Max Verstappen will be glad the F1 Bahrain GP is over for another year. In 2021, with a faster car, he relentlessly hustled Lewis Hamilton and eventually took the lead – only to be deemed to have breached track limits and forced to hand back the place.
At this year’s Bahrain GP, Verstappen was faced with another formidable racing opponent. Despite being a Force Majeure since his entry into Formula 1, Verstappen at times appears to be a little more brute force than thinking man’s F1 strategy.
Today he made three passes on Charles LeClerc, each resulting in the Monegasque driver re-passing him, twice on the second DRS zone at turn 4.
The Ferrari clearly has great traction in the slower corners and was well ahead of Max – almost 1 second – by the beginning of each time around the start/finish straight.
The Red Bull – definitely quicker down the straight even before the addition of DRS – needed the entire length of the pit straight to catch and overtake LeClerc’s Ferrari. But it meant Verstappen had to brake later than Charles and the Monegasque driver admitted this was a tactic he used to re-pass Verstappen each time a couple of corners later.
“I was braking early at turn 1 to be just behind him (Max) at the DRS detection point. It worked…… to take back my position.”
It is a little surprising Verstappen didn’t vary his tactic over the 3 attempts to pass the Ferrari at turn 1. Surely, it would have been more expedient to stay behind the Ferrari into turn 1, save the battery boost and be ready to use DRS into T4 and pass the Ferrari there.
This would’ve meant the LeClerc would have most of the lap to stay with the Red Bull before having a chance to re-take the lead.
Still, the positive for the Dutchman is that the RB18 is a way superior car to the Mercedes W13. It will probably take Merc 3-5 races to sort out the porpoising and until then they have no chance of evaluating the rest of the car refinements required.
By then Red Bull, who develop their cars well throughout each season, and Ferrari will be out of sight.