Dre’s Race Review: F1’s Saudi Arabian 2024 Grand Prix

Verstappen’s 9th straight win papers over the cracks of a Red Bull team in a genuine power struggle. Ollie Bearman subs in and steals the show in Saudi Arabia as Dre reviews an exhausting fortnight in F1.

Never miss a post

Sign up for our monthly newsletter so you don’t miss any posts or updates!

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us. By subscribing, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with our privacy policy.

Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 8 mins

It’s genuinely a difficult time to be an F1 fan right now. One of my better friends in this space, “Chain Bear”, called it a “reputational nadir” midweek, and it’s hard to argue with that observation. 2024 so far has been amongst the most draining I’ve experienced in the 20 years I’ve been a fan. And we’re just barely in March. I watched through Abu Dhabi 2021 with my head in my hands and had one of the most difficult years of my life handling WTF1’s first reboot. The Christian Horner investigation story isn’t going away and is only getting uglier.

On Thursday, Red Bull Racing suspended the employee who filed the complaint against Horner in January, as a direct result of the leaking of alleged evidence last week through the Bahrain GP weekend. The victim did everything right. They were uncomfortable with an alleged abuse of power in the workplace and raised concerns, enough for the parent company to launch an internal investigation. But in the eyes of the cynical and the “stick to sports” crowd that’s always there, that’s not enough. “Good faith” apparently only goes one way in this world. 

All this while Christian Horner got to carry on, flexing in Bahrain’s paddock arm-in-arm in solidarity with wife Geri, “cleared of wrongdoing” in the eyes of many F1’s media despite the investigation being “dismissed” last week. (No, that’s not the same thing.) It took national powerhouse writers from The Guardian; Jonathan Liew and Marina Hyde to dedicate columns to the story to show just how far this has all gotten and give Red Bull and F1 the public lashing it deserved.  

If you were expecting the drivers to be the bringers of hope, you were only going to be disappointed. One, because legally you’re opening yourself up to potential trouble, and second because they were either on the payroll or too afraid to take a stand. Daniel Ricciardo called the news “noise”, while he drives a car with every woman in his RB team plastered on the side of his car. More time was dedicated to the possibility of Max Verstappen moving to Mercedes, wanting the silly season volcano to erupt underneath Milton Keynes, rather than talking about the reason why we got here in the first place.

Like so many times before, we had to resort to Lewis Hamilton talking about the “pivotal moment” F1 finds itself in in terms of how to handle this horrible story. And even that felt like the gate being locked after the horse had bolted given Horner’s position is still tenable enough for him to remain defiant in what he has or hasn’t done.

The talk will take another twist, with Helmut Marko now being investigated from within at Red Bull in regards to the leaked “evidence”. Max Verstappen, fiercely loyal to the man who gave him his shot in F1 has already implied that if Marko is removed, he is likely gone too. On the other side of the fence, Christian is determined to “draw a line” under the story as he sits in the kitchen fire of his creation. After two weeks, his flustering finally showed signs of sweating from the heat. 

To all those who have rampantly speculated, revelling in the Pro Wrestling storyline that F1 has become, you have your golden carrot. It’s very likely to end up in a world where Christian Horner and Max Verstappen cannot co-exist in the Red Bull umbrella, an ugly culture further exposed as the two sides vie for power despite their greatest run of success. If it wasn’t so grotesque that alleged sexual harassment was the smoking gun (something that feels so forgotten in this story), it likely would have been packaged into a Marvel movie by now.

The timing of this couldn’t be worse. It’s International Women’s Day this weekend. The F1 Academy, the biggest platform women have ever gotten for a racing series started live-streaming its series today, actions taken because F1’s audience begged for it to happen. All of this while *this* has happened in the garage next door. I can’t begin to imagine how some of those women feel knowing their environment around them is still so toxic. The Al-Qubaisi sisters sport their branding. 

But this feels very par for the course for F1. Almost four years ago, I wrote with anger and fury at how the sport fumbled a genuine chance to embrace positive social change in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter movement that followed. The sport never truly bought in, the message was lost within the drivers and teams, the lack of transparency in the campaign withered trust and within 18 months, the slogan faded into non-existence. It’s a piece that’s followed me ever since, it was in the press release when I joined WTF1 and a lot of my frustration from it still stands to this day. 

Formula 1 and its stakeholders need to be doing everything in their power to at least give the impression that its paddock and its teams are doing everything they can to make its environment a safe place for women to work. Red Bull has proven that that is no longer the case, and one of its most powerful and influential people is above that remit. According to the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer, multiple partners, the FIA and F1 requested a copy of the internal report. They’ve chosen not to share it. Their opaqueness in the context of this investigation has only led to them fanning the flames that are currently on their backs.

And sadly, for so many women already in the sport, it’s a reinforcement of an atmosphere they already knew. Something that I as a cis-gendered man, don’t have to worry about. All the last month has reinforced to me, is that F1 as a collective isn’t just showing its shortcomings concerning trying to get more women into Motorsport, it’s actively harming the cause. Because if this is how someone who’s made a valid harassment case gets treated within a team… why would a woman want to get into F1 if this is the environment they’re going to be walking into?

And all this from the shadow of the Saudi Arabian paddock. I admire the genuine push from those within the sport to talk about the change. Laura Winter’s speech on F1 TV on Friday was a great example of just how far the sport has come, in a country where women couldn’t even drive a car until 2018. But in the same climate that drivers are being paid to advertise their newest track, it’s a reminder of the sports-washing climate that’s impossible to avoid, and what most fans have given up in trying to fight given just about every sport has taken the easy money on the table. Because between that, crypto and gambling, there isn’t much “good money” left in our world. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a platform to talk about Motorsport for 12 years. I’m incredibly privileged to have had the opportunities I’ve had and am yet to have in it. But I’m not to bullshit you as a reader and tell you that everything’s fine. It isn’t. It’s a sport that is in disarray. Ironically, F1 has done more than any other sport to accept “reality” to gain a new audience. Now it has to reap what it has sown. 

If you’re an F1 driver, hold onto your appendix. If the last 18 months are anything to go by, it might just give someone else a job.

Turns out Carlos Sainz had a nasty case of appendicitis over the weekend, and on Friday had to go to the hospital to get it removed. So with Sainz out for Friday, Ferrari yanked PREMA’s Ollie Bearman out from his F2 weekend (Where he qualified on pole), and gave him the gig and well… he was excellent. 

He only missed out on making Q3 by 36 thousandths of a second (over his hero, Lewis Hamilton no less), and then in the race, he drove a flawless substitute drive. Was comfortable in passing and fighting with Nico Hulkenberg and Yuki Tsunoda, was clean on the restarts, and in the end when he was on the hard tyre and had to hold off Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton on the late final stop, his pace was excellent to hold onto his eventual P7 finish, and one of the strongest Driver of the Day majorities I’ve ever seen (48%). And look, on any level, it must be nice to get out of your car and Lewis himself is giving you a standing ovation! 

It’s a hilarious irony that Bearman now has more points in F1 this year (6), than in F2 (0), given PREMA’s tough start. But with Bearman also due six free practice sessions in 2024 with the Haas team, if there was any doubt left about Oli’s potential, the question marks are surely gone. See you next year, Oliver. 

PS: If you didn’t appreciate his Dad nervously sweating in the garage as Ollie was going around, you’re not human. Beautiful to see.

…You know Max Verstappen’s dominance is becoming so monotonous that he’s been reduced to lighting round treatment, right? The man just ripped off another nine-race winning streak like it was nothing. His last defeat was in September. Just another dominant display from the Red Bull team and a comfortable win. And don’t look now, but Sergio Perez was absolutely fine in a fairly close 2nd. And with Marko claiming he’s staying after talking with Red Bull CEO Oliver Mintzlaff…. Maybe winning will solve everything for the team. 

That was devilish teamwork from Haas. Using Kevin Magnussen as a pick (Including getting 20 seconds of time penalties to stay at the front of the queue), while running Hulkenberg long to slot back into 10th was masterful teamwork to get a point. And given the clear state of the field with the “Power Five” jamming most of the points positions, that could be priceless. Haas two rounds in, are just the sixth team so far to score a point. 

For what it’s worth, I’m all for upgrading to a 10-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage or for causing a collision. Should stop those moves we got from people like Checo in Singapore last season for just whacking a dude and driving away to cancel out the 5-second call.  

Pierre Gasly is now 21st in the standings after a Lap 1 gearbox failure. I’m setting the over/under to 0.5 resignations from the team before Australia.

I thought the racing was pretty solid overall, no different from any other F4 series out there. I loved the genuine care put into the intro sequence and on-screen graphics package to differentiate itself from F1’s usual template.

As expected, Doriane Pin was dominant but I think she was lucky not to be disqualified, let alone a 20-second time penalty for taking the chequered flag twice in Race 2. You cannot be going at full racing speed on a track when the racing is finished, it is needlessly dangerous. Lola Lovinfosse needs a talking to as well, her driving onto the racing line with that rejoin was incredibly dangerous. A shame because Lia Block impressed me a lot too given her relative lack of experience in single-seaters compared to some others in the field.

Biggest criticism? Nicki Shields and Jordan King were very raw together on commentary. It’s a hard skill to pick up and I’m sure it’ll get better in time, but the broadcast came off a little directionless at times, and some comments came off a little condescending. Women racing shouldn’t be a surprise, and as awesome as it is that they’ve gotten a platform they deserve, you don’t need to go full “Girls, amirite?”.

Overall though, a good start, I’m confident it’ll get better, and I hope the fans who asked for it stick around, even if Doriane Pin could easily be the series’ Max Verstappen.

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?

Motorsport101 uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Click here to read more.


What are you looking for?