A year ago, Red Bull left the Bahrain Grand Prix locked out of the points, looking up at the rest of the field as Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez both failed to finish.
A new year offered a much different story for the team.
After locking out the front row during Saturday’s qualifying session — with Verstappen on the pole and Perez just behind him — the drivers completed the weekend atop the podium. Verstappen pulled away from the field to secure first at Bahrain, while Perez came across the line ahead of him to give Red Bull a strong 1-2 finish to start the season.
The defending Drivers’ Champion said after the race that it was exactly what the team was hoping for.
“This is exactly the start we wanted, a one-two finish. I’m incredibly proud that we have achieved this as a Team,” said Verstappen after the race in a statement provided to the media, including SB Nation. “I could see early on that we had the pace in the car, I was able to build a gap from the start and then just managed it for the rest of the race, it was a straightforward day for us. It also feels good to finally win in Bahrain, I haven’t had the best history here.”
Verstappen’s win on Sunday was his first at Bahrain in ten races at Sakhir. His previous best was a second-place finish in 2021.
While Verstappen managed to pull away from the field, his teammate had to deal with a few different battles on the track to secure his second-place finish. Perez initially fell behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, but was able to fight his way back into second, and that position was secured when Leclerc retired early due to a power problem.
“My start wasn’t ideal, Charles was a little too aggressive, pushed me to the right and I did my best to avoid him. That meant my first stint wasn’t ideal, Charles was very strong on that new tyre and it was difficult to get through him quickly enough,” said Perez after the race. “I think that’s where I lost out to Max, I was behind him by about 10 or 12 seconds and after that it was game over on catching Max, it was all about getting Charles. It was important to get by him, minimise the damage and get that P2 for the Team.”
Team Principal Christian Horner was overjoyed with the result.
“What a race! Max certainly showed he has not lost any of his pace coming into the new season, grabbing pole and the victory with both hands. Checo had a bit of work to do with Charles, but he played it well and then from there it was about managing the race till the end,” exclaimed the Team Principal after the Grand Prix. “The pace was there, the reliability too, we also had a solid pit stop strategy. It’s great to have both the guys up there within a tenth, fighting over the fine margins. That pushes the Team forward and they certainly delivered. Comparing it to last year, when we finished with no points, is quite a contrast.”
Still, both Verstappen and his boss acknowledged that Bahrain is just the start to a long F1 season.
“However, it’s important to remember this is just race one, there’s a lot of racing still to do, but it is a great start, from the whole team,” said Horner. “It was important for us to get on the board, get some good points in early and we have done that today. We look forward to see what Jeddah brings.”
Verstappen noted after the race that Jeddah is a much different track than Bahrain, that will bring different challenged for Red Bull and their 2023 challenger, the RB19. “Looking ahead to Jeddah, it’s a completely different track with different conditions, there’s a lot of long straights and fast corners, so it will give us a completely different picture of where everyone is on the grid but at least this was a very good start for us.”
Still, with how last year started — and then ended — this is as close to a perfect start for Red Bull.
And one that has the rest of the field wondering how to close the gap on the defending champions.