Dre’s Race Review: F1’s 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

Max Verstappen resumes the status quo as the dark cloud of Christian Horner dominates the headlines, Dre Reviews the 2024 Bahrain GP.

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 7 mins

“What a season we’ve had. Sir, it’s Saturday.”

Well… It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, Formula 1 is back, the main event of the year and Max Verstappen returned to remind us all that the beatings will continue until morale improves. But as the usual story goes, all the drama around this sport, revolved around off-the-track nonsense. Let’s get into it.

There’s been an update to the Christian Horner story. During the race weekend, Red Bull publicly released a statement that the complaint filed against him for controlling and coercive behaviour was “dismissed”. State the keyword there – dismissed. It doesn’t clear him of wrongdoing, it means the independent barrister who weighed up the evidence didn’t think there was enough to take the complaint any further. Yes, there is a difference.

The story got even more unsavoury on Thursday when an anonymous e-mail was sent to hundreds of FIA-accredited journalists, team principals and even F1 CEO Stefano Domenicalli himself. In the email was a Google Drive folder containing pictures of “evidence” that allegedly contained conversations and screenshots of a chat between Christian Horner and someone else. The other person is likely to have been the same victim who complained.

In any case, it’s another ugly mark on the state of the sport and its coverage. The folder did the rounds. It leaked in places like the Formula 1 Subreddit and anyone who would want to see the evidence, now can. The victim has been doxxed, their life might never be the same again as a direct result of the actions of someone else. 

I understand the sense of vigilante justice that people who understandably believed the victim’s side of the reported story, I do. But compromising a private case like this by leaking the “evidence” I fear may ultimately lead to more harm than good, and it puts everything concerning this case into question. Who leaked this? How did they get the evidence in question? How did they get ahold of all those contact details? The only reasonably confident thing we can say is that someone had it out for Horner, rightly or wrongly.

Whatever the follow-up, it’s another horrendous black mark for the sport and another instance of women not being safe in an F1 working environment. I’m fortunate to know a handful of women (And sadly, that is already too small), who have been in F1 teams and paddocks and have repeatedly beaten the drum about the state of the sport and its lack of inherent safety for women. And allegedly, it is now out there that a team boss has abused his power and position to harass a member of staff. It’s a horrendous look and damaging for the sport as a whole.

If there is a crumb of “positivity” to take from this, it seems this story has produced genuine discomfort amongst the paddock. Zak Brown, Toto Wolff and Ford CEO (Their future power unit partners) Jim Farley have all gone on record about this investigation. Horner had to meet with Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Stefano Domenicalli during the weekend, and there’s still talk the FIA might have a peek themselves, in a similar “Breach of Ethics” probe and warning they gave to Helmut Marko last year for his xenophobic comments towards Sergio Perez. Of course, some of this is standard F1 political gamesmanship, but there is genuine concern amongst key figures. There may still be more coming regarding this story. 

But whatever the verdict or the continued aftermath, welcome to another example of big business and the power-hungry stepping over clear boundaries. We have to do better. We have to keep pushing for more, diverse people to get into the sport and influence positive change. We have to keep pushing for the space we want F1 to be. Because if not, stories like this will keep happening. We have to do better.

Oh yeah, and in alarming yet predictable news, the field has…  largely gone about unchanged. Charles Leclerc got close in qualifying but couldn’t put together his ultimate lap, and when the race started, it was business as usual. Max pulls away on raw pace, and because the RB20 is still stupidly good on its tyres, it just broke the field over its knees as we dug into the first genuine look at race pace. Verstappen’s now on an 8-race winning streak (With the fourth Grand Slam win of his career), and the biggest threat he’s had in that time was from a car that wasn’t even legal.

Every one of Red Bull’s major rivals had niggles that compromised their race. At Ferrari, while Carlos Sainz drove like a man who knows he’s been fired, Charles Leclerc had a braking imbalance (as much as 100 degrees right to left) that heavily compromised a race where on pace, he was right with Sergio Perez in second. Mercedes had a minor power-unit issue that had them fight a McLaren team that’s never really gone well in Bahrain. Aston Martin is a clear-cut fifth below that group… And I’ll address the rest in the Lightning Round.

But a beating is a beating. Max Verstappen had a perfect race, beating his teammate by 22 seconds, virtually an entire extra pitstop. 25 seconds ahead of Carlos Sainz in a rival car. At the end of the day, we’re sports fans, you cannot expect the average one to care about fights for the podiums and minor points. Not to mention going into the longest F1 season we’ve ever seen at 24 races. This is the worst-case scenario for the sport, an okay race marred by nasty team politics off the track, and the dominant status quo on it. And remember – Red Bull has an update planned for Japan in a month. And with DTS’s same-time ratings down 20% on last year… maybe we’re in a flop era after all. 

…And that’s the worst part of all this. On paper, the sport’s major changes to the last regulation set have worked. The cars can run closer. The cost cap has compressed the field. At their very fastest, Alpine was dead last in Q1 but only a second off the fastest time. The ATR restrictions have given birth to a genuinely excellent middle and lower class. But none of that matters when Red Bull is executing on a different level to everyone else in the field. Shit’s tough. 

Speaking of which, Alpine. Oh boy, that might be the only genuine outlier compared to last year. There were rumblings post-test that things were bad on their 2024 car. It wasn’t “bottom of the field” bad! Both cars were out in Q1, roughly two seconds a lap behind the Red Bulls in race trim, and the only cars that were worse on paper were Valtteri Bottas and Logan Sargeant, who had significant issues in their races. The car’s aero is reportedly poor, they’re rumoured to be 10+ kilos overweight, and they looked awful out there. 

On top of that, it was revealed as I’m writing this that their head of aero Dirk De Beer and their technical director Matt Harman had already resigned in the off-season and are currently working their notice period. Another embarrassing look for the French team. How many reboots is this going to take? And how long before Michael Andretti starts picking up the phone again?!

Also, VISA RB already looks like a hot mess. Laurent Mekies may have walked away from Ferrari last year, but it looks like you can’t take the honse out of the guy. They planned a race strategy where their drivers were supposedly told they’d likely cross each other on the track, with Ricciardo on a set of soft tyres at the end. But Yuki was told to move aside with just a handful of laps to go, with Ricciardo’s softs already cooked. All this to try and get around a stout Kevin Magnussen defence for 12th place and it just didn’t work. Another poor call from the Team Faenza pit wall.

But none of that justifies Yuki Tsunoda’s actions after the flag. On the cooldown lap, Tsunoda charged at Ricciardo and divebombed his teammate out of frustration, even locking his brakes in the process. Unsurprisingly Daniel called him “A fucking helmet” for it, and it’s hard to blame him. Formula 1 has largely embraced the meme-esque tendencies of the angry side of Yuki, but this way, WAY too far. It is Year 4 of Yuki in F1 and he’s had 60+ Grand Prix at this point. You have to be professional, even if you’re understandably frustrated at a “bad beat” on track. All he’s done with his actions is prove some of his haters about his temperament right. It’s a silly act that will only compromise his already middling chance of a Red Bull senior drive. 

Also, yeesh… with the Top 5 teams in F1 pretty much cemented (Great comeback from Lance Stroll after being spun out on Lap 1), the fight for minor points is going to be a bloodbath. Hulk, we were rooting for you, you and K-Mag showed you don’t suck anywhere near as much as expected! Come on man!

Shoutout to Zhou Guanyu for that P11 by the way, a solid result and an important one given what happened in F2 with their new academy prospect Zane Maloney dominating the opening weekend with a double win, by multiple seconds. Theo Pourchaire may be in Japan now, but the pressure on the factory seats remains. Although Val gets a reprieve, I think the pit crew just unlocked a core memory after that 52-second pitstop. 

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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