A 200th Podium for Honda In F1, As Max Finishes P2 In Bahrain
A thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix ended with Max agonisingly finishing second by just 0.7s after a fight to the flag on a day of what might have been for the Honda-powered teams.
Starting from pole position, Max led away early on but Sergio was sadly forced to start from the pit lane after an electrical shutdown on the formation lap that will now be investigated. In a disjointed opening part of the race that also featured a first-lap Safety Car, Pierre was unfortunate to get caught up in light contact with Daniel Ricciardo on the race restart and suffered front wing damage.
Pierre came into the pits for a new front wing but a short Virtual Safety Car cut him adrift at the back of the field and he struggled with the damage before retiring with four laps remaining.
Sergio also needed an early first pit stop to change to a new set of medium tyres, putting him even further back but he proceeded to fight his way through the field with an excellent debut drive for Red Bull Racing.
Max led the opening stint but a different strategy saw him swapping the lead with Lewis Hamilton during the pit stop phases. His first stop came on lap 17 and yielded first place as Hamilton had stopped earlier, but Max sat a strong second at that stage.
Yuki had dropped a few positions at the start but soon found his confidence and started making moves, climbing into the top ten with some excellent overtakes into Turn 1 and Turn 4. After a first stop on lap 15 to switch from medium to hard tyres, Yuki made his second stop for another set of the hard compound on lap 33.
Max emerged from his second stop on hard tyres and with 17 laps to close an 8.8-second gap to the leader who had stopped 13 laps earlier. An excellent stint saw him close up and Max overtook Hamilton at Turn 4 with just over three laps remaining but ran wide on the exit and had to hand the position back. From there he couldn’t mount another firm attack and although he got right behind Hamilton, Max ended up 0.7s adrift over the line as he picked up Honda’s 200th podium in Formula 1.
Sergio climbed to fourth at one stage as he was out of sync in terms of pit stops, and his third and final stop on lap 39 left him in the lower part of the top ten. However, he put in a strong stint on medium tyres, fighting his way past Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo and Charles Leclerc - the latter with four laps remaining - to take fifth place, an excellent performance from the pit lane.
And all three Honda-powered cars that saw the chequered flag did so in the points, with Yuki saving the best for last and passing Stroll for ninth place and two points on his debut, becoming the 65th driver in F1 history to do so.
The finish gave Honda the 200th podium result in its Formula 1 history, and the 21st provided by Verstappen. The series will journey to Imola next, competing at the Italian circuit on April 18.
Technical Director, Honda F1
“Max started from pole and led for many laps, which is a very positive start to the season, although it’s a shame he missed the win by so little. In the end the gap was very close and the result was really down to the different strategies between Red Bull Racing Honda and the winner. Unfortunately, Sergio suffered an electrical shut-down on the formation lap and we will now examine the chassis and PU side to find out exactly what happened. He was able to get the car started again and then drove a very strong race, going from a pit lane start to fifth place at the flag. For Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, Yuki had a very good F1 debut, with several overtaking moves resulting in a points finish in ninth place. Pierre was never able to recover from the early incident that forced him to pit for a new front wing. However, he and his teammate were quick all weekend and we hope they can do well at their home round in Imola. I want to thank everyone at Sakura and Milton Keynes for all their hard work in delivering a new PU for this season and our two teams for producing excellent cars. We will study the data to see where we can improve and also look at the reliability issues we experienced this weekend.
Max Verstappen - Red Bull Racing Honda
Start 1st, Finish: 2nd
“We definitely made good steps today but it’s of course a shame not to get the win. We were having to manage a couple of issues throughout the race but there are positives to take from today and the whole weekend. Mercedes did the undercut but we stuck to our strategy which was working fine, the problem is that with these cars, it’s so hard to pass and track position is pretty powerful. As soon as I got close enough to Lewis I had one shot and I just went outside of the track at Turn 4 so I gave the position back, but by then my tires weren’t in a good state. We have to look at the positives, we are taking the fight to Mercedes and I think that’s great and we managed to score some good points for the Team. We will analyze what we can do better. It’s great to get Honda’s 200th podium this weekend. Now we focus on the next race.”
Sergio Perez - Red Bull Racing Honda
Start From Pit Lane, Finish: 5th
“Considering my race almost didn’t happen today, I think we can be pleased and take away the positives as the pace was really good and the potential is there. On the formation lap, all of a sudden the car shut down and I was so close to jumping out but I stayed in and somehow the car got going again which was a miracle. That meant we had to start from the pit lane which wasn’t ideal but we managed to recover and I was just happy to complete the race and get that important mileage under my belt. We’ve got a lot of data to analyze now so that we understand everything and make sure we come back stronger at the next race in Imola.”
Pierre Gasly - Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: 5th, Finish: DNF
“I’m very disappointed because we’ve had a very strong weekend since we arrived. Starting from P5 I was hoping for some good points today, but my race was over after the contact with Daniel (Ricciardo) in lap one. I broke the front wing, I had floor damage and I was obviously very far behind after just one lap, so my race was almost finished from there. It’s a big shame because we’ve shown good pace all weekend but we didn’t get the rewards today, but I think there are still a lot of positives to take from this weekend and that’s what we’ll look at for Imola.”
Yuki Tsunoda - Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: 13th, Finish: 9th
I’m happy I managed to score points in my first Grand Prix – I think this race showed how great the performance of the car is. I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed still as I lost a few positions on the first lap – due to being too cautious – and had to work throughout the race to recover these. I’ve learnt a lot here in Bahrain, which is really positive, and I will take this with me to Imola. I had some strong overtakes during the race and, for me, overtaking Fernando (Alonso) was quite an emotional experience, he’s a Formula 1 superstar that I’ve grown up watching, so that was pretty exciting. I’m really proud of my performance and I’m looking forward to seeing how we do next time out.”