Max Verstappen’s dominant victory in Bahrain was a first warning shot to the rest of the field that it would take something very special to beat him.
At no time did Verstappen see the risk of defeat. The straight-line performance of the Ferrari cars – suggesting it was their main strength over Red Bull – meant Verstappen had to nail the start and ensure Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who started third and fourth, weren’t close enough to get past the end of the long straight on the opening lap. So that’s what he did, reacting quickest to the lights and leaving the more sluggish Pérez to deal with the Ferraris. As Leclerc swept around Pérez to finish second, Verstappen was well out of reach.
The gap grew with every lap. 1.9 seconds, 2.6, 3.4, 4.1, 4.7. After seven laps he was already five seconds ahead. “It was important to have that first stint in which I could close the gap,” said Verstappen. “After that I was able to take good care of my tires.”
The only brief moment of concern for Verstappen and Red Bull came on lap 10 when he radioed that his rear tires were locking while downshifting. He radioed the problem to his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, who advised him to change the engine mode. The problem soon disappeared and was brushed off by Verstappen after the race as “not too big a problem”.