Formula 1 March Review & April Preview

Posted by Dallas Johannes on Apr 1st 2024

The 2024 Formula 1 season kicked off this past month with the first race of the season in Bahrain on March 2 nd.

This March we also saw Formula 1 races in Saudi Arabia and Australia on March 9 th and March 24th respectively. Fresh off of Max Verstappen’s 3rd consecutive and his most dominant world championship, he and Red Bull are looking ripe for a repeat. However, Ferrari is stronger than they have been in years and will be right there if Red Bull makes the wrong move. Testing at the end of February hinted that Red Bull may have another rocked ship, Ferrari could be quite fast, Mercedes may not have taken as big a step as they hoped, the  Kick/Stake/Sauber is fluorescent, and Haas and Alpine may have a tough season.

 In Bahrain, the theories from testing were mostly proven true. Red Bull has indeed created a rocket ship, Ferrari is the 2 nd best team, Mercedes wasn’t where they wanted to be, McLaren surprised, the Sauber is visible, and Alpine is in for a long season. Haas, however, is not as slow as they feared they would be. They did have some bad luck in the race, which isn’t unusual, but Nico Hulkenberg surprised in qualifying with a P10 result. The Williams car looked like a handful, but some improvements later in the year could propel them higher in the team championship standings. Red Bull was able to pull large gaps on the rest of the field in Bahrain. The gap Max Verstappen built was so large that he was able to come into the pits from the lead of the race, change tires, and still come out of pit lane in P1 with a few seconds to spare before Sergio Perez came down the front straight in P2. That was over a 30 second lead over 2 nd place on a track with a mid 1 minute & 30-ish second lap time on average. As Max cruised to a victory in Bahrain with his teammate Sergio Perez coming in 2 nd, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was causing him trouble as he locked up his brakes about half a dozen times throughout the race. That issue was attributed to a brake cooling problem with as much as a 100 degree temperature difference between the right and left front brakes causing the car to lock up one of the front wheels and pull to one side. Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari was able to secure the 3 rd spot on the podium, allowing Ferrari to come away with a good haul of points in the championship.

 The 2nd race of the year was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on March 9 th. 

 The weekend in Saudi Arabia may have given the F1 community  the highlight story of the year with a young 18 year old British driver taking over the 2 nd Ferrari as Carlos Sainz fell ill with appendicitis on Friday morning. Oliver Bearman (Shown on the right) is a Formula 2 driver and a member of the Scuderia Ferrari Driver Academy where Ferrari develop the potential next generation of F1 drivers. Bearman qualified on pole for the F2 race in Jeddah on Thursday night, but received a call Friday morning that went on to make him the youngest driver to ever make their F1 debut for Ferrari. After only a 1-hour practice session to acclimate himself to the new F1 car, Bearman qualified an impressive P11 later that same evening. He went on to finish the race in P7 after managing to hold off Norris and Hamilton behind who were closing in late due to an alternate tire strategy that had the McLaren and Mercedes drivers on the soft tires at the end. Outside of Bearman’s solid debut, Verstappen pulled a gap early on Leclerc, who was later passed by Sergio Perez on lap 4. Lance stroll crashed into the wall in turn 23 on lap 6 after clipping the inside wall in turn 22 and breaking the front suspension. During the caution period, almost all the drivers pit for tires with the exception of Norris, Hamilton, Hulkenburg, and Zhou. That resulted in Norris leading and Verstappen in P2 on the restart. Verstappen retakes the lead from Norris into turn 1 on lap 13, 3 laps after the safety car ended. Verstappen doesn’t look back and takes his 100 th career podium and 9th win in a row. The real action in the middle of the race, despite monitoring young Ollie Bearman, was watching the outside-the-points battle back in the P11-P15 area. Kevin Magnussen was holding Albon, Ocon, Tsunoda, Sargent, and Ricciardo behind to help secure Nico Hulkenburg a p10 points finish for Haas. Albon eventually got past Magnussen to finish P11.

After an exciting race in Saudi Arabia and a week off, F1 arrived in Melbourne, Australia for race 3 of the year.

 The drama of Australia started early with Alex Albon crashing in the 1 st practice session. That crash resulted in damage to the chassis that could not be repaired. This early in the season, it is rare for a team of have a spare chassis available, especially a team like Williams that has had production and financial issues in the past. Williams did not have a spare chassis and made the decision Friday night that Alex Albon would use his teammate’s chassis. That left Logan Sargent without a car for the weekend and only 19 drivers in qualifying and the race rather than the usual 20. Not an easy decision for Willaims to essentially kick Sargent out of a seat to scavenge parts, however, Albon scored 27 of the 28 points for Willaims last year with Sargent as his teammate. Verstappen started the race in P1 beside Sainz in P2, fresh off of appendix surgery 2 weeks prior. Verstappen covered Sainz into turn 1 and starts to pull away. However, on lap 2 Sainz manages to pass Verstappen with DRS into turn 9. Shortly after, smoke was visible coming from the back of Verstappen’s car. A stuck rear caliper caused the right rear brake to catch on fire and Max Verstappen was forced to retire. With Verstappen in the garage, we were guaranteed a new race winner for the first time in the last 9 races. Sainz pulled a lead on Norris in P2 and went long on the first stint to have fresher tires at the end of the race. Hamilton had an engine failure on lap 16. After clearing Hamilton’s car, Sainz pulled away from his teammate, Leclerc who was in P2, and Sainz maintained that lead for the rest of the race. Alex Albon finished in P11, just outside the points with the chassis he borrowed from Logan Sargent. At the front, Carlos Sainz wins for Ferrari in Australia 2 weeks after having appendix surgery and he doesn’t have a seat for next year with Lewis Hamilton coming to Ferrari in 2025.

Looking to April and beyond

 Formula 1 is off to an exciting start this year. Will Ferrari develop their car throughout the year to challenge Red Bull? The top of the championship is close right now with Verstappen only 4 points ahead of Charles Leclerc in 2 nd place and Ferrari is only 10 points behind Red Bull in the battle for 1 st in the Constructors Championship (Constructors Champion is the team with the most point at the end of the year). Formula 1 is off to Japan with the next race on April 7 th. It is odd having Japan this early in the calendar as Japan is usually towards the end of the season. Japan usually offers a great race and a mix of wet and dry conditions at an old school track in Suzuka Circuit. Later in April, F1 will make its long-awaited return to China and the Shanghai International Circuit. Zhou Guanyu will have his home race for the first time as an F1 driver despite being in F1 since the 2022 season. It has been a great start for Formula 1 so far in 2024 and we look forward to another 2 great races at some phenomenal tracks this April.

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