Verstappen dominated the Bahrain Grand Prix, leading his teammate and Sainz as he crossed the line to take what could be the first of many wins this season.
Lights out and Leclerc got a good start managing to get alongside Verstappen into turn 1. However, the Red Bull forced the Ferrari to take the outside line where Leclerc had to back out and let Verstappen go. Perez also got a great start as he gained a place in one lap.
Further back, Stroll was spun round and went from P12 to last at turn 1. At the pinch point Bottas bumped into the back of Hulkenberg who then tapped the back of the Aston Martin. Hulkenberg and Bottas picked up front wing damage, causing Hulkenberg to pit while Bottas was able to cope with the damage for the rest of the race.
It didn’t take long for Norris to gain places as he made a move on Alonso into turn 1. This left the door open for Piastri who was able to take advantage just a few laps later.
Meanwhile, Russell spent the first few laps pressuring Leclerc and was able to make a move around the outside of turn 4 on lap three. Perez was not far behind but took his time to take on the Ferrari. Leclerc was suffering with some brake issues which haunted him all race, but on lap seven Leclerc locked up and went wide out of turn 10. This made the move easier for Perez, who took the place from Leclerc.
The Monegasque problems didn’t end there, Leclerc had a big lock up out of turn 1 just a lap later, which gave Sainz hope to turn 4 but Leclerc was still inside the DRS of Perez meaning he just kept ahead. It didn’t take long though for Sainz to use DRS into turn 1 on lap 11, taking on his teammate in a very close wheel to wheel battle, no teams orders at play here.
A stunning moment as the two Ferrari drivers duel down into Turn 1 ⚔️🍿
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 2, 2024
It was then time for the first round of stops. Every car swapped for hard tyres, with Russell and Leclerc pitting at the same time and Perez choosing to stop one lap later. The undercut can be very powerful at Bahrain and it very nearly worked for Perez but he came out just behind Russell.
On new tyres though Perez had better grip up the hill after turn 1 and down into turn 4. Russell took a very defensive line but couldn’t make it work for him on the exit and the Red Bull completed the switch back with perfection.
Sainz was unable to make the undercut work for him, he stayed out a couple of laps but came out behind his teammate. Meaning another close fight was imminent. It therefore only took a couple of laps before Sainz lunged from very far back down the inside of turn 1, taking the place from Leclerc.
While Verstappen pitted without a single car around him, Russell was defending his podium position from Sainz but was unsuccessful as Sainz took the inside line into turn 4. The chase was now on for Sainz to take on the Red Bulls.
Leclerc wasn’t the only driver nursing issues. Both Mercedes were told to lift and coast around lap 24 to control the power unit temperatures. Albon was also experiencing similar issues with the Mercedes engines. However, when not in traffic all these problems improved and were much easier to manage.
During the second round of pit stops Bottas came in for a switch of tyres, however this was set to be his second slowest ever stop. This time it was less than a day but he was stationary for 52.4 seconds while the team had to get a new wheel nut as the one they had refused to go on the rim.
As of lap 44 the unhealthy cars of Leclerc and Russell appeared to make a recovery, with Leclerc all over the back of Russell at every corner. Russell locked up under the pressure in turn 10 and went very wide. Side by side down to turn 11, Leclerc had enough confidence with his brakes to take the position from the Ferrari.
Further down the pack, the RBs asked for a driver swap despite Tsunoda being within DRS to Magnussen in front with his teammate behind in DRS. Despite protests Tsunoda complied on lap 53 but this hurt both drivers as Verstappen lapped them a few corners later. Ricciardo lost time to Magnussen and neither RB got past the Haas before the end of the race.
Verstappen ended the race as he began, in P1, with Perez in second and Sainz rounding out the podium. The Dutchman finished 20 seconds ahead of his teammate, which is six seconds less than 2023 but still a large gap to the rest of the grid. He is going to take some beating again this year.
A shoutout to Stroll who had solid performance to recover from the back of the pack after turn 1 lap one, to finish in P10 and gaining a point for his efforts.