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Formula 1, Round 1: The 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

Publish Date: 03/01/2024
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
Race Start at Formula 1 Grand Prix of Bahrain 2019

Formula 1 is back, baby! And we’re back giving you all the highlights surrounding each race weekend, giving you all the inside scoops ahead of every Grand Prix to make the most out of every team’s and driver’s strengths and weaknesses for that particular weekend. We’re going to be splitting this article into two parts; What’s been happening off-season and during testing, and a preview ahead of the first race of this very long season that we’ve got ahead of us. So let’s dive right in.

Pre-season info

It’s been quite an off season for our Formula 1 teams and drivers, with many major headlines popping up during the pre-season period. Each and everyone of these headlines, although in the past, will have a significant impact as the 2024 season gets underway and progresses. Let’s turn back the clock slightly and give you our analysis.

Guenther Steiner’s HAAS Exit

The first of our biggest pre-season news shifts was the exit of Guenther Steiner as HAAS team principal. The only US team on the grid, HAAS haven’t exactly had the best of success when it comes to the sport. It was decided in the latter part of 2023 that Guenther Steiner will step down as US boss after discussions with Gene Haas, the team’s owner, came to a head.

It’s been recently reported that Guenther Steiner was close to sealing a $20 million deal with an undisclosed sponsor, a valuable cash injection for any F1 team, let alone HAAS. However, Guenther Steiner requested that he become a shareholder within HAAS, something that Gene didn’t take too lightly. As a result, the deal broke down, and Guenther was replaced by then Chief Technical Officer Ayao Komatsu. With big shoes to fill, this will be Komatsu’s biggest test yet.

Norris and Leclerc Sign Multi-Year Contracts

Two of the grid’s rising stars and exceptional drivers signed a multi year contract, which will see both drivers extend their time at their respective teams beyond 2025, and into the new engine and aero regulations of 2026.

Exciting times. Both Charles and Lando have more than proved themselves with both Ferrari and Mclaren, both old school rivals in the sport, to provide us with more entertainment and allure of their talent on the track. It seems that both teams have decided that these two will be the face of the teams, a huge responsibility.

Norris will be paired up with Australian native Oscar Piastri, who had a tremendous rookie season in 2023. Charles will also need to step up his game as of 2025, with 7 time World Champion Lewis Hamilton joining him, but more on that later.

A New track Announced: Madrid

The sport has reached dizzying heights in popularity in recent times, and F1 as a company wants to ride that train for as long as humanly possible. As such we’re most likely going to be getting new tracks being added to the calendar each year.

Madrid was the most recent track to be announced, combining a mix of street circuits and permanent track as its main feature. The location is just on the outskirts of Madrid, coincidentally right next to where F1 held their very first public exhibition, one which I was lucky enough to visit.

Europe is without a doubt the home of the sport, so more tracks added within the continent is sure to go down well with both old and new fans alike.

Alpha Tauri & Sauber Rebrand

Something that seems straight out of a parody, these two iconic teams faced a rebrand respectively. Alpha Tauri has since, and hilariously, become the Visa Cash App R(ed) B(ull) Formula 1 team, which fans are pronouncing VCARB.

That’s gonna be quite a mouthful for the commentators. However, they did give us quite a nice livery to look at, akin to their Torro Rosso days, great stuff.

Gone are the days of Alfa Romeo gracing the sport, and for such an iconic brand, we have nothing but thanks for them. Instead Sauber will now be linked with up and coming online casino brand Stake, and for legal reasons they can’t be called Stake.

Some funny stuff going on there and kudos to the legal team for that oversight. The car is.. Well it’s green, highlighter green to be exact, and I bet you can see that coming from miles away. But I think it looks good, giving off 90’s Kawasaki racing team vibes.

Hamilton Makes Shock Ferrari Move

The big one.. We’ve all heard the rumours time and time again. We actually wrote an article about this last year when the rumours resurfaced. This time though, they weren’t rumours at all.

Seven time World Champion, Lewis Hamilton shocked the F1 world (and broke soccer deadline transfer day in Europe) by announcing what he described, the hardest decision he ever had to make by signing a multi year contract with the legendary, Scuderia Ferrari.

The move came to a surprise to many, as during the 2023 season, Mercedes and Hamilton made an agreement to extend the driver’s contract.

Something within the Mercedes camp made Hamilton think that it was time to jump ship, 11 years after his previous shock move from McLaren to Mercedes pairing with then arch rival, Nico Rosberg.

For the two decades spanning his glittering career, Hamilton has always powered his way through victory with Mercedes power, even in his McLaren days. So the German brand has been an integral part of his success.

And for the first time ever, the Brit will be propelled by Italian power, and seeing Hamilton in red is going to be something that all of us will take a while to get accustomed to.

The 2024 Bahrain GP

Check out some cool stats about the Bahrain Grand Prix:

  • First held in 2004
  • Track Length: 5.412km
  • Fastest Lap: 1m 31.447s by Pedro de la Rosa in 2005
  • Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are tied for most pole positions with 3 each
  • Lewis Hamilton holds the record for most wins with 5
  • Fun fact: Turn 1 is called ‘Michael Schumacher’
  • It’s a 353-metre sprint from pole position to Turn 1 braking point
  • In 2023, there were 80 overtakes
  • Safety Car probability is around 63%, and Virtual Safety Car is about 50%
  • Pit stop time loss is 23.2 seconds, including 2.5 seconds stationary.

Now, onto recent news

Last week’s pre-season testing in Bahrain didn’t give gamers any reason to doubt Max Verstappen’s dominance. Nearly 90% of fans and experts alike expect him to be the fastest in a single lap. Charles Leclerc comes in next at only 6%.

Here are the last 5 Bahrain GP pole-sitters:

  • 2023: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2022: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  • 2021: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2020: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2019: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

And the last 5 Bahrain GP winners:

  • 2023: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 2022: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  • 2021: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2020: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • 2019: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

Let’s break down some strategy and set-up tips for Bahrain

Bahrain gets crazy hot, and the track is rough, so tires wear out fast. Pirelli’s bringing the hard compounds (C1, C2, and C3) for 2024. The Morning and afternoon sessions are totally different.

The morning’s scorching, so cool-down laps and out-laps need to be slower. Afternoon sessions are cooler, so drivers can push harder. Drivers gotta balance pushing hard with saving tire grip.

You might blast through Sector 1 but struggle in Sector 3 if you’re too aggressive. The wind’s a sneaky factor. It shifts during the day, messing with drivers at spots like Turn 12.

Now, let’s talk current form:

Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen and Red Bull dominated 2023, but they’re not slowing down. They unveiled a seriously upgraded RB20 in pre-season. After testing in Bahrain, Red Bull’s still the team to beat. McLaren’s Norris and Piastri think they’re playing catch-up, with Ferrari not far behind.

In qualifying, Red Bull’s could potentially pull a solid two-tenths lead over Ferrari, then McLaren, Mercedes, and Aston Martin. Race pace is a bit different, though. Red Bull’s still leading, but Mercedes is closer, followed by Ferrari, McLaren, Aston Martin, and RB.

And let’s not forget an iconic moment: It’s been 20 years since the Bahrain Grand Prix started, and 10 years since Hamilton and Rosberg went head-to-head in the ‘Duel in the Desert.’ That battle set the stage for their intense rivalry in the years to come.

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