Bahrain 'went even better than expected' for Verstappen

Race winner Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme. 02.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Price / XPB Images
© XPB 

Defending champion Max Verstappen got his 2024 season off to the best possible start with a huge win for Red Bull over the rest of the field in Saturday's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Verstappen had claimed pole position in Friday's qualifying session, and when the lights went out to get today's race underway he made an emphatic move to prevent Ferrari's Charles Leclerc getting ahead of him into the first corner.

After that, Verstappen didn't put a foot wrong and went on to pull out almost a second lap over the opening stint. By the time the race was over he had more than 20s in hand over the other drivers led by his team mate Sergio Perez.

It squashed speculation that the new RB20 might not be as strong as the team had been hoping for, and immediately sparked gossip that this year's car could be even better than the one that swept all but one race in 2023.

Even Verstappen appeared to be surprised at just how well the day had gone for him agreeing with the suggestion that it had been "playtime" for him when interviewed after the race in parc ferme.

“Unbelievable, I think today went even better than expected," he said. “I think the car was really nice to drive on every compound. We had a lot of pace.

“It was just super enjoyable to drive today," he continued. "We really stayed out of trouble. Great start to the year - I mean, it couldn't have been better. It was a lot of fun, I felt really good in the car.

"It's always very special to have these kinds of days because, they don't happen very often that it just all goes perfect, and you're just one with the car and everything just feels great.”

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB20.
02.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Race Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Staley / XPB Images

“The start was good,” Verstappen said when asked about his first lap battle with Leclerc. “Of course the first corner is a very tight hairpin, so naturally you want to defend the inside just to be safe.

"That's what we did, and from there onwards we just focused on our own race," he added.

Verstappen had the advantage of having save an extra set of soft tyres during qualifying than his leading rivals, allowing him to run the last stint back on the red-walled compound.

As a result, Verstappen was also able to pick up the extra bonus point for setting the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:32.608s compared to 1:34.090s for Perez.

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter