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Bahrain GP takeaways: Max's streak continues, Tsunoda goes at Ricciardo


Welcome back to another F1 season. Following each race weekend this year, theScore's editors will offer their takeaways. We kick the 2024 schedule off with the Bahrain GP.

Peter Fox - Formula 1 / Formula 1 / Getty

Moments that decided the race 👀

Verstappen's dominance: The Formula 1 offseason felt less like a winter break and more like a commercial break. That's because the 2024 campaign picked right back up where we left off with Max Verstappen cruising to the checkered flag for yet another dominant win.

It's not an exaggeration to say the 2024 Bahrain GP was decided as soon as the reigning world champion emerged from Turn 1 in the lead after fending off Charles Leclerc. He went unchallenged from there as his pace was simply in another league for the majority of the grand prix.

The final result: A fifth career grand slam for Verstappen, who took pole, led every lap, recorded the fastest lap, and won the race. It's his eighth victory in a row and 18th over his last 19 races.

Leclerc's car troubles: Any slim belief or hope in Verstappen being challenged died with Leclerc's car self-destructing in the opening laps.

Instead of battling his rivals, Leclerc was turned into a passenger as he was forced to battle his own SF-24 due to brake issues. This led to one of the most forgettable stints of the 26-year-old's career.

It remains to be seen whether Ferrari changing Leclerc's left front brake duct outlet deflector before the race caused any of his issues, but regardless, letdowns between the team and him have become tiresome. Though, on the bright side, the Monegasque driver should be applauded for finishing fourth despite his problems. His known ability, in addition to Sainz's competitive pace when compared to Sergio Perez's Red Bull, at least leaves room to imagine that Ferrari and Leclerc could still challenge for wins in the future.

Driver of the Day 🙌

Anadolu / Anadolu / Getty

Carlos Sainz: How Sainz would respond to losing his 2025 Ferrari seat was one of the most intriguing questions heading into the new season. The Spaniard didn't waste time providing an answer. Sainz recovered from a slow start off the line to grab the final podium place in Bahrain, twice overtaking his teammate with feisty moves - more on that below - and keeping Perez within his sights in the final stages of the race. Judging by Saturday's performance, Sainz, at worst, will be on par with Leclerc all season. If he builds on the season opener, though, he could have Ferrari questioning whether it retained the right driver for 2025.

What were they thinking? 🤔

RB's driver swap: The in-team fighting is already on full display. Outside the top 10, the most contested fight was between Daniel Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda, and Kevin Magnussen for 12th. With four laps to go and Ricciardo on soft tires, RB requested for Tsunoda to let the Aussie pass to fight Magnussen. Tsunoda made his displeasure clear on the radio, and Ricciardo noted that his teammate's comments had an element of "immaturity" post-race.

RB 📻: "Yuki, driver swap. Driver swap."
Tsunoda: "Are you kidding me right now?"

Ricciardo was a half-second behind Magnussen for the rest of the race and was unable to pass the Dane. The decision from the RB engineers was questionable for the first race of the season, and Ricciardo would've needed to pass three drivers in three laps to finish in the points. While Ricciardo could've passed Magnussen if Tsunoda had relented immediately, it's unlikely that the cleaner air would've made enough of a difference for the team's mediocre performance.

"In the end, he didn't overtake as well," Tsunoda told reporters post-race.

He added: "Anyway, it's the first race. Still lots of things to understand. We were not fighting for the points, so, (we'll) see how it goes."

The two almost came together after the checkered flag due to Tsunoda's aggressive driving.

"I'll let him cool down. We know what he's like. Obviously, during the moment, he's very ... that's Yuki," Ricciardo said post-race, according to Nate Saunders of ESPN.

"I'm OK. I'm thinking long term. This is a long season, so we need to be able to work together, so I'm not going to come in there with an angry attitude. It's just, we have to be very honest and realistic that it should've happened when they called it."

Best battle ⚔️

Deja vu for Leclerc and Sainz: Monza 2023? Yes, please. Sainz wasn't afraid to duel his fellow Ferrari teammate twice in six laps. On Lap 11, the Spaniard went wheel-to-wheel with Leclerc on Turn 1 and successfully pulled ahead to charge after Perez. Sainz wasn't afraid to stick his elbows out again mere laps later - after Ferrari pitted both drivers back-to-back, the smooth operator lunged late to pass Leclerc again on Lap 17 and reclaim P4. While Leclerc's brake problems hindered his performance, there's no doubt Sainz earned his eventual podium finish and put on a masterclass in how to overtake.

They said what? 🗣️

Qian Jun/MB Media / Getty Images Sport / Getty

"It's a great start, (but) its a one-off, it's one circuit, one surface, it's a very cool temperature. Next week, (we're going to a) street track with (a) much higher temperature. I think we're going to have to see three, four, five races before we see a true pattern. What we saw in testing is that the field has converged, so you can't base too much on this one race." - Christian Horner on Red Bull's dominant start

"It's been a very, very frustrating race because I had been waiting for this race for a long time. I wanted to show what we were capable of, and in the end, we couldn't show anything on my side because we were completely out of place with brake balance (and) brake shape, and the car in general wasn't where I wanted it to be." - Charles Leclerc on his car troubles

"We probably feel a little disappointment within the team. I was definitely hoping we would be better this weekend than we were. It was a tough race - plenty of errors in which we can improve. We were further back of the Red Bulls than we thought we were." - Lewis Hamilton on P7 finish

"Every race, I keep trying to prove to everyone what I am capable of doing. At the same time, I've been here so many years that everyone knows what I'm capable of when given the right working environment (and) the right tools to fight, and today is good proof of that. My future is something I am not thinking about at the moment. I think about it only in my off time." - Carlos Sainz on if he feels he's auditioning for his next seat

What's next?

The next stop on the calendar is Jeddah with the Saudi Arabian GP set for Saturday, March 9 at 12 p.m. ET.

Verstappen finished second to Perez last year at the race, one of three races in which the Dutchman did not win.

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