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Mercedes and their driver Lewis Hamilton gave an impressive performance in Bahrain, foreshadowing potential dramatic events in the upcoming Formula 1 season.
F1 Sport

Mercedes and their driver Lewis Hamilton gave an impressive performance in Bahrain, foreshadowing potential dramatic events in the upcoming Formula 1 season.


After weeks of turmoil that had shifted focus away from sports, Formula One has finally kickstarted the action in Bahrain. Intriguingly, the event hinted at an equally thrilling spectacle on the track.

The Red Bulls were expected to make a successful comeback for the 2024 season as their cars were introduced. This came after a period of turmoil for the team, which persisted behind the scenes in Bahrain.

Instead, Lewis Hamilton placed first on the first day of the new season with a surprisingly quick Mercedes, overthrowing the previous leaders.

Christian Horner was back on the pit wall leading his Red Bull team after an investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing in an alleged incident of misconduct towards a female employee. Results from previous testing indicated that Red Bull had a strong car, with a three-tenths advantage over their competitors in race simulations. There was an expectation that they would continue to dominate in Bahrain.

Horner likely appreciated the emphasis on analyzing lap times and executing a run plan. However, there was no comfort to be found on the timing screens as Red Bull struggled in the desert.

Practice is only the first salvo of the weekend but this was an opening as unexpected as it was doubtless welcome at Mercedes, who have started the last two seasons only with a sinking feeling as their car proved hard to handle and off the pace. Hamilton, who will leave Mercedes for Ferrari next season, has bemoaned his uncompetitive machinery for two years now, wrestling with cars that were not so much recalcitrant as positively spiteful, but on Thursday he enjoyed as positive a start as might be hoped for.

Christian Horner speaks to the media in Bahrain.View image in fullscreen

During the second practice session held at night, he was the fastest, followed closely by his teammate George Russell who was two-tenths of a second behind. However, Verstappen struggled and trailed in sixth place, almost half a second behind.

This was not what was anticipated and did not quite align with the ongoing story in Bahrain. There are 10 teams present for the first race of the season, but at times it seems like there is only one. There has been a consistent crowd outside of Red Bull’s hospitality area, with TV crews and media stationed on this island that captured their full attention all week.

The team anticipated that the on-track activity would provide a temporary diversion from the controversy surrounding them. They had hoped for a resolution after the accusations against Horner were dropped, but during the session, messages believed to be part of the investigation were leaked.

As the paddock became filled with speculation and guesses once again, Mercedes was attracting attention and offering the possibility that this year may not be as predictable as originally thought.

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In 2024, Mercedes introduced a completely new car model, abandoning the one that caused them trouble for two years and could not be improved into a successful option. They acknowledged its inadequacy as early as the first race of the 2023 season, but it took them a year to debut a replacement on the track.

After a successful round of testing, there was a sense of hopeful optimism. The car was pushed to its limits and had a newfound sense of stability in the corners, a welcome change. In Bahrain, under the bright lights, Hamilton effortlessly maneuvered his way through the track with the same enthusiasm we have come to expect from him.

It would be imprudent to make assumptions, as the competition intensifies on qualifying day with lower fuel levels and increased engine power.

But this was the sole session prior to qualifying in the evening settings which will also be present on Friday, thus there was no need for the team to hold back. Verstappen was dissatisfied with the car’s stability during the earlier session and expressed his frustration to the team. However, they have previously addressed this issue during the initial days and fine-tuned it for the decisive single lap. Yet, the team will undoubtedly pay close attention to any adjustments needed during the overnight break.

Red Bull’s expectations for a return to normalcy, both on and off the track, have not been met as Mercedes currently dominates and appears poised to reclaim the spotlight.

Source: theguardian.com