How RB and Ferrari fired the first shots in 2024 team-mate wars

Michelle Foster
Daniel Ricciardo smiling as he walks with Yuki Tsunoda.

Daniel Ricciardo smiling as he walks with Yuki Tsunoda.

All hail Max Verstappen the 2024 Formula 1 World Champion, but behind him, as Martin Brundle put it, there’s a “story in every seat” and who would’ve thought those stories would begin to play out as early as Bahrain.

Verstappen won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in dominant fashion as he raced from lights to flag, heading a 1-2 for Red Bull with winning margin from 2023 to this year up from 12s to 22.

Team-mate wars takes on a deeper meaning in light of 2025 dreams

Fans, pundits and the barfly three seats down may be saying it’s only the first race of the season and a lot can still happen, but the only “lot” on the horizon is the number of Verstappen wins.

All though is not lost.

“There really is a story in every seat on the grid,” Brundle declared on the eve of the championship, adding: “Those drivers who don’t have a fixed contract for 2025 will realise there is a lot of threat and a lot of opportunity going forward.”

For Yuki Tsunoda, the opportunity is the open 2025 Red Bull Racing race seat that Sergio Perez may yet vacate. The threat is Daniel Ricciardo.

Ironically, some 72 hours after he told the media in Bahrain, including, that Ricciardo was his “team-mate” and not his rival, adding that “Formula 1, this is our life [but we have] to be team-mates”, he came oh so close to crashing into his team-mate on the cooldown (yes, you read that right, cooldown) lap of the Grand Prix.

In a fit of rage, madness, or immaturity, Tsunoda smarted over being told by RB to give 13th place to Ricciardo that he challenged his team-mate for position after the Grand Prix.

Accelerating past Ricciardo down to the Turn 8 hairpin, he locked up and went wide, before cutting back around the outside of Ricciardo and almost colliding with him.

And that was display of pique was because of a battle for 13th and 14th places! Can you imagine the fallout if/when points are involved? Alas for Tsunoda, his hysterics at the Sakhir circuit may already be a point in the negative column for him with his Red Bull bosses. recommends

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

Bahrain Grand Prix conclusions: F1’s growing Red Bull problem, Alpine disaster

RB wasn’t the only team that got spicy on Saturday as over at Ferrari there’s another big storyline being written, just no one expected it to kick off as early as round one.

In arguably one of the most intriguing team-mate wars of the season there is Charles Leclerc with his new Ferrari contract, and then there’s Carlos Sainz, the driver “not rejected but passed over”, as Damon Hill politely put it, as he was informed by Ferrari back in January that his contract would not be renewed as the team had signed Lewis Hamilton in his stead.

Leclerc needs to show the world that Ferrari made the right call, and cement his claim on the team’s number one spot before he partners up with a seven-time World Champion, while Sainz wants to not only prove the Scuderia kept the wrong driver but he’s also auditioning for a 2025 race seat. He nailed that on Saturday.

Sainz didn’t need team orders to overtake Leclerc, passing him on lap 11 in a move that was perhaps a bit too close for comfort for the Ferrari pit wall.

“It never felt close inside the car,” he declared, but did concede he had an “overtaking, attacking race” and was loving being “aggressive, attacking”.

He was made to do it all over again six laps later having fallen behind Leclerc in the pit stops, although this time the Monégasque driver fought back but ultimately lost the tussle a few corners later. 2-0 to Sainz.

Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur defended Sainz, saying he was “not unprofessional” and he was in fact “happy” with how his driver raced. But more to the point – and it’s a very big point for Sainz – Mercedes motorsport boss and potential 2025 employer Toto Wolff noted his performances.

“Carlos put in a very strong performance,” he said as per “He’s probably still driving around with some anger.”

As the anger and the auditions rumble on, Leclerc had best beware he’s going to have an attacking, and at times “aggressive”, team-mate and one who has already thrown down his marker.

But after a grand prix where the rest of the team-mates were either separated by distance or already have 2025 contracts in place, Alpine not included as there was nothing to fight for there, one can almost guarantee that every race this season will have some sort of team-mate kerfuffle as they face those threats and opportunities.

RB and Ferrari only fired the first shots…

Read next: Fred Vasseur reacts to feisty Carlos Sainz display as Charles Leclerc dynamic changes