risks taken with the bodywork show Mercedes is so despised to challenge Red Bull that they are making mistakes that are too costly.

4) Valtteri Bottas and the horrendous 52-second pit stop 

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 02: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Kick Sauber C44 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

Valtteri Bottas must have felt a serious dose of Monaco 2021 deja vu when he was sitting in his pit box as the team struggled to swap his tyres. A cross-threatening wheel nut led the team to hammer in a replacement as they couldn’t use another tyre from a differently registered set. This led to him finishing a lap down.

However, his car, the C44, did have a good race pace, which was shown by his teammate Guanyu Zhou finishing P11.

5) Is Alpine in crisis, or is it just a phase?

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 02: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A524 Renault leads Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Alpine F1 A524 Renault during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

When Alpine launched the A524, most were more concerned about the lack of paint on the car than the entirely new concept technical director Matt Harman unveiled. However, after qualifying, it was rumoured that Mr Harman was serving his notice after resigning before testing. The reasons for this became apparent as drivers Pierre Gasly and Estaban Ocon locked out the front row in the team’s worst qualification performance since it was Renault in 2016.

The race was even worse as both cars finished a lap down in 17th and 18th, with the car being reported as draggy and too heavy, which combined with the underpowered Renault V6. This could be the season when Renault calls it quits for the 100th time.

The standings 

1 1 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 57 1:31:44.742 26
2 11 Sergio Perez RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 57 +22.457s 18
3 55 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 57 +25.110s 15
4 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 57 +39.669s 12
5 63 George Russell MERCEDES 57 +46.788s 10
6 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES 57 +48.458s 8
7 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 57 +50.324s 6
8 81 Oscar Piastri MCLAREN MERCEDES 57 +56.082s 4
9 14 Fernando Alonso ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 57 +74.887s 2
10 18 Lance Stroll ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 57 +93.216s 1
11 24 Zhou Guanyu KICK SAUBER FERRARI 56 +1 lap 0
12 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 56 +1 lap 0
13 3 Daniel Ricciardo RB HONDA RBPT 56 +1 lap 0
14 22 Yuki Tsunoda RB HONDA RBPT 56 +1 lap 0
15 23 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS MERCEDES 56 +1 lap 0
16 27 Nico Hulkenberg HAAS FERRARI 56 +1 lap 0
17 31 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 56 +1 lap 0
18 10 Pierre Gasly ALPINE RENAULT 56 +1 lap 0
19 77 Valtteri Bottas KICK SAUBER FERRARI 56 +1 lap 0
20 2 Logan Sargeant WILLIAMS MERCEDES 55 +2 laps 0

Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.