F1, get set for the upcoming season in Bahrain

Photo of the upcoming F1 season in Bahrain on saturday.

The upcoming F1 season, now the lengthiest ever with a record-breaking 24 races, begins this Saturday in Bahrain, heralding what may prove to be a challenging journey for competitors aiming to close the gap and challenge Max Verstappen’s dominant Red Bull team.

Insights from last week’s three-day testing at the Sakhir circuit suggest that the reigning champions, who triumphed in nearly all of the 22 Grand Prix races last season, are poised to maintain their winning streak.

Despite expressions of confidence from Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, and Aston Martin regarding their new car designs and improved performance, the true extent of their progress remains to be seen.

There’s a widespread suspicion that when the race gets underway on Saturday night—marking the start of the season’s initial two rounds in the Middle East, adjusted a day earlier than usual to accommodate Ramadan—Red Bull will surge ahead and take the lead.

McLaren team principal Andrea Stella noted to reporters in Bahrain, “There’s one car that seems to have made a significant leap. Unfortunately, it’s the same car that was already the fastest last year.”

Fans eager for tighter competition and a shift in dominance after Red Bull’s overwhelming success with 38 victories in the last 44 races are hopeful that any potential gap between teams will narrow as the season progresses.

With regulations remaining unchanged for a significant period, there’s typically a leveling of the playing field across the grid.

Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, in conversation with Reuters, emphasized the increased number of races providing more track time, data, and chances to scrutinize rivals’ advancements, suggesting that significant shifts could occur during the F1 season.

Although Ferrari topped the testing charts, Mercedes also demonstrated promise with a more cooperative car compared to its previous model.

“We’re in a decent position,” noted Mercedes technical director James Allison following testing. “It’s no secret that Red Bull currently holds a slight advantage, but we’re committed to closing the gap and advancing strongly throughout the F1 season.”

The upcoming season signals the departure of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes, as he prepares to transition to Ferrari in 2025, filling the spot left by Spaniard Carlos Sainz.

The debate regarding who will step into Hamilton’s shoes at Mercedes will persist for months, alongside uncertainty regarding Max Verstappen’s future teammate, given that Mexican Sergio Perez’s contract expires at year’s end.

Despite cars not yet hitting the track, speculation is already rampant, particularly with more than half of the grid’s contracts nearing expiration.

China returns to the schedule for the first time since 2019, while Italy’s Imola is back after last year’s race was called off due to flooding.

Moreover, there will be six sprint weekends, introducing Miami and Shanghai for the first time, with a revamped format featuring a 100km race on Saturday prior to Sunday’s qualifying.

There are no newcomers to the driver lineup, and surprisingly, no changes have been made to the teams since the conclusion of the 2023 F1 season.

New faces in team management include Ayao Komatsu replacing Guenther Steiner at Haas, and Laurent Mekies taking over at the rebranded Visa Cash App RB team (previously AlphaTauri).

Additionally, Sauber-operated Alfa Romeo now competes as Stake F1 in areas where gambling laws allow.


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