All that you to need to know ahead of the 2024 F1 season - Hindustan Times
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All that you to need to know ahead of the 2024 F1 season

Feb 23, 2024 02:23 PM IST

This is going to be the longest season yet in the history of the sport with as many as 24 races to take place in 21 countries.

The three-day F1 testing is underway in Bahrain and we are just a few days away from the 2024 season opener at the same venue on March 2.

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll in action during testing.(REUTERS)
Aston Martin's Lance Stroll in action during testing.(REUTERS)

This is going to be the longest season yet in the history of the sport with as many as 24 races to take place in 21 countries. Last year too, 24 races should have happened but the races in China and Italy (Emilia Romagna) were cancelled owing to Covid-related issues and floods respectively. Sin City Las Vegas, which hosted its first GP last year in more than 40 years and got rave reviews for the large part, will host the race on Saturday. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will also hold the races on Saturday on account of the Ramadan.

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A lot of drivers, including the champion for the last three seasons Max Verstappen, are not happy with the long schedule but the governing body of the sport has other ideas in its mind.

Again there will be six sprint races, independent of the main race and added to the sport for more excitement and thrill. Besides they fetch a few points. These races will be held in China, Miami, Austria, US, Brazil and Qatar. The first two in the list are going to host it for the first time replacing Azerbaijan and Belgium from 2023. It's another contentious issue and again Verstappen is not on the same page. The qualifying for the sprint will take place on Friday this time and the sprint before the main qualifying on Saturday. Previously all sprint-related action was confined to Saturday.

Ahead of the season two teams have changed their names. Alfa Romeo have gone back to Sauber -- Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber to be precise. Alpha Tauri, Red Bull’s sister team, have changed to Visa Cash App RB. For the first time in the history of the sport, there is no change in the drivers’ line-up between the last race of 2023 and the first race of 2024.

A couple of dramatic developments have materialised before the season opener. First and foremost, Lewis Hamilton is joining Ferrari from Mercedes at the end of the season. He has won six out of his seven drivers' championships at Mercedes so it's going to be an emotional last season for him at the Silver Arrows. He has said nothing will be greater than leaving the team on a high at the end of the season.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner then appears to be in some trouble. A female colleague has accused him of inappropriate and controlling behaviour. By the look of it, Horner should be out of it soon but if the investigations drag on, the scandal, small though it may appear at the moment, can impact overwhelming favourites Red Bull adversely. Make no mistake. Rivals would hope so. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has already applied pressure on Red Bull and the governing body, calling for transparency as it was an "issue for all F1". This issue is going to keep everyone intrigued till closure, whenever that happens.

Red Bull and Verstappen remain the combo to beat for other teams. Last season the 26-year-old driver won a record 19 races out of 22. The season before he had won 15. Unless someone among the rivals has produced a miracle car in the off-season, Red Bull look well on their way to winning their fourth successive drivers' and third successive teams' titles.

On the first day of the testing on Wednesday, Verstappen drove like catch me if you can. He was more than a second clear of the field. He completed 143 laps in all and seemed to encounter no troubles. While testing results don't confirm anything for sure, Red Bull look ominous for the season. As of now, there is only the Horner issue that can destabilise their campaign, of course if not resolved quickly to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

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