Why Sainz believes Bahrain was ‘one of Red Bull’s strongest tracks of the season’

2024 Bahrain GP interactive data

Posted on

| Written by

Carlos Sainz Jnr finished closest to the Red Bull drivers in Bahrain and doubts there was much more he could have done to catch them.

But he suspects the world champions’ advantage won’t be as great in future races.

Sainz qualified fifth for yesterday’s race but passed his team mate Charles Leclerc and George Russell to finish third. Although he appeared to have an opportunity to close on Sergio Perez for second place, he never thought it was realistic given what they’d seen of Red Bull’s pace.

“You need to consider that we’ve been testing here three days and I’ve been seeing that Red Bull degradation on soft and it’s exactly the same as ours on the hard,” said Sainz. “So as soon as I knew Red Bull had a new soft for the last stint, and Checo had it, it’s not like I went, ‘okay, this is my chance’.

“I’ve seen the long runs they did on the soft tyre in testing, and you could see that they basically have the same deg[radation] on the soft as what everyone has on the hard. So I wasn’t getting too excited.”

Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz Jnr, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024
Sainz pursued Perez, to no avail
Perez’s first stint on softs was only 12 laps long, though Max Verstappen went five laps further. There were 21 laps remaining when Perez switched to softs for his final stint, one lap after Sainz took hards.

At first Perez edged clear, then Sainz started to match his pace. Over the final six laps Sainz was quicker every time, but the gap between them still stood at 2.7 seconds when the chequered flag dropped.

Sainz said Red Bull’s ability to make the soft tyre last so long was always going to make them difficult to beat.

“When I saw the long runs of Max and Checo in FP2 and then the long runs of testing, there’s no secrets. We’ve been here three days. I knew they had a three or four-tenth advantage – maybe not half a second like George was saying – depending on track conditions. But I knew it was going to be very difficult to beat the Red Bulls.

“They also kept a new soft [tyre set], which shows a bit what the intentions and their plans were. I knew the Red Bulls today were going to be very, very difficult to beat. So to keep up with one of them and have the possibility to fight is already a good surprise.”

However Sainz is more confident about his chances of being able to challenge Red Bull at lower-degradation circuits. “I think we were at one of their strongest tracks of the season with very high tyre deg at the rear.

“Hopefully when we go to a more front-limited track and maybe better Tarmac, our car will come alive and we will be able to mount a better challenge on Max for the win.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix lap chart

Zhou Guanyu gained the most places of any driver, finishing six places higher than he started. Nico Hulkenberg lost the most after tangling with Lance Stroll at the first corner, losing six places.

The positions of each driver on every lap. Click name to highlight, right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix race chart

While Verstappen finished well ahead, his team mate plus the Ferraris, Mercedes and McLarens were clustered together. Aston Martin, who impressed with a podium finish in this race last year, were very clearly the fifth-quickest team, though that was enough for Lance Stroll to recover from his first-lap tangle to claim the final point.

The remaining teams were more closely matched, with the exception of Alpine, who would have brought up ther rear had Logan Sargeant and Valtteri Bottas not been delayed by a steering wheel fault and cross-threaded wheel nut respectively.

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix lap times

Verstappen’s instant speed after each pit stop indicated how much pace Red Bull had in hand but didn’t use. However the high-degradation Bahrain circuit does require more tyre management than at other tracks, exaggerating the lap time benefit of fresh tyres. Even so, the fact only one driver got within one-and-a-half seconds of Verstappen’s quickest lap time does not bode well for the coming races.

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

Rank#DriverCarLap timeGapAvg. speed (kph)Lap no.
11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’32.608210.3839
216Charles LeclercFerrari1’34.0901.482207.0736
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1’34.1991.591206.8348
411Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’34.3641.756206.4740
54Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’34.4761.868206.2235
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’34.5071.899206.1644
744Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’34.7222.114205.6939
82Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1’34.7352.127205.6642
981Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1’34.7742.166205.5837
1010Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1’34.8052.197205.5145
1127Nico HulkenbergHaas-Ferrari1’34.8342.226205.4546
1263George RussellMercedes1’35.0652.457204.9540
133Daniel RicciardoRB-Honda RBPT1’35.1632.555204.7437
1424Zhou GuanyuSauber-Ferrari1’35.4582.850204.130
1520Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’35.5702.962203.8634
1618Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’35.6323.024203.7330
1723Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’35.7233.115203.5440
1822Yuki TsunodaRB-Honda RBPT1’35.8333.225203.337
1977Valtteri BottasSauber-Ferrari1’36.2023.594202.5233
2031Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’36.2263.618202.4734

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix tyre strategies

Aside from the Red Bull pair, the only driver who felt confident enough in the soft tyres to run them for a long stint was Daniel Ricciardo.

Aston Martin recognised they didn’t have the pace to run with the cars ahead so gambled on two long initial stints for Fernando Alonso, hoping a Safety Car appearance might play into his hands, but none came:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix pit stop times

Ferrari produced the quickest stationary pit stop time of the race and also had three of the four quickest complete pit stops. Mercedes aimed to improve this area of their game for 2024, but only their last stop of the evening was on par with the best:

Rank#DriverTeamComplete stop time (s)Gap to best (s)Stop no.Lap no.
155Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari23.866235
216Charles LeclercFerrari24.0690.203111
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes24.0940.228233
416Charles LeclercFerrari24.1360.27234
54Lando NorrisMcLaren24.2050.339113
61Max VerstappenRed Bull24.2090.343237
722Yuki TsunodaRB24.3240.458234
827Nico HulkenbergHaas24.3870.521341
918Lance StrollAston Martin24.4180.55219
1020Kevin MagnussenHaas24.4460.58232
1155Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari24.4740.608114
1211Sergio PerezRed Bull24.5160.65112
1318Lance StrollAston Martin24.5450.679227
1411Sergio PerezRed Bull24.5630.697236
1523Alexander AlbonWilliams24.610.744236
1623Alexander AlbonWilliams24.6810.815115
174Lando NorrisMcLaren24.7050.839233
1822Yuki TsunodaRB24.7240.858114
1927Nico HulkenbergHaas24.7680.902220
2063George RussellMercedes24.7780.912111
2114Fernando AlonsoAston Martin24.7860.92115
2281Oscar PiastriMcLaren24.8520.986234
233Daniel RicciardoRB24.8560.99235
2463George RussellMercedes24.8661231
2531Esteban OconAlpine24.8771.011110
263Daniel RicciardoRB24.9881.122113
271Max VerstappenRed Bull25.0641.198117
282Logan SargeantWilliams25.071.204228
2944Lewis HamiltonMercedes25.0871.221112
3024Zhou GuanyuSauber25.0941.228228
3114Fernando AlonsoAston Martin25.1091.243241
3231Esteban OconAlpine25.1451.279230
3324Zhou GuanyuSauber25.2081.34219
3410Pierre GaslyAlpine25.241.374343
352Logan SargeantWilliams25.3461.48340
3681Oscar PiastriMcLaren25.451.584112
3720Kevin MagnussenHaas25.9512.085111
3877Valtteri BottasSauber26.422.554112
3910Pierre GaslyAlpine26.4622.596231
4010Pierre GaslyAlpine29.986.114112
412Logan SargeantWilliams35.72911.863110
4227Nico HulkenbergHaas36.60412.73811

2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

Browse all 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

21 comments on “Why Sainz believes Bahrain was ‘one of Red Bull’s strongest tracks of the season’”

  1. Bottas’ pit stop was so slow it is not even included in the table with pit stop times. They needed one of his nude calendars to time that one.

    1. Harsh but fair.

  2. These graphs are great, thanks.

    The gap-to-leader graph is useful but suffers from the flaw that when Verstappen pits, the whole field’s lines shake about and it’s hard to track what’s happening in those few laps (E.g, did Max pull out some time on his in/outlap?). Ditto if others pit on the same lap as the leader.

    If I could be cheeky and suggest an alternative option for the gaps to leader graph, it would be to normalise all the graphs not against the leader, but against the leader’s average time per lap for either the leader (IE race time / number of laps).

    It sounds convoluted but would better show the race leader’s performance. The graph would still look like a spreading fan from left to right as it currently does, and all the lines would end in the same place on the final lap as they do in the current graph.

    Crucially, we’d get to see Max’s performance directly (rather than inferring it from the pack’s graphs): he’d dip down into the negative over each stint, then jump up when he pits. (Though I have to admit, it might need some thought around safety car periods though when the whole pack is driving very slowly, which would skew the apearance)

  3. The fact that literally no one used the medium tyres suggests that the current system is not working. There needs to be enough risk vs reward to at least hint at other strategies.

    1. The system has never really worked. The teams cut the race into bits and then just fill those with the softest tyre they think they can manage throughout that number of laps. The Soft tyre is never quick enough to offset an extra pitstop, and the Hard tyre is never durable enough to skip a pitstop. It’s all about cruising and nursing the tyres, so even here on this supposedly abrasive surface Verstappen does 20 laps on Hard and 20 laps on Soft. It’s just a pointless gimmick to keep people talking about Pirelli.

      1. This. Although I sometimes do wonder if they make any difference whatsoever. The final stint of Perez and Sainz is a perfect example. They did the same amount of laps and the same lap times with one on softs and the other one in hards. I’m pretty convinced that if someone had put on medium tires they would have been just about the same too.

      2. MichaelN, the thing is, dividing the race into smaller sections and then working out what is the softest tyre they can use to cover that distance is basically what all of the teams have been doing since at least the 1980s. In reality, there have never been a lot of different options to choose from given that the overall length of a race is not that long, relatively speaking, and thus there are only so many ways that you can break the race up into those smaller sub-sections.

        It’s not just now that we’re seeing convergence in strategy – back in the refuelling era, most teams would run similar stint lengths, since the benefits on track would rarely reward any other strategy (you’d either be losing too much time in the pit lane, or lose too much time on track due to a heavier fuel load and more tyre wear over a stint). Even before that, when you didn’t have refuelling in the 1980s, you wouldn’t really see a lot of variation in strategies – although, to some extent, that was as much down to the inability, for both technical and skill reasons, to be able to simulate that many variations in strategy to begin with.

        The upshot is that it actually becomes very difficult to force a situation where there can be significant strategic variation, because there aren’t that many variables that you can easily control and there are fairly narrow windows where multiple different strategies are viable. In most cases, irrespective of the exact details of the regulations, the optimal strategies often converge to a similar pattern as a result.

        1. Indeed, the main benefit of refuelling had as much to do with the difficulty of passing as its alleged strategic component. Usually the only way it came into play was when a chasing car could go one or two laps longer, and emerge back out in front after their stop.

          There is some of that with the tyres, but overtaking is pretty simple now with DRS so track position isn’t that important.

  4. Pure uncut hopium from Sainz. RBR could have won the race on one set of tires.

  5. Red Bull’s pace at the end of the stint was amazing. Verstappen almost did not even have a drop off at all before he came in for a tyre change

    1. They’re just cruising to a target time; you don’t get a dozen near identical sector/laptimes if you’re pushing. One might think Verstappen is the most amazing driver ever, and… more power to those that do, but that stuff doesn’t happens. Pushing wears down the tyres and laptimes will rise.

  6. The ‘grand prix lap chart’ would look pretty dull without the pit stops.

  7. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    4th March 2024, 1:26

    Red Bulls have a lot more pace than they showed, especially the real Red Bull.

    1. Maybe perez is driving the RB 19, if so other team didn’t even catch up to last year’s red bull, which if you consider the massive gap there was last year is not so far fetched.

    2. teams*

  8. Looks like someone forgot about the “sandbag” on lap 39. You were supposed to make it look difficult!
    So much for the season.

    1. Ahah, that’s very true, it’s a massive gap in lap time.

  9. Sainz is a smart guy. He’s definitely still growing as a driver. I’d like to see him show consistently stronger race pace versus Leclerc this year as that might be his main weakness. It was good to see him not far behind Perez. While a good driver could expect to do a bit better than Perez, I’d expect them to be closer to his level of performance than that of Max in the Red Bull. It should not be discounted that Perez can be quite good at doing what he did yesterday – manage the tyres and the gap once he gets ahead. He did a reasonably good job. Hopefully he can banish the shockers from last season and get back to being Perez. Qualify… not terribly badly, take care of the tyres and let the race come to him.

    1. I don’t see how he can challenge verstappen for race wins though, he’s gonna lose several positions before the race even starts, and by the time he catches up, verstappen will be gone.

      1. Yes. Martin Brundle was right when asked if Perez could do better if he qualified better. He talked about how the gap opened up between himself and Verstappen once he got into second position and said that the problem is pace. If he can maintain his current form, I don’t think any driver stands a chance against Max in the same car. They need a better car and favourable dynamics like a wing man for a team mate, while Max should have an angry barking dog for his, and perhaps several in the car with him during the race!

  10. Max lap times from lap 5 to lap 16 were all between 1:37.229 and 1:36.960.
    Excluding lap 9 & 10 (1:37.229 & 1:36.960) the lap times from lap 6 to 15 were all 1:37.0XX.

Comments are closed.