Bahrain Grand Prix driver ratings: A perfect 10, Sainz shines and Bottas flops

Sam Cooper
Bahrain driver ratings

Carlos Sainz impressed while Valtteri Bottas was left in the dust by his team-mate.

The first ratings of the season are in as Max Verstappen picked up in 2024 where he left off in 2023.

Away from the Dutchman, there were strong performances at Ferrari while Alpine will want to move on quickly.

Max Verstappen – 10

A perfect performance from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening. There was a lot of talk heading into 2024 of the various drivers who could possibly challenge Verstappen but in the end, it was a result so very familiar.

Yes the car may be a cut above the rest of the grid but Verstappen takes it to another level, you need only look at Sergio Perez to confirm that.

The Bahrain race may have seemed as quiet as testing for the Dutchman, effortlessly far ahead and not even a speck on the horizon from within the first 10 laps.

A perfect performance and one that will send shivers down the spines of the rest of the field.

Sergio Perez – 8.5

If Verstappen winning was a familiar story, Perez underperforming in quali then making up for it the race is also one that has been well told.

In 2023, Perez achieved the most overtakes of any driver at 95 and he started the year strongly with three more for his resume, proving he really is excellent in race conditions.

He produced some smart overtakes to move past both Ferrari drivers and George Russell and was then able to keep his soft tyres alive long enough to not be worried about a resurgence from Sainz.

If the RB20 is a step ahead again this year, Perez will be the only one who can come close to Verstappen and if only he could get quali right…

Carlos Sainz – 9.5

There is putting yourself in the shop window and there is what Carlos Sainz did in Bahrain.

The Ferrari man was, to borrow Stake’s slogan, unleashed under the lights and was happy to put himself before the team for once, twice overtaking Charles Leclerc.

One of them was a risky move into Turn 1 but Sainz had enough control to pull it off and even once he got undone by the undercut, he again clawed back the spot.

Sainz also moved past George Russell to get onto the podium. An apt reward for a fine drive.

Charles Leclerc – 8.5

Having started P2, Leclerc was disappointed post race but his small slide down the order was not really his fault.

A brake balance issue appeared on the formation lap and Leclerc said it got worse every lap until lap 10, explaining why he had such difficulty keeping it on track.

That issue meant he could not stop Sainz moving through but the Monégasque did manage to finish ahead of Russell who himself was having issues.

George Russell – 8

It says a lot about how much Mercedes have improved that a P5 will feel like a squandered opportunity for Russell.

Perhaps uncharacteristically for a very reliable team, they seemed to get something wrong with the setup which caused both drivers to have cooling issues and therefore needed more lift and coast than they would have liked.

That had a knock-on effect on their pace meaning it was going to be tough to catch the Ferraris, but first behind them is a good start to the year.

Lando Norris – 7.5

There was a lot of pessimism heading into the Bahrain race at McLaren but that proved to be largely unfounded as both drivers finished higher than was perhaps expected.

Post-race, Lando Norris said the twisty nature of the track does not suit them but he still managed to move past Fernando Alonso into P6.

He never really had the pace to push on and get within DRS range of Russell but for a track that apparently did not suit them, P6 is a good result for Norris.

Lewis Hamilton – 7

Off the pace compared to his team-mate in quali meant Hamilton had work to do in the race but that task was made all the more difficult by power unit issues.

He did the best that he could, moving past Oscar Piastri but the seven-time World Champion found it beyond his reach to close down on Norris.

Oscar Piastri – 7

Will perhaps be a little bit disappointed to not keep a handicapped Hamiton behind him but Piastri crucially showed an ability to make tyres last, something he struggled with in his rookie year.

As Norris suggested, McLaren’s time will come at other venues but a points score was what Piastri would have wanted to start his sophomore season.

Fernando Alonso – 7

Aston Martin appeared to be lagging a little bit behind in comparison to the front runners and they chose to leave Fernando Alonso out longer in the hope of a Safety Car.

That did not come but Alonso recovered well to overtake late on and move back into ninth.

Lance Stroll – 8.5

A spin at the start was perhaps not the “talking on the track” Lance Stroll hinted at but what came after certainly was.

Having fallen to the back of the field, albeit momentarily before Nico Hulkenberg pitted, Stroll got his head down and worked his way up into the points.

Critics of the Canadian would have suggested this kind of drive was only possible by the other Aston driver but Stroll showed he is no slouch in what was an excellent recovery.

Zhou Guanyu – 8

There were plenty of pre-season predictions, myself included, that had Zhou Guanyu behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas but Bahrain showed that was not necessarily the way things will play out.

He pitted earlier than much of the grid but made it work and with five strong teams ahead, a P11 spot was probably the best Stake and Zhou could have hoped for.

Kevin Magnussen – 7

Much of the focus following Friday’s events were on the other Haas driver but during their debrief, it would have been the performance of Kevin Magnussen that encouraged the team.

Unlike 2023, the Haas car did not eat through tyres at an alarming rate and Kevin Magnussen was able to follow a strategy similar to much of the grid.

Points were always going to be difficult considering his P15 starting spot but there is enough there to suggest they could be a possibility in the future for the Dane.

Daniel Ricciardo – 6.5

Not a great race considering the RBs had promised a lot heading into the season but Daniel Ricciardo could have potentially finished one spot higher had his team-mate played ball.

The Australian was on a different strategy to Yuki Tsunoda but the Japanese driver refused to step aside so late in a race.

But P13 is not a spot Ricciardo will lose too much sleep over, for he will want to be further up the order.

Yuki Tsunoda – 6

There were no doubt some strong words in the RB debrief after Tsunoda initially defied team orders but it is easy to see where he was coming from.

Tsunoda was within DRS range of Magnussen and there were just a handful of laps to go meaning any swap with Ricciardo was likely to be a permanent one.

The petulance that we saw in his first year momentarily resurfaced, in particular when he locked up on the in-lap after the race, and Tsunoda will want to make sure that does not happen again in the near future.

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Alex Albon – 6

Started 13th but finished 15th as both Ricciardo and Magnussen passed him by. Alex Albon’s car did not seem to have too much pace during the weekend but James Vowles did suggest they would be a slow starter.

Nico Hulkenberg – 7

You do really have to feel for Hulkenberg sometimes. After a great quali result, all that hard work was undone after Turn 1 when he simply had nowhere to go and made contact with the spun Stroll.

It required a lengthy stop in the pit to replace the front wing and pretty much ripped up any strategy plans Haas would have had but the German did well to recover to 16th.

Esteban Ocon – 6.5

It is a plus that Esteban Ocon rose from second last to 17th but considering where he would like to be fighting for, this will be a result he will want to forget.

To both Alpine drivers’ credit, they have shied away from hitting out at the team and suggested they trust the process but how long that trust will still be there remains to be seen if that car continues to be this bad.

Pierre Gasly – 6.5

A similar story for Pierre Gasly who simply did not have the car to move much further up the grid. The Frenchman did the best that he could with the tools provided.

Valtteri Bottas – 5

A disappointing day from Bottas and one that saw him not only finish behind the slow Alpines but eight places further back than his team-mate. Another dodgy wheel nut leading to a near-minute pit-stop only added more misery to a bleak day.

Logan Sargeant – 5.5

An apparent steering wheel issue caused Logan Sargeant to run wide in what looked like the first DNF of the season but the American kept it alive and made it back to the pits.

New steering wheel fitted, he did complete the race but was plum last.

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