The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, described the failure of both his cars in the final stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix as his team’s “worst nightmare”. Ferrari claimed a one-two victory with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at Formula One’s season-opening race.
The reigning world champion, Max Verstappen, who had been on for second place, failed to score, as did his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez. Verstappen was left angry with his team, while their retirements allowed Lewis Hamilton to capitalize with an unlikely third place for Mercedes. The extra points he scored, he noted, might be vital in a long, 23-race season.
Verstappen had fought with Leclerc throughout the race and been on very close on pace with the Ferrari but, having won the title last year, his defense took a setback in the first round and Horner was unequivocal about how hard it had hit the team.
“I can’t remember the last time that happened to us but obviously it’s your worst nightmare,” he said. “It’s hugely disappointing, not only to lose a podium with Max, but then also to lose a podium with Czech [Pérez’s nickname] as well. We need to get on top of the issue and come back next weekend.”
Verstappen, who was already angry with his team at what he considered was a cautious approach to his tire use that he believed had cost him chances to attack Leclerc’s lead, issued a damning verdict on what had happened. “You can always say that problems can happen and you might have to retire. But at this level, after already having so much information with engines and stuff, it shouldn’t happen.”
Having won last season’s title on the final lap of the final race against Hamilton, taking the championship by just seven points, he was aware of how vital every one might be in what may yet be a three-way fight between Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
“It is just disappointing, you always say to yourself and to the team: ‘We have to score points, it doesn’t matter if it’s first or second in the first race,’” he said. “To lose so many points for the team is also very disappointing, because for the championship where sometimes it can be really tight until the end these are very important points.”
For Hamilton and his teammate George Russell, who secured fourth, the points were more than they had expected having been well off the pace of both Ferrari and Red Bull in the race. The seven-time champion acknowledged they may prove vital and that while they had needed some good fortune he also noted they had battled hard to stay in a position to take advantage should anything untoward happen as was the case.
“Every point can make a difference, I have lost world titles with just one point,” he said. “While we are currently not necessarily performing-wise fighting with these guys, this is not damage limitation but it’s a really, really great result. Of course we are fortunate but ultimately we have done a better job. We have had better reliability. I wouldn’t say that it’s luck, it is everyone’s hard work.
“It’s such a long season, it is going to be such a hard battle but we love a challenge. I really do enjoy a challenge. There is no greater feeling when you all come together and get a result like this. We have had better reliability.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism