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10 issues we discovered on the 2024 Saudi Arabian GP

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The irrepressible Dutchman was barely seen on display screen all through the 50-lap encounter in Jeddah, save from the beginning and his transient battle with Lando Norris after the primary security automotive of the yr, because the motion occurred elsewhere.

As a substitute, a lot of the eye was targeted elsewhere: an exciting midfield scrap courted a lot of the TV time, as did the battle between Norris and Lewis Hamilton within the dying levels of the race. And, after all, F1’s viewers had the last-minute debut of Oliver Bearman to savour, because the 18-year-old Briton was thrown within the deep finish at Ferrari when Carlos Sainz was laid up with appendicitis on Friday morning. 

1. Crimson Bull’s dominance reveals no signal of ending… 

Two races in, two good scoring weekends for Crimson Bull – discuss ominous!

Photograph by: Shameem Fahath

Final yr, George Russell had steered very early on into the season that Crimson Bull was prone to win each race of 2023. On the time his candour got here tinged with what felt like defeatism, however his prognostications had been 95% appropriate by the tip of the yr; the RB19 had been far and away the dominant automotive, and solely Carlos Sainz broke the staff’s stranglehold of the winners’ circle.  

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This season? To date, the identical – besides it feels much more unique at this juncture. Solely a technical subject or a Singapore-like capitulation is realistically going to peel Verstappen off the highest of the race outcomes, primarily based on these first two races. The three-time champion’s margin of victory was not as crushing because it had been in Bahrain, together with his 13.6s successful margin over Sergio Perez inflated by the Mexican’s unsafe pitstop launch penalty.  

Verstappen solely wanted to make use of DRS help in a single enviornment, when wresting his lead again from Norris because the Briton had assumed first place post-safety automotive. Norris, who hadn’t stopped whereas the race was neutralised, didn’t put up an excessive amount of of a combat as his focus was on preserving his medium-compound tyres. Nor may he, because the Crimson Bull DRS cracked open and delivered an enormous straightline velocity increase into Flip 1, north of 30km/h towards the DRS-less McLaren.  

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Earlier than indulging in an excessive amount of doomsaying, it’s in all probability price seeing the place the RB20 stacks up in a lower-speed setting; Monaco and Singapore have been amongst its predecessor’s weak spots, so any carryover can be one thing to look out for. However at this price, not even Perez goes to get a glance in on the prime step. 

2. …because the behind-the-scenes energy wrestle takes a brand new flip 

While Red Bull enjoys perfection on the track, it is an entirely different story off the asphalt

Whereas Crimson Bull enjoys perfection on the monitor, it’s a completely completely different story off the asphalt

Photograph by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Going through the media within the FIA’s Friday staff principals’ press convention, Christian Horner hoped, within the mild of his clearance in an investigation over alleged inappropriate behaviour to a feminine worker at Crimson Bull, that a line could now be drawn under it. He cited the intrusion on his household, together with the dismissal of the grievance in Crimson Bull’s inner investigation, as adequate cause to finish the present thread of tales in publications worldwide. 

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Crimson Bull CEO Oliver Mintzlaff appeared to quell a few of the flames, assembly with Horner and Marko independently over the weekend in Saudi Arabia, assuring the latter of his future on the staff. Mintzlaff acknowledged his happiness with the present administration construction, and his presence has helped the staff – in the meanwhile, at the very least – chart some very tough waters. However this probably isn’t the tip of the story. 

3. A future F1 seat is a Bearman necessity 

Bearman impressed with his mature drive after a last-minute call-up

Bearman impressed together with his mature drive after a last-minute call-up

Photograph by: Ferrari

After narrowly lacking out on Q3 after making a small error on his opening Q2 lap, Bearman acquitted himself brilliantly within the race. His early cube with Yuki Tsunoda hinted on the aggression he was keen to exhibit from the get-go, and finally dispatched the Japanese driver after the security automotive restart into the primary nook. Nico Hulkenberg provided a sterner problem afterwards as soon as Zhou Guanyu was brushed apart, however Bearman patiently rallied to supplant the Haas driver and cement his place within the prime 10. 

There was a short interval the place he appeared like he’d be capable to chase after George Russell, however the two matched one another toe-to-toe on lap occasions; as an alternative, Bearman used the free air to hole Hulkenberg and provides himself the absolute best probability of conserving the later-stopping Norris and Hamilton at bay. It helped that his two compatriots have been squabbling over eighth, however each have been closing on the gentle tyres; Bearman maintained his tempo, nevertheless, and this proved to be sufficient for a superb seventh place on debut. 

Though fatigued by the relentless g-forces positioned upon him by the calls for of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Bearman had carried out precisely what he wanted to do in his bid to safe an F1 seat for 2025.  

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“Everyone has seen how gifted he’s,” enthused Charles Leclerc. “It is only a matter of time earlier than he comes right here in Components 1.”

4. Mercedes versus McLaren can be a season-long battle 

Mercedes and McLaren can generate pace in different ways but with similar results

Mercedes and McLaren can generate tempo in numerous methods however with related outcomes

Photograph by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Lewis Hamilton will need to have been sick of the sight of McLaren papaya after the Saudi Arabia race, given he spent the whole lot of the race defending from one and attacking one other. Mercedes’ choice to not pull Hamilton in below the security automotive supplied a profitable payout in monitor place, however later pitched the seven-time champion right into a defensive drive towards Oscar Piastri.  

The Australian sophomore had the advantage of DRS, however his McLaren was not capable of hoover up floor just like the Crimson Bulls when the wing flap was opened on the straights. Thus, he needed to endure a number of moments of frustration as his makes an attempt to make a cross on Hamilton got here to naught; the closest try into Flip 1 ended with him skipping into the run-off having overcooked it into the chicane, permitting Hamilton to retain place. 

Piastri didn’t even get the satisfaction of pulling off the cross earlier than Hamilton pitted, however at the very least got here away with fourth place locked in after his team-mate Norris known as in for his personal cease. After pitting a lap later than Hamilton for the gentle tyres, the Bristol-born racer instantly had the Mercedes driver in his mirrors as he bought his new boots as much as temperature. Nevertheless, he had a secret weapon in his try to carry onto eighth. 

Hamilton was shocked by the tempo of the McLaren within the opening sector, and it was seen from his onboard digital camera simply how a lot velocity Norris may carry by way of the corners after Flip 4. It allowed Norris to construct sufficient of a niche to keep off DRS on sure laps, though one of many hairier moments into Flip 1 meant he’d copped a black-and-white flag for weaving. 

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Though Mercedes had the higher hand in Bahrain, McLaren gave the impression to be the stronger contender in Jeddah – and that’s prone to ebb and movement all through 2024. 

5. Questions re-emerge over Stroll after newest error 

Could, or should, Stroll be nearing the end of his F1 career?

Might, or ought to, Stroll be nearing the tip of his F1 profession?

Photograph by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

We in all probability have Lance Stroll to thank for making certain that there was a bit extra tactical latitude throughout the race in Jeddah, because it’s probably that the sphere would have been locked right into a change to the laborious tyres at round lap 20, give or take a number of excursions as groups try and cowl one another off. The Canadian’s Flip 22 shunt as an alternative prompted a number of cut up methods, as a number of drivers tried to increase their medium stints. 

As early as lap six, Stroll discovered that his medium tyres had began to get away from him having run them ragged within the opening laps trying to place distance between himself and the Tsunoda-Bearman battle behind. Nevertheless it’s extra probably a handy excuse for repeating his FP1 brush with the Flip 21 inside wall – though this time, he bent the entrance suspension and careened into the barrier on the opposite facet of the highway.  

It hadn’t been a very nice weekend for Stroll as much as that time. He’d been nicely off Fernando Alonso’s tempo in qualifying and, though he’d made a powerful begin to pull away from Tsunoda off the road, his newest prang undid that good work. It simply appeared a bit amateurish, and never significantly befitting of somebody in his eighth season of F1. 

However at the very least he brings a component of chaos. Which is… one thing. 

6. Magnussen’s hefty penalties are Hulkenberg’s acquire 

Magnussen played the team game in Saudi Arabia, but it was not to everyone's liking

Magnussen performed the staff recreation in Saudi Arabia, but it surely was to not everybody’s liking

Photograph by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

It was felt throughout the F1 paddock that the five-second penalty for leaving the circuit and gaining a bonus was far too lenient, and had since been upped to 10 seconds for this season. Kevin Magnussen was first to place that rule to the check, when he handed Yuki Tsunoda off the highway on the seventeenth lap and by no means actually fancied giving the place again. That was his first 10-second penalty. 

The second was courtesy of an earlier scuffle with Alex Albon, the place he squeezed the Williams driver into the skin wall at Flip 4 in an excessively hasty defensive form. Weighed down by the added time, Magnussen was not going to realistically problem for factors – however he may assist his team-mate get off the mark, if Haas employed him appropriately. 

Crucially, Magnussen held monitor place forward of the midfield runners, and behind Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu – who had but to cease. If he may maintain up the automobiles behind him to the tune of simply over 20 seconds, then Hulkenberg may cease and cycle out in a lot the identical place. And that’s precisely what occurred. Within the opening sector, Magnussen did his degree finest to delay the automobiles behind him and cost his battery, after which deploy the additional energy on the straights to keep away from being jumped with DRS.  

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The hole proved sufficient for Hulkenberg to cease and rejoin about two seconds forward of Magnussen – and the latter Haas may now drop the hammer to go away the midfield challengers behind. It was a well-executed plan, one which pissed off RB’s Alan Permane – who termed it “unsportsmanlike”.  

7. Albon defies injury with thrilling overtakes 

Albon was a man on a mission, but failed to net a points reward

Albon was a person on a mission, however didn’t web a factors reward

Photograph by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The shoulder-barge into the wall from Magnussen may need ended Alex Albon’s race on a special day – however as an alternative, the Anglo-Thai driver escaped with simply front-wing injury, which barely slowed him down. Tucked within the Haas driver’s DRS prepare, Albon appeared feisty in his pursuit of Esteban Ocon and Tsunoda forward, trying a transfer across the exterior of Flip 12 on each. They may have labored too, had the skin wall simply been a number of inches to the left. 

As Magnussen continued to compress the decrease midfield order, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas have been slowly catching up on the pack. Albon wanted to get his overtaking footwear on. He was a great distance again when he put his lap 33 cross on Tsunoda, straddling the road completely between comfy cross and dive-bomb at Flip 1. Ocon was subsequent in his sights, though it took one other 10 laps to clear the Frenchman as Magnussen pulled the pin as soon as Hulkenberg had stopped. 

He ran out of time to catch Magnussen, though eleventh turned his as soon as the Dane’s penalties have been utilized. Though aggrieved to not have been a contender for factors, Albon admitted that Magnussen and Haas had been fairly canny all through the 50-lap grand prix. “It’s irritating to not be preventing for factors at this time,” he mentioned. “Haas did an important job with technique utilizing Kevin to carry up the group, which was very sensible. Sadly, we didn’t have the velocity and we have been carrying entrance wing injury as nicely, so we struggled to progress by way of the sphere.” 

8. Ricciardo’s gradual begin arms energy to Perez 

Ricciardo's 2024 performances so far are not the making of a future Red Bull driver

Ricciardo’s 2024 performances to date are usually not the making of a future Crimson Bull driver

Photograph by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Just a few months in the past, the suggestion was that 2024 can be Sergio Perez’s final season at Crimson Bull. A dip in type throughout final season meant that he made specifically heavy climate of chalking up the championship’s runner-up place, and that one other season like 2023 can be sufficient for Crimson Bull’s higher-ups to look elsewhere. With Daniel Ricciardo regaining his type at AlphaTauri final season, he appeared like the person Crimson Bull wished and to revive its 2016-18 line-up on the staff. 

However that was then. That is now. Perez has began 2024 doing the job he was employed to do: end second behind Verstappen and choose up the items ought to something go awry. There’s nonetheless 22 extra races, however the Mexican appears to be taking part in the dutiful quantity two position completely to date.  

Within the meantime, Daniel Ricciardo’s begin to 2024 with the rebranded RB staff has been lower than stellar to date. In Jeddah, he was comprehensively outqualified by Tsunoda; a gradual cease through the security automotive wasn’t his fault, however the Australian may at the very least catch as much as the again of the Magnussen prepare within the decrease midfield. Besides, he couldn’t actually sit on Logan Sargeant’s gearbox – as an alternative, he barely scraped into DRS vary of the American driver.  

Then there was the lazy spin in the direction of the tip of the race at Flip 1, which fairly capped off his night. The RB bundle, which many steered can be a Crimson Bull clone, appears to fall off the boil in race trim, which Ricciardo is battling extra in comparison with Tsunoda. The Japanese driver has been capable of get a tune out of it in qualifying, and at the very least figured within the battle for factors till Magnussen put these aspirations on ice. His team-mate, nevertheless, is hardly trying like the driving force that Crimson Bull would contemplate turfing Perez out for. 

9. Audi has dispelled wavering dedication rumours 

Audi has laid to rest speculation that it could withdraw from F1 before ever making the grid

Audi has laid to relaxation hypothesis that it may withdraw from F1 earlier than ever making the grid

Photograph by: Audi Communications Motorsport

When Audi introduced that it could be coming into F1 by way of its buy of the Sauber staff, it gave the impression to be doing so tentatively. The preliminary buy of 25% of the staff appeared to offer the German producer an out if it didn’t fancy going by way of with its plans earlier than the 2026 handover date, when the staff turns into a full works staff. 

This opened the ground to sporadic rumours about its future. Final yr, Audi was mentioned to be behind with its powertrain mission, and the departure of its CEO Markus Duesmann in the direction of the tip of 2023 forged additional doubt on its plans. In any case, his successor Gernot Dollner is seemingly much less passionate about F1 as a complete.

This led to Sauber staff consultant Alessandro Alunni Bravi having to bat off questions on Audi’s dedication, stating that the plans have been nonetheless anticipated to go forward. This has now been totally realised with the acquisition of 100% of the staff now accepted, fairly than ready till 2026 to finalise the deal. 

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Andreas Seidl will stay on board as CEO, whereas Oliver Hoffmann – who labored with Duesmann on placing the Audi F1 plans in place – sits on Sauber’s board of administrators. This can now pave the best way for Audi to start its funding into the staff to make sure it hits the bottom working when it joins F1 as a producer entity. 

10. Sauber suffers second gradual cease in sullen Saudi Saturday 

No pace, no points, no smiles. It has been a tough start to 2024 for Sauber

No tempo, no factors, no smiles. It has been a tricky begin to 2024 for Sauber

Photograph by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Audi’s takeover might be none too quickly, as Sauber endured a depressing weekend in Jeddah. Regardless of confidence that the C44 automotive is far improved over its Alfa Romeo-branded predecessor, the staff doesn’t seem to have made a lot headway within the midfield order; certainly, each automobiles have been dumped out in Q1 in Jeddah, not helped by Zhou Guanyu’s apply crash that value him an opportunity of setting a qualifying time. 

Zhou endured additional distress, having initially appeared like an out of doors wager for some extent when working to the alternate technique having stayed out after the security automotive. When he finally pitted, Sauber suffered a repeat of its pitstop hoodoo that value Valtteri Bottas a heap of time in Bahrain, and Zhou misplaced an additional 25 seconds with a gradual tyre change because of a cross-threaded wheel nut. Bottas fared no higher in Jeddah, with poor tempo on the laborious tyre that prompted the Finn to make a second cease. 

Tempo was restored to Bottas’ automotive with a second set of soppy tyres, however was hurled even additional down the order to make sure he was going to complete nicely exterior of the factors. “We went for an aggressive technique with soft-hard, however we figured fairly shortly we have been struggling quite a bit on the laborious compound, by no means correctly getting it to work,” he rued. “We switched for softs once more in the direction of the tip, hoping it could make a distinction – it did – however sadly, we had misplaced an excessive amount of time in comparison with our opponents, and couldn’t make a lot of an enchancment.”

The closest the chasing pack came to Verstappen in Saudi Arabia

The closest the chasing pack got here to Verstappen in Saudi Arabia

Photograph by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

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