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6 Winners and 5 Losers from Bahrain – Who started their season in style?

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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Defending champion Max Verstappen picked up where he left off in 2023 with a commanding victory in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. There were highs for others, too, but some will be keen to put the weekend behind them. We’ve picked out our winners and losers from Sakhir.

Winners: Max Verstappen

This wasn’t the smoothest of weekends for Verstappen, the Dutchman tinkering with the balance throughout as he looked to extract the potential of Red Bull’s new RB20 car.

READ MORE: ‘It couldn’t have been better’ – Verstappen hails ‘unbelievable’ start to title defence with statement win

And yet, he was still able to snatch pole and begin Red Bull’s 20th season in F1 with their 114th race victory, tying Williams for fourth on the all-time win list.

This was the 26-year-old’s eighth consecutive victory – while just seeing the chequered flag continued a ruthless run of consistency, as he extended his finishing run to 42 races, just six shy of Lewis Hamilton’s record streak. Chapeau.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen got his season off to a perfect start

Loser: Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc has always gone well in Bahrain – so he was irritated to have made a few little errors that he believes cost him pole position on Friday night.

Nonetheless, second on the grid gave him hope that he could kick off his 2024 campaign with a podium, but a brake issue (they were getting too hot following other cars) caused front locking that damaged the tyres and forced an early pit stop.

That ruled him out of the fight for a trophy and he cut a frustrated and annoyed figure at the end of the race, despite having enough pace in the closing stages to outpace George Russell and hold on to fourth.

READ MORE: ‘It was impossible to drive properly’ – Leclerc left disappointed in Bahrain after brake issues

Winner: Sergio Perez

There’s a heap of pressure on Sergio Perez this season, as he battles to prove to Red Bull that he is fast enough to earn a contract extension beyond the end of this year, and the Mexican has so far dealt with it impressively.

Yes, he finished 22.457s adrift of team mate Verstappen, but he started back in the pack in fifth and showed consistent pace to fight his way up into third, giving Red Bull a one-two to start 2024.

This was his best result since he finished second in the Italian Grand Prix, nine races ago, and an encouraging opening salvo in 2024.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari prepares to drive on the grid

Leclerc had a disrupted opening race

Losers: Alpine

Alpine say they knew the start of the season was going to be difficult, but perhaps they didn’t expect to be locking out the back row of the grid in Bahrain qualifying.

The race was not much better, with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon unable to make any progress through the field, the duo crossing the line a lap down.

READ MORE: Alpine technical leads Harman and De Beer depart team following ‘a period of disappointing results’ as re-shuffle announced

The car remains overweight and complex to understand, with the expectation that there are no easy fixes and that it’s going to take some time to turn things around – while Monday’s announcement that Technical Director Matt Harman and chief aerodynamicist Dirk de Beer had parted company with the team will likely further complicate the picture for Alpine.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Visa Cash App RB VCARB

It was a difficult weekend for Alpine

Winner: Carlos Sainz

Carlos Sainz had a difficult Thursday practice in Bahrain, the Spaniard not quite at one with a Ferrari that seemed to be pulling to one side. But changes overnight did the trick and he oozed confidence heading into qualifying after topping the times in final practice.

After a disappointing getaway, the two-time race winner managed his tyres well – on a track where degradation is traditionally high – while still showing great pace.

He pulled off a brilliantly clean move on team mate Leclerc to run third – and crossed the line just 2.653s behind a Red Bull to take his fourth podium since the start of 2023 and earn the fan-voted Driver of the Day accolade.

READ MORE: Sainz ‘pleasantly surprised’ by ability to keep up with Red Bull as he clinches podium in Bahrain

Losers: Williams

Williams paid the price for missing out on mileage through a disrupted pre-season test as the British team encountered a string of issues that meant Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant were unable to push the car hard.

Sargeant encountered a second electronic issue in as many days, the American forced to change his steering wheel, while both cars struggled with overheating engines when running in traffic, which forced them to run them lower and thus cut power.

That resulted in Albon ending up 15th and Sargeant 20th – the duo both finishing a lap down.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Logan Sargeant of United States driving the (2) Williams FW46 Mercedes

It was a compromised night for Williams in Bahrain

Winners: Haas

Haas entered the season thinking they would be bottom of the pack – possibly even cut adrift of the field – after a disrupted winter that saw Team Principal Guenther Steiner and Technical Director Simone Resta leave and the team feeling the pain of having pushed so much resource into last year’s disappointing Austin upgrade.

However, they followed up an encouraging pre-season test – where their race pace, an Achilles’ heel last year, looked better, with Kevin Magnussen showing how far the American team has come as he fought his way up to 12th.

They have a way to go to prove they can fight for points, but this was a very encouraging sign for a team that looked like they were set for a painful season.

READ MORE: Russell insists there's ‘potential’ in the Mercedes car after being hindered by ‘big red alarms' in Bahrain

Losers: Mercedes

George Russell was beaming after qualifying, the Briton delivering an impressive lap to line up third on the grid. And the race started well when he leapfrogged Leclerc to run second.

But then the Mercedes driver was forced to back off and lift and coast to compensate for cooling issues – and that sent him backwards, with Russell ending up fifth.

Team mate Lewis Hamilton encountered the same issues – and that hampered his ability to attack, the seven-time world champion forced to be content with seventh, two places higher than he started.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG Petronas

Russell started well but gradually fell backwards

Winner: Zhou Guanyu

There were some glum faces at Kick Sauber after both cars failed to escape Q1 – and things didn’t look much better early in the race, as Valtteri Bottas’s strong getaway was negated when he got caught up in the melee trigger by Nico Hulkenberg and Lance Stroll’s contact.

However, Zhou Guanyu quietly went about his business, driving consistently across all stints to run in the points at one stage before ultimately just missing out in 11th.

The turnaround in form, from qualifying to the race, was stark – with the Swiss team through Zhou showing the kind of pace that marked them out at the sixth-quickest constructor in Bahrain, which bodes well for the season ahead.

READ MORE: ‘We need to make sure it doesn’t happen again’ – Bottas reflects on 52-second pit stop in Bahrain

Loser: Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg carried his fine qualifying form in 2023 into this season as he made it into Q3 in Bahrain.

However, we didn’t get the chance to see what he could achieve in the race after he clipped Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin on the run down to Turn 1, breaking his front wing in the process.

That triggered an early pit stop which hauled him out of contention and ended any hopes of converting a strong Friday into a points-scoring Saturday.

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2024 Bahrain Grand Prix: Leclerc challenges Verstappen for the lead on the race start

Winners: McLaren

McLaren have never run well in Bahrain, Sakhir’s layout simply not suiting them – however, things were different this time around as the team comfortably got both cars into Q3, with Lando Norris even reckoning P2 on the grid was possible had he got it altogether.

READ MORE: Norris hopeful McLaren can hit back against rivals after ‘not nice’ car feeling in Bahrain

Their pace in the race was good enough to fight the Mercedes, with Norris ending up sixth and Oscar Piastri eighth.

This was the first time McLaren had scored in the season-opener since 2021, with Piastri’s points haul for eighth equal to what he managed to achieve in the first five races of last season.

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Race Highlights: 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

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