Verstappen feeling vindicated by Bahrain victory
One year ago it looked like Max Verstappen was in the running to claim victory in the Bahrain GP, only for his Red Bull (and that of team mate Sergio Perez) to suffer late fuel supply issues forcing them both to retire.
It wasn’t the first time that Verstappen had missed out on victory in Bahrain. But this time round it was Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc who suffered a technical failure and stopped before the finish.
Even before then, Verstappen had pulled out a dominant lead over the initial stint of the race, putting him well on his way to winning in Bahrain for the first time. It’s also the first time he’s come out top in any season opener.
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“Very happy to finally also win here in Bahrain,” verstappen said in parc ferme after the end of the night race.
Verstappen explained that the ease of his victory this time was down to a perfect first stint on soft tyres that allowed him to pull away from the rest of the field initially headed by Leclerc.
“It was a very, very good first stint where I basically made my gap,” he commented. “From there on, it was all about just looking after the tyres, because you never really know what’s going to happen later on in the race.
“We just wanted to make sure that we had the right tyres and in good condition as well,” he added.
The evening hadn’t been entirely problem free, with Verstappen reporting some locking of the RB19’s rear axle when downshifting early in the proceedings. But the Red Bull pit wall came up with a fix to get him over the issue.
“Nothing big. Just little, little things. You always want to fine-tune so I think they’re quite easy to get on top of,” he said, explaining that a cycle through the steering wheel settings had brought it all under control.
Victory in the first round doesn’t mean the title is in the bag just yet: Leclerc won in 2022 but lost the title race to verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton was the winner in 2021 only to lose his crown to Verstappen nine months later.
But it’s certainly a nicer way to start the campaign than last year’s disappointment, and Verstappen is already looking forward to the next round in Saudi Arabia in two weeks time to try and do it all again.
“I think we have a good race package. Of course it will depend a bit race-to-race, but we can definitely fight with this.” he said.
“Also a big thank you to the team over the winter what they’ve done to give us such a quick race car again.”
As for Perez, he had a less straightforward run in Bahrain after losing second place to Leclerc at the first corner, only for the superior pace of the Red Bull to allow him to get back ahead of the Ferrari after the first round of pit stops.
“It’s a great start. When we look back at last year, how we started here, it is really nice,” he said. “It’s a nice comeback as a team. We worked really hard over the winter, so it’s great to see all the boys enjoying the first race.
“I’m feeling comfortable with the car and we have a strong package,” he replied when asked what he expected from the rest of the year based on this weekend’s performance. “I will give my best.”
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