Start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024

Verstappen convinced rivals are closer than they looked in Bahrain

Formula 1

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Red Bull’s dominant start to the 2024 season last weekend is unlikely to be replicated in many other races, Max Verstappen believes.

Verstappen led an emphatic one-two for the team in the Bahrain Grand Prix. Their closest rival, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jnr, finished 25 seconds behind him.

Although Red Bull’s rivals always expected them to be stronger in race conditions than qualifying, Verstappen said a change in wind conditions at the track ahead of the race tipped the balance further in their favour.

“Today was probably better than expected,” he said. “The thing that changed was the wind and the intensity of it. I had a better feeling with the car and I could look after my tyres quite well at the same time.

“So that was very positive – probably a bit more how it was in testing, as well. I just felt very comfortable with the car and that really showed today.”

Red Bull’s advantage over their rivals was amplified by the race conditions, said Verstappen.

“In general, other teams are closer, I just think that today everything just worked really, really well. I of course don’t expect that to happen every single grand prix in the near future.

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“But still, we’ll take it, we’ll look back at it, of course, we’ll analyse it and we’ll try to improve further.”

While their race pace remains strong, Verstappen said qualifying showed the RB20 isn’t as competitive over a single lap.

“I do think that we are just not that great on one-lap performance for whatever reason with the car,” he said. “But luckily it’s very good in the race for most tracks.

“Naturally, of course, you focus a little bit more on the race, but it just seems like other teams can maybe extract a little bit more over one lap than us for whatever reason. So that’s what we’ll look at for the coming races.”

Before the race Verstappen disputed George Russell’s claim Red Bull would be half a second per lap faster than their rivals. However his advantage was that much at times during the race.

“Of course I don’t know how they approach their long runs with fuel loads and whatever. But from our side it was definitely not expected to be a half a second ahead, for sure not. it was probably a bit better than I thought today.”

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Carlos Sainz Jnr believes the unusually abrasive track surface in Bahrain contributed to Red Bull’s advantage, a view Verstappen shared.

“Every track is different. Maybe we rock up in Jeddah and you have a different feeling. And naturally, on tracks with lower degradation, teams will be closer.”

Verstappen is prepared for the possibility Red Bull’s rivals could put up a stronger fight in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend.

“Jeddah is a completely different track layout, a lot more high-speed corners. The Tarmac, of course, is completely different to what it is here, so less degradation.

“Probably that will help other teams as well compared to us. It seems like for us always it’s better to have these kind of tracks, so I don’t expect that to be easy.”

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2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

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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...

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35 comments on “Verstappen convinced rivals are closer than they looked in Bahrain”

  1. yeah, closer than the 1.5 seconds it looked, in terms of car performance. Maybe more like only 1 second. Same as last 2 years – great.

    1. Dude…stop it. Mercedes had a big engine advantage for at least 7 seasons straight.

      1. I can understand these sorts of responses when a poster implies that it has never happened before, but this was not the case, so I don’t understand why the negative remark about a factually correct statement.

        In any case, Mercedes advantage was not consistently as strong over the seven seasons you reference, so there is an argument to suggest you stop that too.

        1. notagrumpyfan
          4th March 2024, 10:35

          Indeed disappointing to see whataboutism strive during these discussions.

      2. That didn’t stop team principles, drivers, journalists, fans… from complaining and most of the whining was coming from the RBR camp especially Horner and Marko. Why we should keep quiet now RBR are dominating F1 even more than Mercedes ever did ?

        1. I don’t think the RBR car performance is greater then Mercedes enjoyed, it’s just Max is relentlessly consistent and giving nobody else a chance at victory which is making it seem worse.
          That, and having a larger skill gap between himself and Perez.

      3. Indeed, but the solution is for the FIA to admit that FOM shouldn’t write the rules, that they’ve been led into a dead end where the series suffers, and that the FIA should intervene and fix this. It does nobody any good for them to sit on the sidelines and shrug; ‘well it happened before’.

        1. notagrumpyfan
          4th March 2024, 10:39

          FOM didn’t and doesn’t write the rules.
          FIA is fully responsible for those.

          PS I don’t think the sporting rules are wrong other than the DRS gimmick and being too restrictive.
          It’s simply that one team is better than the rest at getting the most out of them (and having a driver who doesn’t make many mistakes).

          1. The 2022 rules were very much drafted by FOM, who hired Ross Brawn to overhaul the cars. His team consisted of people like Patrick “Singapore” Symonds, Jason Sommerville and such, and was able to do far more (simulated) testing than the FIA had done previously. Sure, Nikolas Tombazis at the FIA had a look and a role, but this was led by FOM. The biggest influence the FIA had was probably the infamous TD at Mercedes’ behest in 2022, which was really bad for the concept.

          2. And just to emphasise how wrong Brawn was, this is what he said in February 2022:

            “Every decision we’ve made has been towards (…) making it more achievable for more of the teams, and to get a closer competition going on for the future. (…) I’m not expecting huge disparity, unless somebody makes a complete [mess]. I’m confident that these rules and this regime and this culture will lead to much better racing.”

        2. MichaelN,
          How the FIA made that concession for exchange for more financial benefits is just beyond me. Jean Todt in his 12 years presidency, has absolutely done nothing – apart from the solitary introduction of the Halo – other than pushing his politically motivated green agenda.

          1. Todt keeping his distance from F1 was probably a good thing, given his prior relation with Ferrari, but the organisation was so focuseed on the president after the Mosley years that he needed to do more to empower the other people in his administration, especially those for motorsport, to take an active role. Unfortunately this wasn’t much of a success, and further complicated by the presence of Whiting who effectively ruled F1.

      4. No, not really. They had it for 2014, 2015, and 2016. 2017 and 2018, Ferrari was actually ahead of them for a significant chunk of the season. 2019 and 2020 they still had an advantage, but it was by no means a slam dunk.

        1. 2020 RBR was ahead in terms of car performance already, at least on the majority of tracks.

          1. argh, i mean 2021. you r right about 2020 ofc.

  2. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear…
    Nobody else has been banging on about the wind as much as they usually do – I guess all the cars are still winners this early in the season, or at least big steps forward, and the excuses will come later.

  3. Poor old me thought Max will never get political…and make statements like this just to appear like Red Bull will have to really push! This is something Wolf and co did during their dominant years, they even went on to tune their engine down for the sake of viewership numbers, but mostly to keep their advantage, thinking “if we show our true colours, they will change the rules” witch eventually they did but that’s another story!
    Utter rubbish, we could back then and can now see the obvious!

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      4th March 2024, 13:41

      @FanatikosF1 Yeah but Mercedes would have put Alonso, Hamilton, Norris, or Charles next to Max. But I also don’t believe Checo is that slow. He may not be as fast as Max all of the time but that doesn’t mean that on some tracks Checo would not be all over Max.

      I’m not Checo’s fan but everyone here believes that Checo can’t press the accelerator or manage his tires which is a joke. He’s been in F1 for 14 seasons – you don’t stay that long if you’re not a billionaire or can’t figure out the brake from the gas pedal…

      1. It is ture that he has had a long career in the sport and had a number of notable achievements. On the other hand, he has also faced questions about his performances for most of his career – he was criticised for his performance at McLaren relative to Button, was popularly considered to be weaker than Hulkenberg whilst at Force India and, in later years, faced questions about whether Ocon was better than him too.

        Some even suggested that, when McLaren did sign Perez, they chose the wrong driver from Sauber and should have got Kobayashi instead. Some of the criticism was overdone, but it is probably fair to say that Perez didn’t have a reputation amongst fans for being anything more than an average midfield driver (whether you think that is right or wrong is up to you).

        Some did also raise the pay driver tag as well, as whilst he might not have been a billionaire himself, his main sponsor (Carlos Slim) is.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          4th March 2024, 19:40

          I agree with everything that you’ve said. I think McLaren proved a bad incubator for several drivers including Vandoorne, Perez, and Magnussen. I can see why especially when Drive to Survive looked at Vandoorne’s stint. It’s not an easy place to adapt to.

          Perez has not been humiliated by any driver including as you mentioned Hulkenberg, Kobayashi, Ocon and his performance in the Red Bull was slightly better than Gasly’s and Albon’s putting him on the same line as nearly half the grid.

          All that we have left now are Russell, Sainz, Leclerc, Hamilton, and Alonso as top tier drivers.

  4. Alonso already has one hand on the 2025 championship. Lolz.

  5. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    4th March 2024, 12:17

    It’s weird reading people talking about this period of domination by Red Bull as boring and saying Mercedes’s domination wasn’t the same and was more competitive… because it really wasn’t. Where were you guys when that happened?

    In the three year period between 2014-16, there were 59 races and Mercedes won 51 of them, losing 3 races to Red Bull in ’14, 3 races to Ferrari in ’15 and 2 races to Red Bull in ’16. Over that period they also took 56 pole positions out of 59, losing just 3 – one a year.

    Their competitive edge wasn’t as supremely crushing over the next 4 years but still comfortably dominant to win by comfortably significant margin, with Red Bull not close enough and Ferrari starting well but fading. (Engine trickery aside)

    My point is Merc’s period of dominance was *as bad* and *as crushing* as this one, if not more so. F1 has these periods of dominance, the concerning thing is they’re getting longer and the gaps more pronounced, but complaints of it being ‘boring’ seem just born out of it not being your favourite team/driver benefitting from it.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      4th March 2024, 13:35

      @rocketpanda yeah but that period was some of the best racing and rivalries with no one knowing who was going to win the weekend and whether the 2 drivers would collide.

      We all know Red Bull are sandbagging and winning everything which makes it even more infuriating. We also know that Checo isn’t such a terrible driver cause he’d be driving with Logan Sargeant and fighting him on every lap.

      They are literally throw away pole position left and right to Ferrari because they have projected 80 wins out of 84 races without a single improvement.

      1. Some of the best racing?

        2015, 19 and 20 was literally Lewis against nobody, 2014, 17 and 18 he had some fights but after mid season Ferrari or Rosberg fade out easily

        2016 ok, good with a close battle, still all races minus two won by mercedes

        Bottas was just about is Perez now, never been a contender.

        If for you these years is among the best racing and rivalries you clearly didn’t watch 2010 and 2012

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          4th March 2024, 14:40

          I think the point you’re making is that dominant eras can have somewhat boring seasons especially if your teams are under-performing but competition at the top makes it a lot more interesting.

          In Vettel’s era, you seemed to enjoy 2010 and 2012.

          2012 started with 7 different winners as performance was completely decided by the tires iirc. By race 10, Alonso had built a lead which he then lost. I agree, it was a fluke but it kept things interesting.

          You mentioned 2010 where 4 drivers had an average of ~250 each and any of them could have won the championship.

          I imagine you enjoyed the first part of last season quite a bit:-) Like I said, if Bahrain is an indication of what races can be without Alonso and Hamilton, then no thank you…

          1. I don’t think you understood my point

    2. Interesting comment which I both agree and disagree with. I think it is pretty boring now but I have thought that about any periods of sustained dominance e.g. Schumacher’s, Vettel’s, Lewis’. Your comment about the periods getting longer and the gaps being larger is true though I feel. We have to ask why this is?

      It could very well be that F1 has just become too complicated and too restrictive with it’s rules. So only one team is likely to get things exactly correct and therefore destroy everyone else. It’s not entertaining or sustainable though I feel. But that’s just my opinion. There is also a lot more of it i.e. possibly too many races.

      1. I think this is caused by technological advance, extensive data collection and analysis. Back in ’90’s they had means to measure telemetry and configure the car in the pits, but nowadays they pretty much have full picture of allproblems in the car in realtime.

        The fact, that all cars finished in the first race is unbelievable. Remember not so long ago, was it 2014 when Lewis started Australia with engine blow? There is almost no element of randomness anymore.

    3. But the first three years of that period, Rosberg was competitive with Lewis, and beat him in 2016.

      In 2017 and 2018, Ferrari with their as-yet-unexplained engine cheat, were seriously competitive, and if Ferrari and Vettel hadn’t made a number of self-inflicted errors, they might have won at least one of those seasons.

      Perez is less of a threat than Bottas was.

  6. I’m a fan of Hulk, but what a silly insinuation to suggest that Perez was popularly considered worse than Hulk at FI. You’re just making things up at this point.

    Whilst Hulk was close to Perez, Perez had more points and notably podiums compared to Hulk across their time together…

    1. Hulkenberg is ridiculously fast over one lap– and has a really bad habit of getting involved in first lap incidents, as I was explaining to a friend, just before Hulk ran into the back of Stroll.

    2. Oople, if that was meant to be in response to my previous post – no, it is actually quite realistic to say that people on this site did often publicly state that they thought that, when comparing Hulkenberg to Perez, they felt there was a tendency to overrate Perez and underrate Hulkenberg.

      There did seem to be a popular complaint that Perez’s results were flattered by the fact that the qualifying regulations of the time meant that drivers who qualified in the top 10 were forced to start on the tyres they used in Q2, whereas drivers outside the top 10 had a free tyre choice.

      Some contended that, as Perez tended to qualify just outside of the top 10 on average, whilst Hulkenberg qualified just inside the top 10 on average, it tended to give Perez a strategy advantage, more often than not, by allowing him to start on the optimum tyres more often than those around him, including Hulkenberg.

      Now, whether you agree with the common interpretation of their form is another matter – as I said, I think the criticism levelled at Perez during that era was excessive – but that is different to claiming that it wasn’t there.

  7. Clearly Max didn’t lap enough of the grid to feel entirely safe.

  8. Max needs to tell his dad to keep away from the team now for the sake of his own continued success.

  9. Google Max his karting record… He holds about 2-3tenths over everyone. Look at his laptimes during the last Grand Prix..within a few hundreds consistently. RB is maybe one or two tenths faster then the test on a good day. But also has been equal or even slower to the competition as well. This NEVER happened when Mercedes engine was 1-2 seconds per lap faster then the rest. Its painful to watch Max his dominance but if all cars were identical, the outcome would be the same…his karting history against the same guys proofs that.

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