The 2024 Formula One World Championship finally got underway for Round 1 at the Bahrain International Circuit. Yuki Tsunoda would experience both highs and lows whilst Alex Albon and Zhou Guanyu would have a more mixed weekend. Asian Motorsport reviews all the action in Sakhir.

By Seb Tirado

Free Practice

FP1 on Thursday would see surprise appearances from both RB cars near the top. Tsunoda would finish 4th with a 1:33:183 and his teammate Ricciardo would take fastest honours with a 1:32:869. Further down the field, Albon would be the fastest of the Williams cars in 13th with a 1:33:583. After experiencing brake issues early in the session, Zhou would finish 15th in his Kick Sauber with a 1:33:923, behind his teammate Bottas in 10th.

Zhou under the lights in FP2 | Credit: Formula One

FP2 later that evening saw teams run simulations for Friday’s qualifying and Saturday’s Grand Prix. Hamilton would lead a Mercedes 1-2 with a 1:30:374. Albon would again finish ahead of his teammate Sargeant with a 1:31:333 in 11th. Tsunoda would finish 15th with a 1:31:881, again behind Ricciardo who was sandwiched between the two Williams. Zhou would finish
19th with a 1:32:048 and behind Bottas in 17th.

FP3 on Friday afternoon saw final preparations for qualifying that evening. Sainz finished at the top of the timing sheets with a 1:30:824. Tsunoda would again finish behind his teammate with a 1:31:631 in 13th whilst Zhou would finish ahead of his teammate with a 1:32:000 in 16th. Albon would finish just ahead of Zhou in 15th with a 1:31:965.

Qualifying

Q1 would see Zhou among those eliminated, qualifying 17th with a 1:30:757, one thousandth of a second behind Bottas in 16th. Behind them came Sargeant and the two Alpines of Ocon and Gasly.
Tsunoda would just miss out on Q3 by seven-thousandths to Piastri and Albon would trail by almost a hundredth, the two qualifying 11th and 13th with a 1:30:129 and 1:30:221 respectively. Stroll would qualify in between the two with Ricciardo and Magnussen behind Albon.
Q3 would see reigning World Champion Max Verstappen take the first pole position of the season with a 1:29:179.

Bahrain Grand Prix

The start of the Bahrain Grand Prix | Credit: Formula One

Saturday night in Sakhir saw a clean run down the pit straight before Hulkenberg tangled with Stroll at the first corner, concertinaing the rear of the pack. Zhou was able to cleanly avoid the incident and make up 4 positions whilst Albon and Tsunoda moved up closer to the points-paying positions. On Lap 9, Zhou would initiate the first round of pit stops and come in for new hard tyres. Whilst the two Ferraris battled on track for 4th, Tsunoda and Albon extended their stints on the soft tyre in a bid for track position, eventually coming in for new hards on Lap 14 and 15 respectively. The race calmed down close to the halfway stage before Zhou again became the first to stop, coming in on Lap 28 for new hards. Albon extended his stint until Lap 36, also coming in for new hards.

The latter stages of the race saw pushes on numerous fronts up and down the grid. After pitting late on Lap 41 for new hards, Alonso attacked and passed Zhou for 10th, eventually passing his teammate Stroll to finish 9th. Leclerc would also attack and pass a struggling Russell on Lap 46 to finish 4th.

Tsunoda and Ricciardo chasing Magnussen | Credit: Formula One

Controversy would come for RB in the last few laps when the team ordered Tsunoda to swap positions with Ricciardo in a failed bid to help the Australian overtake Magnussen for 12th. This was much to Tsunoda’s annoyance, as seen on the cooldown lap when he appeared to aggressively dive-bomb his teammate in frustration into Turn 8.

Verstappen would take his first of no doubt many victories of the season | Credit: Formula One

Verstappen would take a dominant victory, the Fastest Lap of the race and lead a Red Bull 1-2, finishing 22 seconds ahead of Perez in 2nd with Sainz coming in 3rd. Kick Sauber’s alternate tyre strategy would see Zhou finish in 11th whilst Tsunoda would finish 14th, just ahead of Albon in 15th.

Formula One Drivers’ Championship Top 10

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 26
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 18
3. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 15
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 12
5. George Russell (Mercedes) – 10
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 8
7. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 6
8. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) – 4
9. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) – 2
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) – 1

Formula One Constructors’ Championship Top 5

1. Red Bull Racing – 44
2. Scuderia Ferrari – 27
3. Mercedes-AMG – 16
4. McLaren – 12
5. Aston Martin – 3

Round 2 of the Formula One World Championship will take place at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia on March 9th.

Header photo credit: Formula One

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