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Bahrain GP, second practice: Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two with Verstappen sixth

Formula One F1 - Bahrain Grand Prix - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - February 29, 2024 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during practice
Lewis Hamilton ended the day fastest of anyone after practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix - Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed

Lewis Hamilton declared himself “much happier than last year” after Mercedes ended a turbulent first day of the 2024 season with a practice one-two.

In the same month that Hamilton announced he will quit Mercedes to join Ferrari, the 38-year-old would be forgiven for questioning if he has made the right decision.

Having spent two seasons off the pace and in Red Bull’s wake, Hamilton topped the timesheets at the end of second practice in Bahrain, and though he refused to get ahead of himself too early in the new season, he admitted the signs were good.

“We didn’t know exactly where we would stack up against everyone else, but we had a positive FP2 session,” Hamilton said.

“The car was feeling good, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We know there is more to extract, and our long-run pace isn’t in the fight with the Red Bulls.

“Overall though, I’m feeling much happier with the car than last year. We’ve made some good improvements and it feels much more like a race car. It’s a really good platform for us to build from. We just need to keep our heads down and keep chasing.”

Hamilton will move away from Mercedes after their 12th season together, leaving fellow British driver George Russell to lead the team alongside an as-yet unannounced replacement.

“We’re not going to get carried away after one day of practice,” said Russell, echoing Hamilton’s caution.

“Our qualifying pace did look strong. We made some changes from the test and the improvement exceeded our expectations. But ultimately our long-run pace is where it counts. Verstappen looked comfortably quickest, and it was very tight with the Ferraris, the McLarens, and the Aston Martins. So we’ve likely got a real fight on our hands there.

“Nevertheless, we’re pleased with how our day has gone; the car is performing well. We will sit down and understand where the main improvements came from and try to sustain that. We want to be fighting for good positions on Saturday night.”

The pleasure among the Mercedes camp was taken from the fact that reigning world champion Max Verstappen found himself half-a-second off Hamilton’s fastest time, in sixth place on the leaderboard – although the true potential of Red Bull’s 2024 challenger, the RB20, is unlikely to be seen until Friday afternoon’s qualifying session.

Verstappen romped to victory in Bahrain 12 months ago to begin the most dominant season ever witnessed in F1, with Red Bull claiming 21 of the 22 races, and he was not overly concerned with their lack of pace on Thursday.

“It was not too bad. It’s just very close,” Verstappen said, having spent large parts of the session complaining about his gear changes. “Maybe some people around us already turned their engine a bit in terms of top speed.

“We just focus on ourselves. There were a few little balance issues from front to rear but nothing big, it’s just about trying to find that sweet spot.”


Bahrain GP, Thursday practice: as it happened


04:19 PM GMT

I cannot say I expected to see a Mercedes 1-2 in FP2

But that is exactly what we have. Again, this is only FP3 and I think Red Bull have some time to find before qualifying. Whether that is in finding the right set-up or simply cranking their engine power up I am not sure. But nearly half a second is a fairly big gap. I would, of course, expect Verstappen to be up there challenging for pole. Last year his competition for the top spot on the grid only really came from Ferrari but there are hints he could be fighting from a few other teams.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

As I said earlier, I think the fact that his best lap was fairly comparable to Hulkenberg’s Haas suggests something is up... but on the flip side his race simulation pace seemed the best of the field.


04:07 PM GMT

Verstappen complaining about the upshifts again

He does that a lot, at almost every race but it has been particularly vocal today. Actually, that is not far. Sometimes it is the downshifts he complains about.


04:03 PM GMT

FP2 - Classification

  1. HAM 1:30.374

  2. RUS +0.206

  3. ALO +0.286

  4. SAI +0.395

  5. PIA +0.410

  6. VER +0.477

  7. HUL +0.510

  8. STR +0.517

  9. LEC +0.739

  10. PER +0.741

  11. ALB +0.959

  12. RIC +1.142

  13. SAR +1.341

  14. MAG +1.390

  15. TSU +1.507

  16. GAS +1.577

  17. BOT +1.627

  18. OCO +1.653

  19. ZHO +1.674

  20. NOR +2.234


04:02 PM GMT

FP2 ends - Hamilton leads a Mercedes 1-2

And by a reasonable margin, especially over Red Bull. Hamilton does put in a 1:37.426 on his 13th lap on those soft tyres, but that is still 0.4sec of so off what Verstappen was doing at the same time.


03:59 PM GMT

FP2 - The order hasn’t changed really

As mentioned, everyone is on race simulations now.


03:57 PM GMT

FP2 - Hamilton onto the 10th lap on this tyre

And his lap times have dropped off significantly. Into the 1:39s now. Verstappen is 11 laps into his stint and just did a 1:36.9, so that suggests very much that the Red Bull is still very good in race trim. Not that we were expecting anything else.


03:54 PM GMT

FP2 - Russell clocking a 1:36.983sec...

...at a similar stage in his run to Verstappen and Hamilton earlier.

Mercedes driver George Russell of Britain steers his car during the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
Mercedes driver George Russell of Britain steers his car during the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024

Hamilton had a slower lap in the 1min40s but then gets back into the low 1:37s. Verstappen, nine laps in to this stint, is still in the 1:36.6s...


03:50 PM GMT

FP2 - 11 minutes remain

Verstappen is six laps into a long run on the soft tyres and his latest was a 1:36.632. Hamilton is on a similar run (though no idea about the fuel loads) and his latest time was a 1:36.866.


03:45 PM GMT

Fastest sectors so far

No Red Bull in there.

What are we heading towards tomorrow, then? Is this Red Bull sandbagging only to take pole by 0.4sec tomorrow? I don’t know. In any case, the RB19 was not even the best car in qualifying towards the end of last year but it was comfortably in race trim, so it is not all about one-lap pace.


03:43 PM GMT

FP2 - Verstappen is still circulating on the softs

But his first sector is five seconds off Hamilton’s best so he has A LOT of fuel onboard. In other words: the race simulation runs have begun. Lando Norris must have made a mess of his flying lap as he’s well adrift of even Zhou in 19th.


03:37 PM GMT

FP2 - Order after those quick runs

  1. HAM 1:30.374

  2. RUS +0.206

  3. ALO +0.286

  4. SAI +0.395

  5. PIA +0.410

  6. VER +0.477

  7. HUL +0.510

  8. STR +0.517

  9. LEC +0.739

  10. PER +0.741

  11. ALB +0.959

  12. RIC +1.142

  13. SAR +1.353

  14. MAG +1.390

  15. TSU +1.507

  16. GAS +1.577

  17. BOT +1.627

  18. OCO +1.653

  19. ZHO +1.674

  20. NOR +2.234


03:35 PM GMT

FP2 - Russell makes it a Mercedes 1-2

He’s 0.206sec off Hamilton and about 0.250sec ahead of Verstappen, who has now been bumped down to fifth.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.

I mean, what is really fishy about that Red Bull time is that it is just 0.033sec faster than the Haas of Hulkenberg, as good as the German is over one lap.


03:33 PM GMT

FP2 - Before we all get too carried away

In FP2 in Bahrain last year Alonso was 0.169sec faster than Verstappen. Verstappen then took pole by roughly 0.15sec ahead of Perez before finishing the race 38 seconds ahead of the next-best non-Red Bull finisher.

Half a second is a fair chunk of time, though.


03:31 PM GMT

FP2 - Verstappen is roughly on Hamilton’s pace after one sector

But is nearly two tenths down after two sectors...

He loses another few tenths in the final sector and ends up fourth, nearly half a second down on Hamilton’s time.

Well, well, well...


03:30 PM GMT

FP2 - It’s a decent end to the lap for Hamilton

He goes fastest of anyone in the final sector to go faster still, with a 1:30.374 - beating his previous time by nearly four tenths. Perez then crosses the line 0.741sec behind Hamilton. Again, I wouldn’t get too excited at this point (let’s see what Verstappen does in a minute) but you would rather Hamilton be ahead of Perez by that much than the other way around.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024

03:27 PM GMT

FP2 - 33 minutes left

What can Hamilton do on his next flying lap? He’s fastest in the first sector and does his best second sector...


03:26 PM GMT

FP2 - Hulkenberg up into second

Not sure if that is because of track evolution at this time of day or because they are running much lighter on fuel. Anyway, he doesn’t stay there that long because Sainz and then Piastri move faster - both are now within a tenth, in fact half a tenth, of Hamilton’s fastest time earlier on.


03:23 PM GMT

FP2 - Alonso gets very lairy at turn four

It is windy out there, and that might explain it.


03:20 PM GMT

FP2 - Verstappen improves on his next flying lap

But he’s still 0.410sec behind Hamilton.  McLaren and the RBs are a little further down the order as they have not used the soft tyres yet. But they used them in the first session, which explains their loft positions to some degree.


03:15 PM GMT

FP2 - “Big mistake” says Charles Leclerc

He gets very squirrelly on the exit of the final corner but keeps it going forwards. He asks the team to check the floor, though.


03:14 PM GMT

FP2 - Order after those first laps

  1. HAM 1:30.751

  2. ALO +0.284

  3. LEC +0.420

  4. VER +0.520

  5. PER +0.645

  6. SAI +0.825

  7. STR +0.940

  8. RUS +1.070

  9. HUL +1.323

  10. MAG +1.328


03:13 PM GMT

FP2 - Verstappen is on track

He’s 0.232sec down on Hamilton after two sectors. Both drivers on the soft tyres. He then loses another 0.3sec in the final sector and goes fifth, half a second slower than Hamilton. Interesting? Or not. Way too early to get bothered about that. Still, I’d rather have it this way round than the other...


03:08 PM GMT

FP2 - Alonso crosses the line in second

Just under three-tenths off Hamilton and about 0.65sec ahead of Stroll who crosses the line about 10 seconds after him.


03:08 PM GMT

FP2 - A good lap from Hamilton, he moves fastest

Very good, even at this early stage. It’s a 1:30.751, which is about a second off last year’s pole time. It is also 0.827sec ahead of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari in second. Verstappen has, for reference, yet to even leave the garage.

Bahrain Grand Prix - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - February 29, 2024 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during practice
Bahrain Grand Prix - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - February 29, 2024 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during practice

03:06 PM GMT

FP2 - Sainz completes his first fast lap

He has a couple of bites of the cherry at turn 13 and goes second.


03:05 PM GMT

FP2 - Hulkenberg leads the way so far

Admittedly, it is four minutes in. It’s a 1:32.139 but it’s the fastest of five drivers so far...


03:01 PM GMT

GREEN LIGHT: FP2 begins

Good. Let’s get going again.


03:00 PM GMT

Things to watch here in this session

Everything, really – but primarily where the RBs are, where Mercedes and Ferrari are in comparison to a) each other and b) Red Bull.


02:57 PM GMT

We are nearly ready to go in FP2

As I’ve have mentioned before, this session runs at the same time as qualifying and the race, roughly speaking, so should give us a better idea as to how things stand at the start of 2022.


02:48 PM GMT

Session times this weekend

For those of you just joining, a reminder of the session times for this weekend’s season-opening grand prix, given we are racing on Saturday.

Thursday February 29

First practice: 11.30am GMT
Second practice: 3pm

Friday March 1

Third practice: 12.30pm 
Qualifying: 4pm

Saturday March 2

Bahrain Grand Prix: 3pm


02:39 PM GMT

F2 news: A bad day for two hotly-tipped drivers

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who has been tipped as a potential replacement for Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2025 has qualified 18th for F2’s Bahrain GP sprint race. In fairness, it is his first qualifying in F2 and he did at least out-qualify his team-mate, Ferrari-backed Briton Oliver Bearman (a four-time F2 winner).

Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Prema Racing (L) and Andrea Kimi Antonelli of Italy and Prema Racing (R) during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 28, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
It was a disappointing qualifying session for Oliver Bearman and Andrea Kimi Antonelli - Getty Images/Qian Jun

Kush Maini took pole for Invicta Virtuosi. Will we see another Indian driver in F1?


02:33 PM GMT

Welcome back

FP2 begins in a little under 30 minutes, so a few updates until then.


02:31 PM GMT

FP1 recap: Ricciardo fastest as Horner returns

By Luke Slater

Daniel Ricciardo was the fastest man in first practice for this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, with world champion Max Verstappen in sixth.

The session in Sakhir kicked off with Christian Horner in the F1 paddock for the first time since he was cleared of inappropriate behaviour by an independent investigation.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner embrace in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Max Verstappen and Christian Horner embraced in Bahrain - Getty Images/Clive Rose

The Red Bull team principal was seen warmly embracing his driver Verstappen before the session. The Dutchman won all but three rounds of the 2023 season and is a huge favourite to secure a fourth world drivers’ title in the row in the RB20.

The timings and order of practice sessions should always be taken with some caution but especially so in Bahrain. Firstly, this was the opening session of the season and secondly because this particular session is run in unrepresentative conditions.

With qualifying and the race itself run at night, under floodlights, second practice at 3pm GMT will be a more useful gauge for the competitive order. In addition, most drivers did not set their fastest time on the quicker soft compound tyres.

Behind Ricciardo at the top for RB were McLaren’s Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri followed by the second RB of Yuki Tsunoda.

The Mercedes cars of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were seventh and ninth respectively but expect them – and the Red Bulls and Ferraris – to feature further up the order after FP2, which begins at 3pm.


12:44 PM GMT

Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack speaks to Sky Sports F1

I think this session did not give us any more insight than the test did last week. We need to be patient, wait until Saturday and then we will know more. It was quite difficult wind conditions, it was stronger than last week... all in all I think it was a solid session and now we prepare the second one.

I hope on Saturday we will be the talk of the paddock but we have always been very realistic and humble. We are facing very strong competitors. It is not easy. We set our target over the winter to improve the car further and learn lessons from last year [so that we] have a strong platform for development. I am quite confident. If we will be the talk of the paddock we will see later this weekend.


12:42 PM GMT

Do not get too carried away with that, though

As I said earlier, this afternoon’s FP2 session will be run under lights (as will qualifying and the race) and that means teams are likely to be closer to 100 per cent. And that most teams did not run the soft compound tyres in first practice.


12:35 PM GMT

What did we learn from that hour of running?

I think a few hints have solidified since testing. Namely that Haas are very likely to be slowest and Alpine are struggling to be anything but the ninth fastest team. Other than that? Perhaps not a great deal. Maybe that the RB is a half decent car, too.


12:34 PM GMT

FP1 - Classification

  1. RIC 1:32.869

  2. NOR +0.032

  3. PIA +0.244

  4. TSU +0.314

  5. ALO+0.324

  6. VER +0.369

  7. RUS +0.382

  8. LEC +0.399

  9. HAM +0.433

  10. BOT +0.485

  11. SAI +0.516

  12. PER +0.544

  13. ALB +0.714

  14. STR +0.999

  15. ZHO +1.054

  16. SAR +1.344

  17. OCO +1.938

  18. GAS +2.275

  19. MAG +4.608

  20. HUL +5.069


12:32 PM GMT

FP1 ends - Ricciardo fastest

And that is it for the opening practice session of the 2024 F1 season. A full classification is coming up.


12:30 PM GMT

An encouraging session so far, I guess

Going by what we can see on the timesheets alone. A second separates the top 14 from Ricciardo down to Stroll. Again, a limited number of drivers have run on the faster soft compound tyre including (crucially) Red Bull.

Verstappen looks like he is on a high-fuel run as he crosses the line with a time that is some five seconds off the overall fastest...


12:25 PM GMT

A look at the bottom of the timesheets

It’s Haas bringing up the back of the pack with then Gasly, Ocon, Sargeant in the Williams, Zhou, Stroll and Albon. Haas are expected to be the slowest this weekend - and they even said so themselves - but Alpine are having a nightmare start to the season and may not be too far ahead of them.

Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A524 Renault on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A524 Renault on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

12:22 PM GMT

FP1 - 10 mins remain

The order is still roughly as it was with the exception of Tsunoda in fourth, 0.314sec off team-mate Ricciardo at the top. A bit of a mixed field so far with some drivers setting their best time on the faster soft compound tyres.


12:17 PM GMT

FP1 - Hamilton on a high-fuel run

As shown by his lap time that was more than three seconds slower than Ricciardo’s best.


12:16 PM GMT

We’re seeing a few teams use the soft tyres

But not lots. In fact it’s just RB, McLaren and Sauber who have done so. 15 minutes left so we may or may not see the other seven teams burn through a set.. or they could save them for FP2 later in the day.

Replays show Verstappen “overtaking” Russell around the outside of T12 before Russell gets him down on the back straight.


12:11 PM GMT

FP1 - Speaking of the RB breaking free of the back of the pack

Ricciardo has just moved fastest in that car with a 1:32.869, 0.032sec ahead of Norris.

Also speaking of the RB... it is a handsome car:

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

12:08 PM GMT

FP1 - Lance Stroll has an enormous lock up at turn one

He will almost certainly have to pit again to change tyres, which he has now done.


12:06 PM GMT

FP1 - Norris moves top

It’s now a McLaren 1-2. Tsunoda is about to set his first soft-tyre lap. The talk is that the RB car this year will have broken free of that pack at the back and will be able to challenge in the midfield. It was a poor season for the then-Alpha Tauri team.

Tsunoda ends up third after the fastest first sector time. If the car can perform it’ll be interesting to see how Ricciardo performs in his first full season back in F1 after leaving McLaren.


12:03 PM GMT

The top 10 at just-over half-way

  1. PIA 1:33.113

  2. VER +0.422

  3. RUS +0.636

  4. PER +0.799

  5. HAM +0.812

  6. ALO +0.816

  7. LEC +0.953

  8. SAI +1.271

  9. NOR +1.393

  10. STR +1.551

Piastri set his time on the soft tyres, however. Norris has just moved onto the softs himself.


12:00 PM GMT

FP1 - Piastri has moved onto the soft tyres

He is the first to do so. And he goes fastest by 0.422sec over Verstappen. Again, a reminder that second practice is really the one to watch when it comes to lap times and the competitive order but first practice is better than pre-season testing, at leasy.


11:56 AM GMT

FP1 - 35 mins remain

Verstappen has moved top again, 0.2sec ahead of Russell.


11:50 AM GMT

FP1 - Alonso moves into fifth

Just under four-tenths off Verstappen’s time. Aston Martin started the season off as the second or third quickest team but gradually lost ground to Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren.

Aston Martin's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso leaves the pit lane during the first practice session of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on February 29, 2024
Fernando Alonso had a strong 2023 - Getty Images/Andrej Isakovic

It might be hard for them to make much of an impression on that pack this year but we wait and see.


11:47 AM GMT

FP1 - Times are improving

Russell is now top, 0.51sec ahead of Verstappen with Hamilton a little further behind. Verstappen is about to go top again, though...

Indeed he does, by 0.214sec. Alonso on a good lap too.


11:45 AM GMT

FP1 - Top 10 as it stands

It is a little closer now than it was when Verstappen crossed the line:

  1. VER 1:33.900

  2. HAM +0.025

  3. PER +0.084

  4. LEC +0.166

  5. ALO +0.507

  6. NOR +0.606

  7. SAI +0.644

  8. RUS +0.764

  9. STR +0.764

  10. TSU +0.873

Bottas, Zhou and Albon the three drivers who have yet to set a time.


11:44 AM GMT

FP1 - Perez moves to second

That makes it a Red Bull 1-2. There wasn’t so much of an issue with Perez not winning more than his two races (though, really he should be winning at least a couple more) last year but that too often he wasn’t even second behind Verstappen. A bit more of that this season would serve him well.

“Everything is ----, like, miles off,” says Verstappen on the radio. More worrying for F1 fans than perhaps him.


11:42 AM GMT

FP1 - 51 mins left

World Champion Verstappen is about to set a lap time. He’s fastest in the first two sectors and inevitably finishes the lap 0.644sec faster than second-placed man Carlos Sainz.

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - February 29, 2024 Red Bull's Max Verstappen ahead of practice
Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - February 29, 2024 Red Bull's Max Verstappen ahead of practice

Hmmmmmmmm. How many more times will we see that this year? A lot, I suspect and fear.


11:38 AM GMT

FP1 - Let’s see what George Russell does on his first time lap

Car looks pretty heavy through turn 11. Hamilton has just gone fastest by 0.463sec over Perez before Leclerc slots on right behind him in second, less than a tenth of a second slower.

Russell then beats Leclerc to make it a Mercedes 1-2. How many times will we see that this season?


11:36 AM GMT

FP1 - Piastri setting the (very) early pace

His McLaren crosses the line with a 1:35.616 but Sergio Perez then beats that by over half a second. Not really worth paying too much attention to these times as it is. Leclerc gets a big snap on the exit of turn four and did well not to lose it.


11:33 AM GMT

FP1 - A problem for Zhou already

“My brake is not working,” the Sauber driver says in a manner that is perhaps a little too calm for that particular problem on an F1 car.


11:31 AM GMT

FP1 - 59 mins remaining

A fair few cars out there early on, as you would expect at this very, very early stage of the season.


11:30 AM GMT

GREEN LIGHT: The 2024 F1 season is under way!

Let’s get going, shall we?


11:26 AM GMT

The on-track action is about to begin

But just one more thing on Horner from Chief Sports Writer Oliver Brown: Christian Horner and Red Bull cannot move on until we know what happened. 


11:21 AM GMT

How did the teams stack up in testing?


11:12 AM GMT

Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle on the Horner news and investigation

I don’t think it’s been helpful, I don’t think it will impact their performance much. I don’t think it will have helped it but they’ve got a brilliant car and team. They’ve got so much performance I don’t expect we’ll see [an effect] on track.


11:10 AM GMT

A reminder of the season ahead

It’s a long one and also contains six sprint races, which makes it even longer still. There is, mercifully, an unofficial “autumn break” (though no mandatory factory shutdown) of three weekends without a race between the Singapore Grand Prix on September 22 until the United States Grand Prix, which begins on October 18. There is also a three-week gap (two weekends with no race) between the Sao Paulo GP in Brazil on November 3 and then the Las Vegas Grand Prix on November 23.


11:02 AM GMT

Horner greets Verstappen in the Bahrain paddock today

Horner and Verstappen embrace
Horner and Verstappen embrace - Getty Images/Clive Rose
Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner embrace in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Verstappen will target a fourth world title with Red Bull under Horner - Getty Images/Clive Rose

10:53 AM GMT

The session timings for this “weekend”

Thursday February 29

First practice: 11.30am GMT
Second practice: 3pm

Friday March 1

Third practice: 12.30pm 
Qualifying: 4pm

Saturday March 2

Bahrain Grand Prix: 3pm


10:48 AM GMT

What are the driver line-ups this year?

Red Bull (Honda RBPT)

Max Verstappen (No 1) and Sergio Pérez (No 11)

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton (44) and George Russell (63)

Ferrari

Carlos Sainz (55) and Charles Leclerc (16)

Alpine (Renault)

Esteban Ocon (31) and Pierre Gasly (10)

McLaren (Mercedes)

Lando Norris (4) and Oscar Piastri (81)

Sauber (Ferrari)

Valtteri Bottas (77) and Guanyu Zhou (24)

Aston Martin (Mercedes)

Lance Stroll (18) and Fernando Alonso (14)

Haas (Ferrari)

Kevin Magnussen (20) and Nico Hulkenberg (27)

RB (Honda RBPT)

Yuki Tsunoda (22) and Daniel Ricciardo (3)

Williams (Mercedes)

Alexander Albon (23) and Logan Sargeant (2)


10:38 AM GMT

Watch: Horner speaks


10:32 AM GMT

Christian Horner has spoken to Sky Sports

They are his first public comment since being cleared.

Christian Horner has spoken for the first time since being cleared of inappropriate behaviour towards a female colleague, saying he was “pleased” the case was over.

The Red Bull team principal also declared that unity within the reigning Formula One world champions had “never been stronger” ahead of the first grand prix of the season in Bahrain on Saturday.

Horner was at the centre of a weeks-long investigation commissioned by Red Bull GmbH, the Austrian parent company of Red Bull Racing F1, following a complaint made by a female colleague.

A statement announcing the 50-year-old had been cleared was released at almost the exact moment he touched down in Bahrain at 3.30pm on Wednesday UK time.

“I’m just pleased that the process is over,” Horner told Sky Sports News ahead of free practice on Thursday.

“Obviously, I can’t comment about it, but we are here very much to focus now on the Grand Prix and the season ahead and trying to defend both of our titles.”

Asked if he thought it was the end of the matter, he added: “Well, I can’t give you any further comment. But the process has been conducted and concluded.”

Horner, who has been in charge of Red Bull since the team’s formation in 2005, was asked if he had any regrets.

“Again, I’m not going to be able to give you, I’m afraid, any further comments on it, but I’m pleased to be here in Bahrain and then with the team focused on the season ahead.”

Asked if the team is unified, he added: “Within the team, it has never been stronger.”


10:25 AM GMT

The 2024 season is about to begin...

Today is the day – the 2024 Formula One season kicks off properly with first and second practice for the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix. We’ve had three days of testing at the very same track a week ago but today we have the cars hit the track for the first time in anger.

The format of the first race “weekend” and the second one too are slightly different this year in that they run from Thursday until Saturday, with the main race taking place on Saturday. This is because Ramadan begins on Sunday March 10 and that would have clashed with the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah next week, so that was moved to a Saturday. The regulations state that at least seven days must elapse between races so that means Bahrain was moved forward a day, too.

Despite testing last week, the biggest stories over the winter have been Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari and the investigation into Christian Horner at Red Bull over inappropriate behaviour. The latter of those has continued to this point, with Horner only yesterday being cleared. Will that be the end of it, though?

Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner talks on the phone in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on February 29, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Christian Horner will lead Red Bull into the new season - Getty Images/Clive Rose

On track there is at least some intrigue as there is at the start of every F1 season, even if everyone expected Max Verstappen to clinch a fourth successive title.  How much will we know about the competitive order come the end of second practice?

Well, there is definitely a large element of teams holding their true pace back or doing ‘glory runs’ in pre-season testing. There is also some degree of that in Friday practice, too, but because second practice is the only session that is run in similar conditions to qualifying tomorrow. So expect that we will have a far clearer idea of how things might shake out, but the true test comes in qualifying on Saturday.

It would be nice to see someone challenge Verstappen. The best hope is the man in the same car - Sergio Perez - but given how he drove last season it is difficult for him to sustain any kind of significant challenge. In any case, just because Verstappen might stroll to the race on Saturday, that does not mean he cannot be caught at some point in the season. The issue is that he will have likely built an unassailable lead by then...

Anyway, the hour-long first practice begins at 11.30am GMT and we will be here for all the updates as well as those from second practice at 3pm later in the day.

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