Max Verstappen dominates Bahrain Grand Prix in ominous Red Bull one-two

Max Verstappen celebrates victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix
Max Verstappen celebrates victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix - Reuters/Rula Rouhana

They may be in turmoil off the track, but Red Bull remain supreme on it. Max Verstappen fairly cruised to victory at the season-opening grand prix in Bahrain, leading home a Red Bull one-two so dominant rival team principal Toto Wolff afterwards described the Dutchman as “not just in a different league, but in a different galaxy”.

After the optimism of qualifying on Friday, when the top eight were separated by just half a second, this was a reality check for anyone hoping there might be a title fight this year.

It was also something of a reality check for Mercedes, who were only the third quickest team after Red Bull and Ferrari.

George Russell finished fifth and Lewis Hamilton seventh, some 47 seconds and 50 seconds behind the race winner. That was four seconds closer to the Red Bull than this time last year. But given last year’s season-opener was so disastrous Mercedes wrote off their entire car concept, this was pretty worrying.

The mood afterwards was quite different, however. Wolff explained that an engine cooling issue had cost the team up to half-a-second a lap, insisting the team would otherwise have been able to fight the Ferraris.

There was some evidence of that. Russell, who started third, had climbed as high as second with an outside pass on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on lap four to sit just 1.7 seconds behind Verstappen.

But his impressive start was undone by having to switch focus to nursing a power unit issue caused by a cooling miscalculation, which required lifting-and-coasting measures to combat rising temperatures. Hamilton was also hurt, with the seven-time world champion hampered by a cracked seat.

“When we started the race on the soft tyre, everything pretty much [was] to plan,” Wolff said. “And then, unfortunately, we had to start pulling the engine more than we expected. We can’t understand yet where that came from.

George Russell
An engine cooling issue cost Mercedes after George Russell's impressive start - GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

“We have one of our customer teams, Williams, who had the same issue. The other two [McLaren and Aston Martin] not. That was unexpected.”

Wolff, who reckoned the problems would be fixed in time for the Saudi Arabian GP this weekend, said the temperature spikes came independently of Russell and Hamilton running in the dirty air of traffic.

After Carlos Sainz in third and Leclerc in fourth, the two Mercedes cars were split by the McLaren of Lando Norris, with the Woking team probably also a little underwhelmed by their performance in the season opener, especially having finished last winter so strongly.

None of them look a match for Red Bull, certainly not in terms of race pace. After crossing the finish line, Verstappen, for whom this was an 18th win in his last 19 races, said simply: “Great start to the year, guys, a one-two finish as well, so fantastic.”

His team principal Christian Horner, for whom this provided merciful respite from his ongoing investigation controversy, replied: “As you say, Max, pole-position, one-two finish, fastest lap, a clean sweep. A brilliant way to start the year. Thanks very much.”

Red Bull team celebrates in their pit
Verstappen and Horner celebrate Red Bull's dominant start to the season - Clive Rose/Getty Images

Wolff said it was “unfortunately” entirely possible that Verstappen could win all 24 races this season. By lap 12 the three-time world champion was already the entire length of the pit straight clear of his nearest challenger, as he pulled away from his pursuers at an average of around 0.8 seconds a lap to take total control of the race. It was the 55th grand prix win of his career.

“Unfortunately yes,” Wolff replied when asked whether Red Bull could go one better than last season and win every race. “Max [Verstappen] is in a different league, a different galaxy. We just have to acknowledge his performance levels. The performance was extraordinary. But everybody else, we saw the differences between the Ferrari’s and I believe that the group of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes were probably in a similar ballpark. We just need to look at ourselves, get on top of our problems and if we are able to manage our race weekend better, we will be racing those guys.”

Verstappen strolls to Bahrain GP win, as it happened

05:20 PM GMT

Lewis Hamilton reacts

I personally feel great. Physically I feel great so winter training has worked. We probably feel a little bit of disappointment within the team, I was definitely hoping we would be better than we were. Degradation was obviously high. There are plenty of areas in which we can improve and we were obviously further back from the Red Bulls than we thought we were.

When asked about the positives from today:

The car’s reliable. I think we just struggled in the car today. I was giving it everything but there wasn’t a lot of performance there compared to some of the others. The last stint was good. It was about discovery today. I found a lot out about the car and there’s lots we can improve on.

Toto Wolff talked about “glimpses of performance”. That about sums it up. Something there but not for long enough and not enough.

05:06 PM GMT

More from Horner on his position at Red Bull and their unity

We’re a very strong team, we’ve got tremendous support and great shareholders behind us. You don’t achieve this kind of result not being united.

Does he have the full backing of the higher-ups at Red Bull?

Yeah, absolutely. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.

05:04 PM GMT

Christian Horner speaks to SKy Sports F1

The perfect start, a very dominant race and I have to say a big thank you to all the men and women back in Milton Keynes who have worked so hard and come up with a great car. A great team performance to come up with that performance and maximum points today.

You can see it’s an aggressive evolution... the whole team have done a wonderful, wonderful job. The whole team haven’t rested on their laurels. It’s a great start it’s a one-off... we’re going to have to see three, four, five races before you see a true pattern. You can’t base too much on this race. We took an extra soft tyre into the race which distorts that last stint too.

04:59 PM GMT

It is a nice trophy, in fairness

04:57 PM GMT

Constructors’ standings after one round

04:52 PM GMT

The Horners are there to watch Verstappen and Red Bull’s podium celebrations

Both smiling, right at the front of the barriers.

04:51 PM GMT

Perez will not be delighted with the 22.5sec gap to Verstappen

But the problem with his 2023 season is that too often he was not the next-best behind Verstappen. More performances like this throughout the rest of the season - even if he does not win any - and he gives Red Bull a very good reason to stick with him.

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - March 2, 2024 Red Bull's Sergio Perez gets a drink after finishing second
Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - March 2, 2024 Red Bull's Sergio Perez gets a drink after finishing second

04:49 PM GMT

A fairly sedate chat in the cooldown room

“A good race, a few battles,” Verstappen says. In fairness he had enough time to watch the race on the trackside big screens, so big was his lead for most of the afternoon.

04:48 PM GMT

At least at the start of last year we had Alonso’s podium and Aston Martin’s resurgence

The start of this year has given us how man truly interesting on-track storylines? Answers on a postcard.

Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen crosses the finish line to win the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 2, 2024.
Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen crosses the finish line to win the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 2, 2024.

04:43 PM GMT

Last year the lead Mercedes finished 50sec behind Verstappen

This year it’s nearly 47. So what has changed? For Ferrari that has gone from 48sec to 25sec, so perhaps that is something. But that is really where they were at the end of last year: Leclerc was 18sec behind Verstappen at the final race in Abu Dhabi.

04:41 PM GMT

A reality check on the reality check

This is only one race. If we’re facing this situation after four or five rounds and the same thing has happened without a hint of anything else then it is time to worry. Deeply. Mind you, do you see any weaknesses in this RB20 in the hands of Verstappen? Nope.

04:40 PM GMT

Carlos Sainz wins driver of the day

He drove well and secured a podium for Ferrari in his final season at the team. But Verstappen was the driver of the day.

04:39 PM GMT

Bahrain GP - Classification

  1. VER 26pts

  2. PER 18pts

  3. SAI 15pts

  4. LEC 12pts

  5. RUS 10pts

  6. NOR 8pts

  7. HAM 6pts

  8. PIA 4pts

  9. ALO 2pts

  10. STR 1pt

  11. ZHO

  12. MAG

  13. RIC

  14. TSU

  15. ALB

  16. HUL

  17. OCO

  18. GAS

  19. BOT

  20. SAR

04:38 PM GMT

Verstappen reacts

Simply lovely. What a great race. Unbelievable balance as well. Great start to the year guys.

04:37 PM GMT


Max Verstappen wins by a margin of... well, we’re going to have to wait for about half a minute to find out exactly by how much but he has very much left of where he ended 2023 and that is ominous. Well done to him and Red Bull but he’s won this by a whole pit stop and that should worry everyone who isn’t Max Verstappen or is associated with him.

04:35 PM GMT

Lap 56 of 57 - Verstappen leads by 21.5sec

A good fight for 13th as Verstappen begins his final lap...

04:34 PM GMT

Lap 55 of 57 - We finally see some footage of Verstappen on the television

Who will be the happiest team today? Erm... Red Bull? I can’t think that any other team should be pleased with how it has gone today. Ferrari perhaps a little bit and maybe Haas for exceeding very low expectations but other than that it is slim pickings.

04:32 PM GMT

Lap 54 of 57 - A reality check for F1

Very quiet press room here in Bahrain. After the optimism of qualifying, with such a tightly bunched field, this has been a reality check.

04:30 PM GMT

Lap 53 of 57 - Tsunoda eventually lets Ricciardo through

And then both RBs are lapped by the leading Red Bull of Max Verstappen who is about to move 20 seconds ahead of his team-mate Perez.

Has his dominance today been as soul destroying for his rivals as it has been for fans of F1 who want some competition at the front? It’s always worse when it comes at the start of the season.

04:28 PM GMT

Lap 52 of 57 - RB are swapping their drivers

Or rather Tsunoda is being told to let his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo through. A bit strange considering he is within DRS range of Magnussen ahead. “Are you kidding me!?” he says on the radio. Quite right.

04:27 PM GMT

Lap 51 of 57 - Piastri gets a track limits warning

Verstappen is driving with the proverbial cigar on.

Leclerc has put a fair bit of time on Russell since passing him.

04:25 PM GMT

Lap 50 of 57 - Is this what anyone really wants to see?

I mean well done to Red Bull for being a brilliant team and building a fantastic car. And likewise to Max Verstappen for being a preternatural talent behind the wheel. But who, outside of fans of those two, wants another season like last year? As decent as the racing behind him might be - it has been so, so today - the main interest in F1 is about who wins. And it is less and less interesting if the same man is winning race after race after race after race.

04:22 PM GMT

Lap 49 of 57 - Here’s the top 10 by manufacturer

  1. Red Bull

  2. Red Bull

  3. Ferrari

  4. Ferrari

  5. Mercedes

  6. McLaren

  7. Mercedes

  8. McLaren

  9. Aston Martin

  10. Aston Martin

Make of that what you will... Hamilton gets a track limits warning, as does Verstappen. Verstappen currently holds the fastest lap bonus point. He is well on the way to a 26-point maximum.

04:21 PM GMT

Lap 48 of 57 - Plenty of talk about the RB as outsiders for the midfield

That hasn’t really been converted to anything today: Tsunoda is in 13th and Ricciardo in 14th behind a Sauber and a Haas. Think Haas will be pretty pleased with their showing today all in all.

Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain

04:19 PM GMT

Lap 47 of 57 - Russell runs very deep and wide at T10

Leclerc gets a good drag down that straight and takes fourth place from Russell. Red Bull 1-2, Ferrari 3-4.

04:18 PM GMT

Lap 46 of 57 - Top 10

  1. VER

  2. PER

  3. SAI

  4. RUS

  5. LEC

  6. NOR

  7. HAM

  8. PIA

  9. STR

  10. ALO

Leclerc chasing Russell is the only battle to keep much of an eye on in the points.

04:16 PM GMT

Lap 45 of 57 - Not a great race for Alpine

Qualified in 19th and 20th and now they are 16th and 17th but ahead of only those who have hit some kind of trouble.

04:15 PM GMT

Lap 44 of 57 - Last year the lead Mercedes was 51sec behind winner Verstappen

The gap is likely to be smaller than that this year but it is still significnt. Still Perez and Sainz are the only men within 20 seconds of leader Verstappen.

04:14 PM GMT

Lap 43 of 57 - Leclerc closing in on Russell

He doesn’t get him at the start of the lap...

04:12 PM GMT

Lap 42 of 57 - Verstappen leads Perez by 15sec

I dare say he has eased off a significant amount from his absolute best. Alonso goes onto a fresh set of hard tyres and in 11th.

04:11 PM GMT

Lap 41 of 57 - Russell is under pressure from Leclerc

Not quite within DRS range but not far off it. 1.2sec the gap for fourth place.

04:09 PM GMT

Lap 40 of 57 - Piastri gets Alonso for eighth

Fair to say that it has not been as encouraging a start for Aston Martin as it was in 2023. That said, they are ninth and 10th and if they are the fifth fastest team (they are), then it is difficult to get much better than that. Alonso is capable of getting plenty of from any car but he isn’t out-performing it a great deal, if at all, today.

04:08 PM GMT

Lap 39 of 57 - Verstappen sets the fastest lap of the race

Why not? He’s on new soft tyres.

04:07 PM GMT

Lap 38 of 57 - Not sure much has changed from last season at all

Cannot see that the Ferrari or the Mercedes or indeed the McLaren is any closer to the Red Bull on race pace, in this form. That may well change at future circuits and I truly hope that it does.

04:05 PM GMT

Lap 37 of 57 - Top 10

  1. VER

  2. PER

  3. SAI

  4. RUS

  5. LEC

  6. NOR

  7. ALO

  8. HAM

  9. PIA

  10. STR

79 seconds between this lot, with only Perez and Sainz within 20 seconds of the leader.

04:04 PM GMT

Lap 36 of 57 - Norris sets the fastest lap of the race

Perez pits from second and comes out in... second, just ahead of Sainz. Perez on the soft tyre, in contrast to the others. Let’s see how this goes.

04:01 PM GMT

Lap 35 of 57 - Leclerc pits for a second time

Verstappen now leads by 18 seconds. Oh, those innocent times of FP3...

Piastri pits and is vulnerable to Lewis Hamilton... very vulnerable, so vulnerable in fact that he loses P8 at turn one. Hamilton on warmer tyres as Piastri exited the pit lane. Hamilton coming to life a bit in the latter stages of this race.

03:59 PM GMT

Lap 34 of 57 - Russell is closing up on the back of Alonso

They are on slightly divergent strategies now and Russell gets his man - and P6 - on the pit straight before the braking zone.

03:58 PM GMT

Lap 33 of 57 - Top 15

  1. VER

  2. PER

  3. SAI

  4. LEC

  5. NOR

  6. PIA

  7. HAM

  8. ALO

  9. RUS

  10. TSU

  11. ALB

  12. RIC

  13. MAG

  14. ZHO

  15. STR

03:56 PM GMT

Lap 32 of 57 - Bottas has smoking brakes when he comes into the pits

Is this just a front-left problem and the smoking brakes are a symptom? The tyre goes on and then it comes off again. Either way it’s a very long stop and it has destroyed his race.

Russell pits again and comes out in ninth.

03:55 PM GMT

Lap 31 of 57 - Verstappen leads this by 16.1sec

Leclerc is about to get DRS on Russell.

03:54 PM GMT

Lap 30 of 57 - Still 20 cars running

Worse reliability would certainly make things more interesting.

03:53 PM GMT

Lap 29 of 57 - Where are the biggest and closest battles?

Sainz isn’t really catching Perez for P2 but he is only 2.4sec behind. Leclerc is 1.1sec behind Russell for fourth with Norris a further 2.4sec behind. Hamilton is 2.7sec behind Piastri for seventh. No gap on track is as big as the one from first to second, by the way. Apart from 19th to 20th, but Sargeant stopped by the side of the track for 20 seconds. Obviously Verstappen is in clean air.

03:49 PM GMT

Lap 28 of 57 - Hamilton runs very wide at T10

No lock up but perhaps a tactical run off the track to perhaps avoid a flatspot. That is what Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle thinks anyway.

03:48 PM GMT

Lap 27 of 57 - I was just thinking we have another 30 laps of this

Well, another 30 laps and 23 races...

03:47 PM GMT

Lap 26 of 57 - There’s no need for him to be...

... but Verstappen is lapping one second faster than the rest of the field, pretty much.

03:45 PM GMT

Lap 25 of 57 - Hamilton on the radio

My seat’s broken.

03:45 PM GMT

Lap 24 of 57 - Verstappen now leads by more than 10 seconds

This isn’t even a competition, I am sad to say. It doesn’t mean the whole season is going to be like it, but... I mean, look at where the rest of the cars are. It’s only the second Red Bull, Sainz and Russell (just) who are within a pit-stop of the leader.

03:43 PM GMT

Lap 23 of 57 - Leclerc giving Russell something to think about

Both Mercedes drivers being told to lift and coast... can’t be fuel saving at this point? It might be.

03:41 PM GMT

Lap 22 of 57 - Piastri keeping Norris honest

2.750sec separates the two McLaren drivers. Russell has dropped off the back of Sainz and Sainz is, roughly, keeping pace with Perez ahead in second. Perez is not, as we would expect, keeping pace with Verstappen. 0.8sec was the gap the last time around.

03:38 PM GMT

Lap 21 of 57 - Top 10 and gaps

  1. VER

  2. PER +7.6

  3. SAI +9.9

  4. RUS +12.9

  5. LEC +14.4

  6. NOR +17.7

  7. PIA +20.2

  8. HAM +23.6

  9. ALO  +32.0

  10. ZHO +33.8

03:37 PM GMT

Lap 20 of 57 - Verstappen leads by 6.3sec

And has just set the fastest lap of the race to increase his lead.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, March 2, 2024
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, March 2, 2024

03:36 PM GMT

Lap 19 of 57 - A third race distance

Hamilton still down in eighth though is making some ground on Piastri ahead.

03:34 PM GMT

Lap 18 of 57 - This is good stuff from Sainz

And now he gets Russell for third quite easily, having set the fastest lap of the race. Verstappen staying out so long means his lead over team-mate Perez has been cut down to 5.4sec but he will have tyres much fresher. Not sure if we will have a few one-stop strategies in the offing here.

03:33 PM GMT

Lap 17 of 57 - Sainz gets Leclerc again

This time into turn one. A bold move. Leclerc is struggling with the brakes and says he is always locking up. I think he basically let Sainz through there, locking up in the process on the outside. Actually, he may have been lining up to get a better run into turn four but he messed it up by locking up.

He is on the radio: 

My car is fully going to the right when I’m braking. Like this I cannot fight, it’s f----- dangerous.

03:30 PM GMT

Lap 16 of 57 - Verstappen yet to stop

So here is the top 10:

  1. VER

  2. PER

  3. RUS

  4. LEC

  5. SAI

  6. NOR

  7. PIA

  8. HAM

  9. ZHO

  10. ALO

Judging by Hamilton’s latest lap time I don’t think he has one per cent battery. The two Ferraris are at it again with Sainz backing out of a move at T11. Great stuff.

03:29 PM GMT

Lap 15 of 57 - Leclerc jumps Sainz at the pit stops

Hamilton says he has a problem with his battery, with just one per cent available to him. He may as well retire if that is the case.

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W15 leads Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01 during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W15 leads Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01 during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain.

03:28 PM GMT

Lap 14 of 57 - Russell has some work to do here

But Perez gets his man at turn five! He went outside/inside in the T4/5 combination and makes it, in effect, a Red Bull 1-2.

Nicely done, though there was a bit of movement towards Russell from Perez on the exit and I doubt GR will be happy about that. As ever, they are racing for second place behind Verstappen today.

03:25 PM GMT

Lap 13 of 57 - A good attendance for Bahrain, 20 years in

Bahrain is not one of the best-attended races of the year, but F1 has just told us that this year’s crowd is a record. 100,000 total for the week including a record race day total of 37,000.

03:24 PM GMT

Lap 12 of 57 - A flurry of pit stops,with Russell diving in from second

Leclerc also pits and goes onto the hard compound tyres.

03:23 PM GMT

Lap 11 of 57 - Sainz and Leclerc so close into turn one!

Sainz gets DRS and goes up the inside, they come very close to making contact but Sainz gets the place! He’s up into fourth. Sainz has been given the boot for Hamilton next season so he probably doesn’t see the point in just sitting behind his team-mate and ruining his race.

Verstappen now leads by eight seconds...

There is almost as much of a gap between Verstappen in first and Russell in second as there is between Russell in second and Hamilton in eighth...

03:20 PM GMT

Lap 10 of 57 - Hamilton gets Alonso for eighth

Alonso took a podium here last year, I think that will be a big stretch this year.

Logan Sargeant has pulled to the side of the track at turn four. On his team radio he sounds incredibly annoyed. We have yellow flags as he is on the run-off area. Not sure what happened but he was still moving and manages to get back on track.

03:19 PM GMT

Lap 9 of 57 - Verstappen now leads by seven seconds

Your 2024 world champion, everybody. When is he winning it? Singapore?

03:18 PM GMT

Lap 8 of 57 - Top 10 and gaps

  1. VER

  2. RUS +6.5

  3. PER +7.8

  4. LEC +8.3

  5. SAI +8.6

  6. NOR +11.7

  7. PIA +13.3

  8. ALO +14.5

  9. HAM +15.1

  10. TSU +17.1

03:16 PM GMT

Lap 7 of 57 - Perez now into the top three

He gets Leclerc out of turn 10 and into 11. Sainz is not too far behind his team-mate either.

03:14 PM GMT

Lap 6 of 57 - Verstappen leads Russell by 4.1sec

We are not even six laps into the 2024 season, so I don’t want to get too pessimistic too soon but I am not sure I can take another championship like last year...

Verstappen looks in a class of his own.

03:12 PM GMT

Lap 5 of 57 - Verstappen wasting no time in extending his lead

Nearly 0.9sec faster than anyone else that last time around. Eesh. He leads Russell by 3.8s, having doubled his lead in little over a lap.

03:11 PM GMT

Lap 4 of 57 - Russell was faster than Verstappen that last time

Despite the overtake. I think that partly came through getting a big tow down the first two straights (and possibly DRS), as he set the fastest first sector of the race. He loses a couple of tenths to Verstappen in sector one this time.

03:09 PM GMT

Lap 3 of 57 - Russell up into second!

That Ferrari has dropped back and Russell goes around the outside of turn four. Leclerc is immediately under pressure from Perez behind...

Can Russell give Verstappen a harder time? Let’s see...

Top 10:

  1. VER

  2. RUS

  3. LEC

  4. PER

  5. SAI

  6. NOR

  7. ALO

  8. PIA

  9. HAM

  10. TSU

03:07 PM GMT

Lap 2 of 57 - DRS enabled

The Drag Reduction System is enabled earlier this year, from the start of the second lap. Leclerc is just outside of DRS range of Verstappen, unfortunately...

Hulkenberg comes into the pit lane for  a front wing change, I believe and fresh tyres. Onto the hard tyres he goes.

03:06 PM GMT


Verstappen has a long-ish wait at the front as Gasly takes his spot... they are now all ready to go.

It’s a good initial start for Verstappen but Leclerc comes back at him and tries to go around the outside at turn one but then backs out when he realise it would be almost certainly a crash. Verstappen leads at turn one.

Stroll has spun at turn two and Hulkenberg says he has wing damage, having dropped from 10th to 19th. Not entirely sure what happened there but the logical conclusion would be that those two came together. Perez up one place to fourth, Sainz down one to fifth.

03:02 PM GMT

Starting tyre types

Each and every driver is starting on soft compound tyres. Most of the top 10 apart from Hulkenberg on used softs, the remainder apart from Ricciardo on fresh ones.

03:01 PM GMT

The formation lap is go...

Everyone away cleanly, thankfully from Verstapen in first to Gasly in last. Nobody starting from the pit lane today.

02:55 PM GMT

Not long until we get going

Can you see anyone but Verstappen winning this one? Not unless someone beats him to the lead at the end of the first lap, no.

Anyway, here are some potential strategies, courtesy of Pirelli.

Good to see that it is likely to be a two-stop race, at least.

02:47 PM GMT


How they line up today, with just under 15 minutes to go:

1. VER 2. LEC
3. RUS 4. SAI
5. PER 6. ALO
7. NOR 8. PIA
9. HAM 10. HUL
11. TSU 12. STR
13. ALB 14. RIC
15. MAG 16. BOT
17. ZHO 18. SAR
19. OCO 20. GAS

02:45 PM GMT

No drivers interviewed by Brundle yet

But here’s George Russell, who doesn’t say a great deal of interest other than some observations about the wind changing and how turn one will be more difficult but turn four will be easier.

02:38 PM GMT

Martin Brundle’s first gridwalk of the year is about to begin

He informs us that he has had a new ankle fitted as of a few weeks ago and he’s “running it in”. This is what he has to negotiate:

The Duke of Richmond who tells us about the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the project to remove the Tyrrell “shed” from its original location to Goodwood.

McLaren racing CEO Zak Brown has a word: “I think we left a little bit of time on the table in qualifying, I think we can move forward from here. I don’t think a podium is out of reach but let’s see.”

02:34 PM GMT

Qualifying head-to-head

Very early stages yet but this is how each driver shapes up in qualifying so far against their team-mate.

We’ve largely begun where we left off last year with who is ahead at each team.

02:29 PM GMT

HUGE lock up for Daniel Ricciardo on his lap to the grid

Down at turn 10 which is a prime candidate for that. No such worries for Ferrari... though Norris does exactly the same. Don’t know if it’s windy and it’s catching the drivers out or not...

02:24 PM GMT

What can McLaren do today?

Their starts to the 2022 and 2023 seasons made even Mercedes’ look competent. They did eventually get their act together - and in some style - but if they score any points at all they will have bettered their opening races in the previous two years. Norris seemed quite bullish on his prospects and the car’s pace.

McLaren's British driver Lando Norris drives during the qualifying session of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 1, 2024
McLaren's British driver Lando Norris drives during the qualifying session of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 1, 2024

On early form they might struggle to match Mercedes and Ferrari, so being ahead of Aston Martin is the important thing, really.

02:17 PM GMT

George Russell speaks ahead of this third-place start

We’ve had two months off, arriving before qualifying, you’ve got the qualifying nerves and anxiety, you don’t know what’s going to happen. To get the P3 was a great result for the team, we’ll see what today brings. If there’s an opportunity on lap one, turn one I will go for it no doubt. I think that’s our only chance. If Charles are I don’t get ahead then they [Max and Red Bull] are off into the distance.

02:15 PM GMT

Raw pace ranking so far in 2024

Okay, this is only on the basis of yesterday’s qualifying but throughout the season we will again use this as a measure of how each team stacks up over one lap.

It is calculated by working out the percentage difference between the fastest lap of qualifying (not necessarily pole, as was the case yesterday) and a team’s fastest lap. So, if a team sets the fastest lap in qualifying the percentage difference is nought.

Alpine are a looooong way off...

02:07 PM GMT

Christian Horner controversy ‘is damaging the sport’, says FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem

The president of Formula One’s governing body made a high-profile intervention in the ongoing Christian Horner controversy on Friday night when he said the furore “is damaging the sport”.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA president, shared his thoughts on the Red Bull crisis, which intensified following Thursday’s explosive leak of WhatsApp exchanges.

Read the latest from Tom Cary here.

02:05 PM GMT

A reminder of all the races in the record-breaking 2024 season

01:57 PM GMT

A big talk of the early season was Red Bull’s RB20

It is not just an evolution of the all-conquering RB20, but has some pretty significant shifts in its design, notably around the slimmed-down sidepod area. Here’s a brief explainer of how that direction has evolved:

For a more detailed analysis of this, and the RB20 in general then click here for our resident technical expert, Gary Anderson’s assessment.

01:51 PM GMT

As ever, excellent analysis from Sky Sports and Karun Chandhok

01:45 PM GMT

Pole-sitter Verstappen speaks before the race

I think in general everyone is looking forward to do the race now. I am excited, normally our car is good in the race but as you can see in qualifying the gap was very small and I expect it to be the same in the race. It feels like the top eight, nine cars are a lot closer and I just think that’s great to see... I do think it’s going to be quite an interesting race.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing walks in the paddock during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 2, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing walks in the paddock during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 2, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain

01:39 PM GMT

Bahrain GP: How they qualified yesterday

  1. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1min 29.179secs

  2. Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1:29.407

  3. George Russell (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:29.485

  4. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) Ferrari 1:29.507

  5. Sergio Perez (Mex) Red Bull 1:29.537

  6. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Aston Martin 1:29.542

  7. Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:29.614

  8. Oscar Piastri (Aus) McLaren 1:29.683

  9. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:29.710

  10. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Haas F1 1:30.502

  11. Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn) RB 1:30.129

  12. Lance Stroll (Can) Aston Martin 1:30.200

  13. Alexander Albon (Tha) Williams 1:30.221

  14. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) RB 1:30.278

  15. Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:30.529

  16. Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Kick Sauber 1:30.756

  17. Guanyu Zhou (Chn) Kick Sauber 1:30.757

  18. Logan Sargeant (USA) Williams 1:30.770

  19. Esteban Ocon (Fra) Alpine 1:30.793

  20. 20 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Alpine 1:30.948

01:33 PM GMT

These two will be at Ferrari together next year

I cannot wait to see that. But that is not for another 24 races...

01:29 PM GMT

Geri Horner has arrived with husband Christian

“Geri Horner has arrived at the paddock in Bahrain holding hands with husband Christian Horner ahead of Saturday’s season-opening Grand Prix in clear display of solidarity with her husband,” reports Tom Cary.

Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner and Geri Horner walk in the Paddock holding hands prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain
Geri Horner arrives at the Bahrain Grand Prix with husband Christian - Getty Images/Mark Thompson

Read more here.

12:48 PM GMT

Good afternoon... today is the day

The 2024 Formula One season finally kicks off, properly, this afternoon when the lights go out for the Bahrain Grand Prix. We’ve had practice, we’ve had qualifying but today is the day when the points are handed out and that is how championships are decided.

Heading into this weekend Max Verstappen was the clear favourite. After his pole position yesterday, he will be the clear favourite again, but that does belie the reality of the situation up until Verstappen posted his pole lap of 1min29.179sec in Q3.

In Friday practice Red Bull struggled with their set-up and balance as Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes ended the day fastest. Yes, Red Bull worked on their car overnight and solved some of those niggles but the reality was that, despite taking pole position, it was Ferrari who set the fastest lap of the day. Charles Leclerc’s Q2-topping time of 1min29.165sec would have been enough for first, had he set it in Q3.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc reacts following the qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir.
A case of nearly, but not quite for Charles Leclerc - PA/David Davies

The Ferrari driver later blamed his team’s strategy for being unable to secure pole, stating that burning an extra set of soft tyres in Q1 meant that he did his first Q3 lap on scrubbed tyres and lost the rhythm that comes with doing your crucial laps on tyres on a similar state of wear. In the end He was 0.228sec behind Verstappen – who improved on his final run.

There was also encouragement for Mercedes, with George Russell within a tenth of Leclerc. That is certainly a huge improvement on their opening qualifying sessions of 2022 and 2023 when they were 0.68 and 0.63 seconds off the pole lap respectively. Hamilton, who finished final practice fastest, qualified down in ninth, albeit only a couple of tenths adrift of his team-mate. After the session he said he hoped that his set-up change for qualifying gives him more race pace today.

Of course, there is every chance that Verstappen takes the lead at the first corner and does not even need to look in his mirrors, as was the case for most of last year. But there is reason for optimism too. Last year 1.1sec separated the top eight in qualifying and this year that was halved.

Red Bull’s biggest advantage was always in race trim so today will be a good test (as untypical a circuit as Bahrain is) for how competitive a season we might see. The race gets under way at 3pm GMT and we will be here for all of the build-up, live updates and reaction from it.

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