Max Verstappen was in a league of his own as he strode to victory in the Formula One curtain-raiser in Bahrain on Sunday, whilst Charles Leclerc retired with a technical issue.
Suspicions of Red Bull supremacy were confirmed at the Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir, however, there is room for hope for Ferrari, who showed pace and nous over the course of a promising weekend, which ultimately with just a smattering of points.
Verstappen’s victory never looked in doubt. Despite a lightning start from Leclerc, which allowed the Monégasque to get the jump on Sergio Perez at the first corner, Verstappen’s lead wasn’t challenged.
It was clear that only a bad pitstop or a technical failure would deny the reigning World Champion, and it never came. Behind him, there was little movement with a midrace battle between former world champions Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton providing a brief moment of entertainment in a largely processional race.
Charles Leclerc: “Red Bull were on another planet.”
Despite all of the talk of Aston Martin’s competitivity, it was clear that Ferrari looked closest to Red Bull for a large period of the race. Leclerc competed with Perez before differing strategies saw the Mexican driver take second place off the Monégasque.
Leclerc was still in contention for the second step of the podium before a loss of power on lap 41 prematurely ended a promising race. The 2022 Bahrain GP winner wouldn’t finish this year’s edition, and Ferrari would ultimately miss out on a podium altogether, despite evidencing some promising race pace.
Having got the best of Hamilton in a lively battle, Alonso then overtook compatriot Carlos Sainz in the closing stages to reach the podium. Ferrari’s Spaniard struggled with bouncing but would beat the charging Hamilton to the chequered flag, taking 12 hard-earned points away from the Gulf state.
The grid heads to Saudi Arabia
Despite positive signs, there was nonetheless disappointment for Leclerc. “[The retirement] was a shame. We were having a good race until that point and we have to maximise our points in such races. Red Bull were on another planet in the race and third would have been our best possible result; they were really too quick for us this weekend,” said the Monégasque driver.
The season is yet long, and Leclerc will be hoping to score his first points of the season at the next race in Saudi Arabia on 19th March.
Photo from Scuderia Ferrari press centre