Forget the ‘title race’, F1 2024’s fireworks will come at Ferrari…

Sam Cooper
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz

Carlos Sainz showed he would no longer accept second fiddle at Ferrari.

If Ferrari had any hope that Carlos Sainz would disappear quietly into the night, the first few laps in Bahrain proved how wrong that was.

In pre-season, the Spaniard has been the perfect professional, carefully navigating the many questions asked of him while making sure not to piss off his current employer but when it came to on track, it was a different matter.

Whether it was a calculated move by Sainz or something he did in the heat of the moment once the visor went down, the soon-to-be-former Ferrari driver took no prisoners under the lights in Bahrain.

In previous years, Sainz accepted his pleas to be allowed past team-mate Charles Leclerc being ignored but in Sakhir, he was not waiting for permission.

Once a suggestive comment that he had more pace was ignored by race engineer Riccardo Adami, Sainz took matters into his own hands.

With Leclerc struggling for grip, Sainz made his move going into Turn 1 and it was not the kind of move we are used to seeing between two team-mates.

Ferrari gave Leclerc a helping hand by pitting him first, utilising the powerful undercut, but even that did not disturb Sainz. Soon he was back in front and also past George Russell into the podium spots.

This was not how the script was supposed to go. Leclerc is the future of Ferrari while Sainz has just been discarded for a 39-year-old. The combined points of the 2025 Ferrari drivers were 18, Sainz scored just three points fewer by himself.

If Max Verstappen’s walk to another title looks likely, the tension at Ferrari seems like a major story of the season already, especially if Bahrain was a sign of things to come.

Up until now, Leclerc and Sainz have been two of the friendlier team-mates on the grid but the opening race of the season suggests that relationship will be put under significant pressure.

Fred Vasseur then has a new challenge on his hands. The Frenchman has not been backwards in coming forwards when it comes to making kissy faces at Hamilton but that overt affection will have had an effect on Sainz.

Speaking ahead of the race, the Ferrari team principal said his task of the first year was to lift morale but season two’s objectives looks like one that Toto Wolff faced in 2016.

Race 1 and with plenty more opportunities to come, the tension is as low as it will be but as the grands prix go by, expect fireworks from within the Ferrari team.