Latest: 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix: F1 history is made and more leftover thoughts

The 2024 Formula 1 season is officially underway.

Saturday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix was in many ways a continuation of what we saw during the 2023 season. Max Verstappen drove away from the field, leaving the other 19 cars battling for P2 in his rear-view mirrors. It was teammate Sergio Pérez who took that position, fending off Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. to lock out the front row for Red Bull in Bahrain for the second season in a row.

Perhaps the major storyline coming out of Bahrain? Tension at Red Bull’s sister team, Visa Cash App RB F1 Team. Yuki Tsunoda was given team orders to let Daniel Ricciardo pass him in the later stages, because Ricciardo was running on soft tires and had an outside chance at moving through the field and picking up a point for the team.

Tsunoda initially objected to the request, and while he finally let Ricciardo through, his frustration boiled over after the checkered flag flew. The team is doing their best to put the matter behind them, but this will be a story to watch this season.

Here are some of the other major talking points in the wake of the first race of the season.

More F1 history

There was something historic when the lights went out and the 2024 F1 season began.

It officially meant that the 2024 season began with the same group of drivers that took the checkered flag when the 2023 campaign came to a close, a first for the sport.

However, that was not the only history the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix made on Saturday. The race goes into the books as just the 17th grand prix in F1 history that did not see a single driver retire. In addition, it was the first time in the history of the sport that the first race of the season saw every single driver that started the race, finish the race.

Here are the 17 races that did not see a retirement in F1 history, including Saturday’s Bahrain Grand Prix:

F1 races with zero retirements

Race Drivers Winner Constructor
Race Drivers Winner Constructor
1961 Dutch Grand Prix 15 Wolfgang von Trips Ferrari
2005 US Grand Prix 6 Michael Schumacher Ferrari
2005 Italian Grand Prix 20 Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren
2011 European Grand Prix 24 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
2015 Japanese Grand Prix 20 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2016 Chinese Grand Prix 22 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2016 Japanese Grand Prix 22 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2018 Chinese Grand Prix 20 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
2019 Austrian Grand Prix 20 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2021 French Grand Prix 20 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2021 Belgian Grand Prix 20 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2021 Turkish Grand Prix 20 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
2022 Hungarian Grand Prix 20 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2023 Miami Grand Prix 20 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2023 Spanish Grand Prix 20 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 20 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2024 Bahrain Grand Prix 20 Max Verstappen Red Bull

A heated day for Mercedes

Mercedes began their 2024 F11 season — their final season with Lewis Hamilton in the fold — with a double-point finish in the Bahrain Grand Prix. Hamilton came across the line in P7 while George Russell, who started up on P3, finished in fifth.

However, it was somewhat of a disappointment for the Silver Arrows, who thought more might be possible after the pace they showed earlier in the week. During Thursday’s second practice session it was a Mercedes one-two atop the timing sheets, with Hamilton in P1 followed by Russell.

The main issue that hampered them on Saturday? A power unit issue, which led to orders to Russell to “lift and coast” during the middle stages of the race. Both drivers indicated that they were dealing with that issue during the Bahrain Grand Prix, which held them back.

“It was a strange day today. Both Lewis and I faced a similar issue. The power unit was overheating from very early on, so we were managing that throughout. It was a shame as we made a really good start,” described Russell in the team’s post-race report. “I managed to make a good pass on Leclerc for second but very quickly, I had warnings on my steering wheel. To manage the overheating, we were losing tenths-of-a-second per lap, and it was very difficult to hold off anyone behind me. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to show any real potential of the car.”

“It was a tough race today. For sure there is some disappointment within the team as we hoped that it would be a better evening. We were close with several other cars and the degradation was high. The issues we faced obviously cost us some pace so that was frustrating,” added Hamilton.

Team Principal Toto Wolff described it as a “cooling issue,” which the team simply got “wrong.”

“We got the cooling level wrong today and that cost us. To manage the issue, we had to do a lot more lift and coast and you then lose performance with the [tires]. It’s a vicious circle. We need to look at what we did wrong as we gave the drivers a car that was not competitive enough today. I’m keen to look at the data to make sure we don’t face similar changes in Saudi Arabia.

“At the end of the day though, we have a brand-new car, and we are learning about it. We have seen the glimpses of performance here in Bahrain, but we couldn’t materialise that today. We will go away and make sure we build on our learning and come back stronger.”

Ferrari manages the brakes, and maximizes the result

Photo by ALI HAIDER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In the early stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix perhaps the most thrilling battle was between teammates, as Ferrari’s duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. locked horns. Ultimately it was Sainz who got by his teammate, as Leclerc was struggling with braking issues.

Sainz finished third to grab his a podium in the first race of the season — and the 19th podium of his career — while Leclerc drove a patient race, finally locking in during a late stint on the hard compound to get by Russell and into P4.

Team Principal Frederic Vasseur praised both his drivers after the race.

“We were hoping for a better result but we had a brake issue during the race with Charles, so all in all we maximized the result on track today. Carlos had a good race with a very smart comeback after not getting a perfect start and he was able to fight with Perez until the final stages. We knew we would have been on the hard [tire] and Checo would have been on softs and our aim was to put the Red Bull under pressure, which we did towards the end but it was not enough.

“Charles struggled for the entire race with the brakes and because of that in the first stint flat-spotted his tyres so we had to pit him earlier than planned. We will have to investigate why the brakes were not at the correct temperature.”

Vasseur believes the team has truly closed the gap to Red Bull, particularly when compared to last season.

“This weekend, our flying lap performance matched our expectations, but we have a clear step to make in terms of our race pace as we were not in the fight with Red Bull. That said I consider today’s race a good baseline as we were able to close the gap considerably compared to last year,” added Vasseur. “We will continue with our development and I’m confident we will be able to take the fight to them more often.”

Not the start that Williams wanted

When the dust settled after three weeks of pre-season testing, Williams found themselves at the bottom of the table.

The “most laps run” table, that is.

While Haas led the way with 441 laps over the three days of testing, Williams was at the back of the field, with 299 laps completed during pre-season testing. They were the only team that failed to crack the 300 number.

Now, after both Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant struggled with mechanical issues in the Bahrain Grand Prix — leading to a P15 for Albon and a P20 for Sargeant — the team finds themselves “far behind,” and wondering if more testing time would have made the difference.

Albon dealt with overheating issues, which like we saw with Mercedes led to struggles with power. “The car itself was okay but we’re far behind. We had issues the whole race with things that if we had done more running in testing, we would’ve been able to avoid. We were overheating the entire race and were down on power, so hopefully we can take a look at the data and arrive in Jeddah in better shape,” said Albon in the team’s post-race report.. “Our pace relative to the others is quite similar so that midfield battle is close and will be tough.”

F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain

Photo by Kym Illman/Getty Images

For Sargeant, the second-year driver dealt with an electrical issue in his steering wheel for the second day in a row. That issue saw him flat spot his tires and go off the track at Turn 4 on Lap 10. While he was able to rejoin the fight, that cost him a ton of time, and he could not recover.

He too was struggling with the overheating issues.

“It was frustrating as we had the steering wheel electronics issue yesterday in Qualifying and then it returned today, so the most important thing is that we need to understand the root cause of this and get it fixed going forward. We had a really good first lap and a great opening stint and made some good gains and it felt like it was coming to me before we had the issue,” described Sargeant. “We were struggling a little with [power unit] temp which meant I couldn’t stay close to the cars ahead, so it was just a bit of a disappointing evening. There’s nothing we can’t fix, but we need to understand everything moving forward.

McLaren finally starts a season on the front foot

The 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix was a “disappointing and painful” experience for the team, according to then-Team Principal Andreas Seidl. Lando Norris finished in P15, one spot behind his old teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who finished in P14.

“Not what we wanted at all; it was a very tough race. We’re a long way from where we want to be and we’ve got work to do to make sure we’re working on every area possible and making the most of every race,” said Norris at the time. “We gave it our all today, but it’s just not enough at the moment. We’ll look at all the data from the race today and see how we can improve for Saudi, as well as where we need to improve throughout the season. We’ll do our very best next week to make the most of where we are.”

Things were not much better a year ago. Oscar Piastri saw his first F1 race end after just 13 laps as he retired with an electrical issue. Norris at least managed to finish the race, but he needed six different pit stops to manage a pneumatic pressure leak.

Saturday, however, was a different story. Norris started in P7 and picked up a spot to finish sixth, while Piastri’s day ended where it began, in P8.

After coming away empty-handed in each of the previous two seasons, banking 12 points in Bahrain felt like a big win for the team, which they leaned into on social media:

“It’s good to begin the season with a strong performance here in Bahrain. We’ve been reliable, we were quick enough to fight the Mercedes today, and this allowed us to score good points at a track we know isn’t the best for the characteristics of our car,” said Team Principal Andrea Stella in McLaren’s post-race report.

“I would like to praise the work of team at McLaren. They’ve consolidated the progress that we made last year and delivered an MCL38 which is a reliable and performing car. It’s a good foundation for the further improvements we plan to introduce as soon as possible,” added Stella. “Oscar and Lando drove very well and consistently this evening. They made no mistakes in tricky conditions, particularly on the hard [tires], and got our team off to a good start to 2024.”

Up next: Saudi Arabia

There is no rest for the weary this week.

The grid immediately heads to Jeddah, for this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Like the Bahrain Grand Prix, this race will also be run on Saturday night local time, to accommodate the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan.

Last year it was the “Sergio Show,” as Pérez captured not just pole position at Jeddah, but drove to his first win of the season.

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