Red Bull dominates at the start of the season – Hülkenberg is unlucky

The Austrian racing team prevailed in Sakhir without any problems, world champion Max Verstappen sent a direct signal to the competition. The race is unfortunate for the only German in the field.

An exclamation point at the start of the 2024 Formula 1 season: World champion Max Verstappen won the Bahrain Grand Prix in a convincing manner. The Dutchman prevailed with a lead of 22.457 seconds over his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

Carlos Sainz came third in the Ferrari ahead of Charles Leclerc in the Scuderia’s second car, whose hopes of winning their first title since Kimi Räikkönen’s triumph in 2007 were immediately set back. Sainz’s designated successor, record world champion Lewis Hamilton, had also hoped for more from the new Mercedes. We couldn’t do better than seventh place.

For the only German driver, Nico Hülkenberg, the Grand Prix didn’t go well: The Haas driver, who started the race from 10th position, sustained damage to his car in a crash right at the start, fell far behind and ended up rear-ended 16th place across the finish line.

This is how the race went:

For Verstappen at the front, the first race start of the year went exactly to the champion’s liking. He got away quickly and defended the pole during Leclerc’s tentative attack from the outside in the first corner. After the first ten kilometers of the 24-race season, the longest in the history of the premier motorsport class since 1950, Verstappen was already leading by one and a half seconds.

Behind him, Hamilton’s Mercedes colleague George Russell grabbed the Monegasque Leclerc, who drove faster than Verstappen on his pole lap in the second period of qualifying the day before. However, the 26-year-old, who had extended his long-term contract with Scuderia before the season, repeatedly made minor mistakes.

In contrast to Verstappen. The Dutchman, who is the same age, initially didn’t really get to grips with the new RB20 during training. But when it came to the starting positions, he was there. The fuss surrounding his team boss didn’t bother him, he emphasized in the headline-grabbing days in the Sakhir desert. Verstappen drove that way too. He increased his lead lap after lap; it seemed like déjà vu from last season, in which he won 19 of 22 races.

And his team boss Horner was also able to take a breather during the horsepower show of his world champion driver. It was he who was the center of attention at the Bahrain Grand Prix, especially when he arrived in the paddock on race day accompanied by his world-famous wife Geri Halliwell, a former member of the girl group Spice Girls. Less than 48 hours earlier, two emails had reached Horner’s counterparts with, among other things, a link to some files in a juicy matter (you can read more about this here).

Hamilton had problems

Horner had been accused of inappropriate behavior by an employee, but the complaint was dismissed by the parent company after an independent investigation. “It damages the sport. It damages on a human level,” emphasized Mohammed Ben Sulayem, head of the World Automobile Association, in the “Financial Times” on Saturday. There should be no separate investigation due to the lack of a complaint to the FIA. A reaction from the commercial owners of Formula 1 is still pending.

And on the track, the race didn’t offer what the bosses were hoping for, even if Verstappen’s Mexican team-mate caught up with the leader at some point; Pérez had started from fifth position. Behind them the rest were fighting, including Hamilton for two years now.

The 39-year-old Brit had tuned his car more for the race and only managed ninth place in qualifying. However, the seven-time world champion, who has not won since December 5, 2021, did not make much progress in the race. Problems with the battery and a broken seat caused problems for the 103-time Grand Prix winner.

And the only German driver had imagined the first race of the year differently. In the knockout, Hülkenberg made it into the top ten. After a collision right at the start, the 36-year-old fell from tenth place and the front wing was also damaged. Hülkenberg drove behind the field, while at the front Verstappen made the perfect start to the season with a lead that was humiliating for the competition.