Formula 1: Max Verstappen, Red Bull shred ongoing narrative in Bahrain

Whatever "distraction" Red Bull were supposedly dealing with did not translate to the race track during the 2024 Formula 1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain Grand Prix, Formula 1
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain Grand Prix, Formula 1 / Bryn Lennon/GettyImages

The 2024 Formula 1 season got underway on Saturday at Bahrain International Circuit with the Bahrain Grand Prix, fresh off the conclusion of an investigation into anonymous complaints about Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

The Horner situation took a new turn on Thursday when an anonymous and unverified leak went out to various media outlets and individuals within Formula 1. Similar to everything related to the accusations (which, to this day, nobody really knows exactly what they are), nothing about this so-called "leak" was confirmed by anybody.

Red Bull's investigation exonerated Horner, and after a meeting with FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem following the alleged leak, he was back on the pit wall for the Bahrain Grand Prix itself.

Red Bull distracted in Bahrain?

There was this narrative entering the weekend that this Horner situation would serve as a distraction ahead of what initially viewed as a season of coronation rather than competition for Red Bull, which dominated the 2022 and 2023 world constructor championships. Last year, they won 21 of 22 races on the schedule.

But was this narrative nothing more than an attempt to stir the pot and drum up interest in a story that many had simply hoped would prove true? Red Bull's lackluster performance in the first two practice sessions certainly added fuel to the fire, but as the great Allen Iverson once said, "we talking about practice".

All Max Verstappen did this weekend was take a pole position by more than two tenths of a second and lead all 57 laps around the 15-turn, 3.363-mile (5.412-kilometer) Sakhir, Bahrain road course en route to a victory of over 22 seconds.

During the final tire stint, his lead actually decreased by more than three seconds at one point, indicating that he probably could have pushed harder if he had wanted to.

With the fastest lap also held by the three-time reigning world champion, his 55th career win marked his fifth career Grand Chelem, moving him into a third place tie on the all-time list with Michael Schumacher and Alberto Ascari.

The 26-year-old Dutchman now trails only Jim Clark (eight) and Lewis Hamilton (six) in this category and has recorded at least one Grand Chelem in four straight seasons, something only Clark had done.

But sure, he's really distracted -- distracted enough that he can literally be streaming FIFA in a hotel room before the race and still disappear into the distance on Grand Prix night.

To add to that, teammate Sergio Perez finished the race in second place, giving Red Bull a 1-2 finish to open up the season behind the wheel of the RB20. Verstappen won 17 of the 2023 season's final 18 races, and Perez only secured three runner-up finishes during that stretch, so this was a much-needed result for him to start a contract year.

While Horner himself was obviously a bit distracted in that he had to deal with the investigation and the fallout from the leaks, the idea that Red Bull as a whole would suffer from this ever-vague situation surrounding their team boss was totally shredded in the 2024 season opener.

It was quickly shown to be more of a hope than a real development. As Horner stated before the weekend, unity within the team has "never been stronger".

While nobody knows what lies ahead, especially amid the recent Jos Verstappen comments, it is certainly looking like their status as preseason favorite was justified.

Formula 1 sees first-time scenario that will probably never happen again. Formula 1 sees first-time scenario that will probably never happen again. dark. Next

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is the next race on the 2024 Formula 1 schedule. It is scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 9, with live coverage set to begin at 11:55 a.m. ET on ESPN2. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss it!