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Max powers up: The F1 world champion is looking stronger than ever out of the gates

The opening race of the F1 season has provided insights into what we can expect throughout the 2024 F1 calendar.

Jordan Schmidt
March 4, 2024
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Max powers up: The F1 world champion is looking stronger than ever out of the gates

  

The 2024 season is underway, with new team names, new paint schemes, and many familiar faces. So what does the season look like after the first of 24 races? Will we see Max Verstappen continue to dominate, or will Ferrari find the speed to challenge the current world champion? Well, it looks like that might not be the case, at least for now.

 

Bahrain kicked off the 2024 season with a rapid nighttime race. The new bright green colours of the Sauber car added a new element of colour to the grid, along with the new VCARB Red Bulls (formerly Alpha Tauri). The pre-season testing has led us to believe that the Ferraris have found a new sense of speed, but the first qualifying session proved that Red Bull retains a race pace that is unmatched by other teams.

 

Verstappen secured the pole position in qualifying, ahead of Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari, George Russell in his Mercedes, Sainz in fourth, and Perez in fifth. The lights went out as the green flag waved, signalling the start of the season's first race.

 

Verstappen had a great start leading into the first corner; no major changes happened after the first corner for the top five besides a position swap between Perez and Sainz. Further back in the pack, Lance Stroll was rear-ended by Hulkenberg, forcing early disappointment for the Aston Martin driver.

 

George Russell flexed his new-season motivation, passing Leclerc on the outside on lap three and moving into second place. The McLarens also got in on the action, with both drivers overtaking Alonso, first Norris, and then Piastri, placing the two in sixth and seventh, respectively.

 

A lockup in lap seven by Leclerc provided Perez with the room he needed to make a move on the inside, moving the slower Red Bull within firing distance of Russell in second. Meanwhile, the man who has been the topic of discussion over the past few weeks with his announcement of moving to Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton, passed Alonso to take eighth place on lap ten. This proves Alonso's concerns about Aston Martin's race pace to be true.

 

Typically, this early in the season, drivers are adjusting to their cars and taking their time getting back into the groove before finding an on-track battle to fight. Not for the Ferraris, as Sainz dove down the inside of Leclerc on lap 11.

 

As the first round of pit stops commenced, Perez was closing in on Russell, forcing the Mercedes driver deep into a corner and slotting his Red Bull through the now open space and into sixth. After a pitstop strategy that favoured his teammate, Sainz found himself once again behind Leclerc. The Spaniard executed a daring late-braking manoeuvre, lunging down the inside of his teammate once more before overtaking in a show of fierce, aggressive driving.

 

Carlos Sainz showed a new face in Bahrain as he danced with Russell for a podium position on the 18th lap, overtaking the Mercedes with an impressive show of skill. Bottas had a shocker of a stop with a 52.4-second tyre change in a not-so-impressive pit display. Remember the wheel-nut debacle? Surprisingly, he still managed to leave the pitlane in front of Logan Sargeant, who was bringing up the rear.

 

With the two Red Bulls leading the way, the Ferraris had their eyes on third and fourth, with George Russell being the only speed bump in the way. Leclerc applied the pressure, which proved to be effective as a late braking manoeuvre by Russell forced him to overshoot a corner, leaving fourth wide open for Charles on the 46th lap.

 

In the closing stages, Yuki Tsunoda expressed his displeasure with a team order to swap positions with Riccardo late into the race. Meanwhile, Verstappen crossed the line first and demonstrated what we can expect in the coming season.

 

The final results are as follows:

 

  1. Max Verstappen

  2. Sergio Perez

  3. Carlos Sainz

  4. Charles Leclerc

  5. Geroge Russell

  6. Lando Norris

  7. Lewis Hamilton

  8. Oscar Piastri

  9. Fernando Alonso

  10. Lance Stroll

 

The first race usually gives us a preview of what the season will bring, and it's apparent Max is still at the top of his game, and already, social media users have demonstrated their newfound F1 habits by covering Max's place in first with tape and waiting to see who will win the race 'in second'.

 

What we have seen is that drivers are keen for a tussle with entertaining battles on the track in the first race. It's fair to say that Max is set for another championship title, but it's exciting to see gripping racing in the pack, even if it's not a fight for the top of the podium.

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