Verstappen admits he was having “a lot of fun” on his way to a dominant F1 Bahrain GP win

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Max Verstappen crushed the opposition with a dominant performance to win the opening round of the 2024 Formula 1 season with a margin of over 20 seconds over his nearest rival, team-mate Sergio Perez. And the Dutchman couldn’t hide the extent of his dominance by admitting he was just having “a lot of fun” driving at the front of the field on his own.

The reigning three-time world champion started from pole position and was never really challenged after the start, scampering away from an ailing Ferrari of Charles Leclerc suffering from brake issues early on and never looked back again.

He built up a lead of nearly 10 seconds on Perez by the time the first round of pit stops unfolded, and extended that gap over the remaining of the race to a whopping 22 seconds as the chequered flag fell, in what seemed a flawless continuation of the 2023 season which was utterly dominated by him as well.

Speaking to F1’s official channel after the race, Verstappen explained how his only major worry was defending his position on the opening lap, and admitted the underlying pace advantage of the Red Bull allowed him to focus on his “own race” and extend tyre life the way he wanted:

“The start was good, the first corner is a very tight hairpin, so naturally you want to defend the inside just to be safe and that’s what we did, and basically from there onwards we just focused on our own race.

“The car was really nice to drive on every [tyre] compound,” he said. “I think we had a lot of pace, and it was just super enjoyable to drive today.

“We really stayed out of trouble, and [it is] a great start to the year, it couldn’t be better.”

In a clear demonstration of the sheer dominance of the Verstappen/Red Bull combo, the Dutchman, not for the first time since he started to win the majority of the races held since the start of 2022, has admitted he was just “having fun” leading the pack and looking after his Pirelli tyres, rather than actually racing anyone or anything, having an “enjoyable” experience in his new RB20:

“It was a lot of fun, I felt really good in the car.

“I think it was a little bit better than expected,” he said. “Basically the only thing that changed [from qualifying] was the wind direction, and the strength of it, and it just seemed to suit our car a bit better.

“We could look after our tyres really well, which of course is a big benefit around here. And basically I could do my own race, which is very enjoyable.

“These kind of days don’t happen that often, where everything just seems to be perfect – the car just feels spot on, you don’t really have any big complaints – so that was very enjoyable.”

And whilst it’s all well and good for Red Bull after their 1-2 to kick the season off in Bahrain, Verstappen expects the team will face tougher tests as the season progresses, especially with it not being as far ahead in qualifying trim as it is in race pace:

“There’s a lot more to learn for sure, I think that’s for everyone,” he explained.

“Also today in the race, [learning] the tyres and how they were behaving, for sure we’ll look into the detail and what we can try to improve.

“I also know last year this was a very strong track for us, [and] there will be tracks where probably we’ll be a bit weaker.

“And in general, over one [qualifying] lap is also a lot closer, so there will be tracks where maybe we will start further back, and that compromises your race naturally anyway.”