Max Verstappen during testing at Bahrain int’l Circuit. (Red Bull photo)

F-1 Notes: Season Opens Saturday In Bahrain

SAKHIR, Bahrain — The Formula 1 world championship will open its season for the sixth time with the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix Saturday at the famed Bahrain Int’l Circuit.

Only a week after the conclusion of preseason testing, the event has been moved up one day and will be run Saturday with practice on Thursday and qualifying on Friday. The schedule will be the same the following weekend in Saudi Arabia. The move was made to accommodate the start of Ramadan on the second Sunday of March.

The Bahrain Grand Prix is traditionally one of the most spectacular races of the year as it offers a number of different overtaking opportunities, particularly in turns one, four and 11.

• Starting his 18th and last season with Mercedes, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who will join Ferrari in 2025, is as focused as ever heading into the new campaign.

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes photo)

“It’s massively encouraging and great to see everyone working so well together,” Hamilton said following the preseason test. “The focus, determination, and communication is the best I’ve ever seen.

“We know we’ve got work to do and we’re not yet where we want to be. We knew that would be the case coming into the test though. We’ve got a great platform to build on.”

Hamilton is the winningest F-1 driver in history with 103 triumphs, but he hasn’t visited victory lane since 2021.

Based on testing results, Red Bull and three-time world champion Max Verstappen appear poised to pick up where they left off last season when Verstappen set a single-season victory mark with 19 victories en route to a third straight championship.

Verstappen is ready for the new season, and he is the defending race winner at Bahrain.

“I am looking forward to the weekend ahead in Bahrain,” Verstappn said. “We had a few testing days and learned a lot from the car. Of course, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and we still need to make sure we do everything right to have a strong first weekend.”

• Last year, Verstappen become only the third driver in F-1 history to complete every racing lap in a season, following on from Michael Schumacher (2002) and Lewis Hamilton (2019).

• American Logan Sargeant returns to the Williams F-1 operation for his second season of Formula 1 racing and with it comes confidence.

“I’d been through obviously an intense season, so to have that break,” Sargeant told “I’m five kilos heavier than I was at the end of last season, and a lot of it’s muscle, obviously putting the water back into my body is a lot of it as well, but I just feel so much more healthy. I feel like my body’s in a great place.

“I feel like it’s something I needed to work on, and I feel like the first chance I really had to attack that was the offseason, and I think I’ve made strides forward from a physical point of view. (I will) just look to try and maintain (that) better than last year, try to hold that weight, try to stay a little bit stronger through the season, and I think ultimately that will help me feel healthier and also mentally better.”

• This weekend’s race will mark 20th Bahrain Grand Prix, although the total number of races that have been held at the track is 21: in 2020 the Sakhir Grand Prix was additionally run.

• The driver to have triumphed most often is Lewis Hamilton with five wins, followed by Sebastian Vettel on four and Fernando Alonso on three. 

The Spaniard is the only driver this weekend to have also taken part in the very first race at Sakhir, back in 2004. 

Last year, Max Verstappen took his first Bahrain Grand Prix win, putting an end to a victory drought for Red Bull in Bahrain that had lasted for 10 years.

Ferrari is the most successful team with seven wins at the Bahrain Grand Prix. 

• Located in the middle of the desert, on what was formerly a camel farm, the Bahrain Int’l Circuit features 1,120 palm trees.

• Being situated in a desert, you may expect sand to be an issue. However, the surrounding desert is sprayed with a sticky adhesive substance to minimize the amount of sand blowing on to the track.

• This will be the sixth time that the Bahrain Grand Prix will serve as the opening round of an F-1 season (2006, 2010, 2021, 2022, 2023).