Former F1 driver names F1’s ‘problem child’ and his one ‘really great positive’

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Alpine could be in trouble this season.

Former F1 driver Christian Klien believes Alpine are in for a difficult start to the championship, especially if Haas have resolved their tyre issues.

Formula 1 got down to business at the Sakhir circuit on Thursday as the 2024 season began with practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

And it yielded a timesheet that not many saw coming.

Alpine could be in trouble this season

While Mercedes were on top with Lewis Hamilton leading George Russell in a 1-2, defending World Champion Max Verstappen was in sixth place and almost half a second down.

And the surprises kept coming with Nico Hulkenberg putting his Haas VF-24 up into seventh place while Sauber and Alpine mixed it up at the bottom of the timesheet.

Klien reckons if Haas have resolved last year’s tyre-eating issues, they could put Alpine in the shade this season.

Asked by Speedweek who is the ‘problem child’ based on Thursday’s performances, the ServusTV pundit replied: “That’s Alpine for me.

“Because if Haas has really made progress in terms of tyre wear and thus race speed, then the French could easily have to take over the red lantern in the race.”

He added: “Nico Hulkenberg’s one lap in the Haas racing car, that was really great.

“Later in the second practice session, I stood in the Haas pit and looked over his race engineer’s shoulder. That’s why I know: Nico’s endurance runs were encouraging.”

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Christian Klien names his Bahrain surprise

As for who surprised the Austrian, that was Mercedes who set the pace ahead of the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso with Carlos Sainz fourth fastest in the Ferrari.

“Mercedes,” he said. “The car looked really good on the track.

“I expected Ferrari to be stronger than Mercedes. But maybe the Italians know exactly where they stand, so they didn’t have to flex their muscles.”

He believes that’s the position Red Bull took with Verstappen sixth and his team-mate Sergio Perez in 10th place.

“The cards still haven’t been revealed,” he said. “A pointer to this, during the winter tests we experienced faster lap times than today.

“The conditions weren’t bad. I was in turn 11, it was a bit windy. It also became clear there – Mercedes was fully accelerating, but Red Bull Racing wasn’t at all. There’s more to come.”

“As far as pure speed is concerned, we have to wait for qualifying Friday,” he added. “Then we will finally find out what the pace of the individual cars looks like on a lap. But that doesn’t have to correspond to the picture in the race.

“I expect that Red Bull Racing with Max Verstappen will be the benchmark. Behind them, I see Mercedes, Ferrari, and Aston Martin at a comparable level, ahead of McLaren.

“But with a performance like Thursday’s here, Nico Hulkenberg can even get on the McLaren’s nerves and move into the top ten.”

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