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Bahrain GP 2024 Highlights

Key Insights from Bahrain: F1 Season Opener

29/02/2024

The 2024 Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain brought unexpected outcomes and solid performances from top teams, with Mercedes leading the charge.

The Bahrain Grand Prix, kicking off the 2024 Formula 1 season, showcased initial trials with surprises and confirmations. From day one, the Mercedes, Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Red Bull teams partially revealed their strategies, with Mercedes emerging as the fastest in a single lap, even surprising its own drivers.

Mercedes Shows Promise, Hamilton Leads Practice

Mercedes displayed promising signs, with Lewis Hamilton leading in the second free practice session. However, Hamilton tempered expectations by noting that, despite the car feeling good, the team had yet to fully tap its potential, especially in long runs where they seem unable to match Red Bull’s pace.

George Russell from Mercedes noted that the modifications since testing exceeded expectations, highlighting a significant improvement in the car’s rear stability, a weakness from the previous season.

Red Bull, with Max Verstappen, led in long-distance runs, indicating they retain a significant advantage in this area. Yet, Mercedes’ performance in qualifying suggests a more competitive season start than expected.

Verstappen Unhappy

Max Verstappen, in his Red Bull, expressed dissatisfaction with his car’s balance, finishing only sixth by the day’s end. However, this performance doesn’t reflect the true expectations, especially since Verstappen excelled in long-distance race simulations, showing superior speed and remarkably low tire wear for Bahrain standards. This suggests Red Bull might have opted for more conservative engine power settings, with Verstappen also making a minor error in the last turn during his best lap.

Long-distance race simulations highlighted Red Bull’s strength, with Sergio Perez adopting an aggressive approach from the start, at the expense of tire wear, while Verstappen chose a softer strategy, allowing him to maintain a slightly higher average speed over 13 laps.

Tire wear management is crucial in Bahrain, where the circuit is particularly harsh on rear tires. Teams tend to prefer a setup that induces understeer, compromising single-lap performance but advantageous over a race distance.

Alpine Faces Struggle, Gasly Reports Issues

Alpine struggled, with Pierre Gasly reporting a difficult-to-drive car, confirmed by their on-track performance, placing them among the slowest in both quick laps and race simulations.

McLaren’s Potential Shown, Questions Arise

McLaren showed promising potential, with Oscar Piastri posting good times, despite mixed feedback from Lando Norris on the team’s progress. This raises questions about their ability to consistently challenge the leading teams.

Williams Overcomes Challenges

Williams team, meanwhile, managed to prepare its 2024 car despite a challenging winter marked by fundamental issues and significant production delays. The team overcame these challenges, demonstrating remarkable effort to improve the car while acknowledging the journey ahead to fully modernize.

McLaren’s Piastri Shines, Fuel Strategy Varies

Among the non-Red Bulls, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri stood out for the best long-run performance, though he was half a second slower than Hamilton on a single lap. The notable pace difference between Piastri and teammate Lando Norris suggests different fuel loads, representing various race strategies.

The gaps in long-run averages between the two Mercedes, Norris, and Charles Leclerc of Ferrari were minimal, but in single laps, the hierarchy was clearly established with Mercedes and Ferrari leading, followed by McLaren and Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin just behind.

As in testing, a clear separation emerged between the top five teams and the rest of the field, with a tight battle among RB, Sauber, Haas, Williams, and a slightly trailing Alpine.

Technical innovations included Mercedes’ new front wing design, which stirred discussion but was deemed compliant by the FIA, potentially influencing future aerodynamic strategies.

F1 Unveils Broadcasting Upgrades, Embraces Sustainability

Finally, F1 announced enhancements in race broadcasting, including increased use of augmented reality and new cameras to enrich the viewing experience, along with Paddy Lowe’s return to the paddock, this time leading Zero Petroleum, highlighting the growing importance of synthetic fuels in F1’s sustainability quest.

These initial trials in Bahrain reveal an exciting 2024 season ahead, with tight battles anticipated and teams continuing to seek significant improvements to challenge the established hierarchy.

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