The dream turned into a nightmare for Formula One world champion Max Verstappen in Bahrain when Red Bull’s challenge for victory in the season-opening race ended in double retirement.
The Dutch driver took the fight to Ferrari’s eventual race winner Charles Leclerc early on Sunday but his hopes died when he retired from second place three laps from the end.
Mexican teammate Sergio Perez also failed to make it to the chequered flag.
Team boss Christian Horner said it had been a “brutal finish” and the double retirement was the team’s “worst nightmare”.
Verstappen explained his car’s brakes were overheating early on and then there was a problem with its balance and steering before what finally appeared to be a fuel system issue.
“It was just almost impossible to steer and the faster I was going, it felt also like there was a delay,” he told Sky Sports television.
“So every time I was turning right it took a while before something was happening.
“It was very hard out there, a lot of different issues we had to deal with.”
The 24-year-old, who suffered two retirements last season on his way to the title, said the performance was in the car but he had not been able to really show what it could do.
“We already lost a lot of points again in one race weekend so that’s really not good. Of course I know that with one retirement it’s not over but I would have preferred to have at last 18 points,” Verstappen added.
Horner said it looked like both cars had suffered a similar issue at the end, while Verstappen’s steering problem stemmed from the car being dropped at a pitstop.
“The negatives are zero points, that’s a brutal start. The positives are we’ve got a great car, we’ve got a car that’s qualified on the front row and that’s fought with Charles for the win,” he said.
“We’ve got to get this behind us and get stuck into the next event.”
Saudi Arabia hosts the second grand prix of the season, next Sunday.