Bahrain GP: Verstappen and Red Bull start 2023 off in demonic fashion

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez bagged Red Bull their perfect start to the season with a 1-2 finish under the glistening lights at Sakhir. Fernando Alonso climbed back to the final podium step with Aston Martin after a magnificent, headlines-making debut with his new team, littered with a basket of fancy overtakes throughout the race.

Carlos Sainz finished at 4th in the remaining Ferrari with Lewis Hamilton taking 5th place in his uncharacteristic Mercedes. Lance Stroll took the chequered at P6 after a commendable recovery arc from his fractures, followed by George Russell in 7th. Bottas came home best of the rest with Pierre Gasly and a very impressive Alex Albon rounding up the top 10.

Race Results:

Bahrain GP_Race results

Top talking points from the Bahrain GP:                   

Red Bull’s flawless domination:

Red Bull were known from testing to be the team to beat, and their 1-2 at the Bahrain GP is nothing short of a deafening statement to its rivals. Albeit a weaker showing in the practice sessions, Verstappen and Perez stepped up their pace, literally, in qualifying and race, with the 1-2 grid slots getting replicated at the race with Verstappen even leading every lap from the start. Perez did not carve out his ideal race start, losing a place to Leclerc but making up for it through midway of the Grand Prix. Adrian Newey’s creative prowess unabated, the RB19 put its might to full use and started off the season strong with its near competitors still in the process of ironing out kinks.

Ferrari’s “old habits die hard”:

Given the absolute plethora of changes the Maranello team brought upon itself, from team principles to engine reliability, fans were wronged to expect a change of ways from the Scarlet Scuderia. Charles Leclerc’s SF-23 came to a halt on lap 41 of the Bahrain GP owing to a suspected engine failure as an audible winding down of revs was noticed. Apart from the momentary action against Sergio Perez, to which the Monegasque offered little to no evasion, the first Ferrari retiree of this season did not have a race to gather much excitement off of.

Leclerc’s stoppage by the track

Carlos Sainz had to resort to 4th as his podium efforts were humbled by a hungry and charging Fernando Alonso on lap 45, when a tight and well executed move by the latter snapped the red-clad Spaniard off the final podium step. Once again, Ferrari’s reliability woes have struck, and while they were poised to take the fight up to Verstappen and Red Bull, the team are left scrapping against the likes of this season’s dark horse, Aston Martin.

Aston Martin’s expectations-defying performance:

By now you must have known Aston Martin are the team to look for this season. With a car capable of fighting for wins and a design philosophy that works tremendously effectively, the green team from Silverstone brought home their second trophy and potentially the first of many in 2023 and a dream start to the season! Fernando Alonso, after topping the final two practice sessions at Bahrain, started the race at P5 and mostly headlined the racing action up front. With an eye wateringly beautiful move against Lewis Hamilton (yeah, they don’t seem to stop scrapping) and an El Matador faceoff against compatriot Sainz, Alonso showed that age is just a number for him.

Alonso’a move on Hamilton
Alonso’s fight against Sainz, to which he hilariously came onto the radio saying “Yes! Bye Bye”

With many now claiming the AMR23 to be the 2nd fastest car on the grid (although I explain my thoughts about the car in the 2023 season technical deep dive here), they have now been bestowed upon the title of frontrunner rather than a midfielder. Lance Stroll’s impressive 6th seems even sweeter when you consider his recovery from the hospital bed just two weeks prior! Except a race start shunt against his teammate, the Canadian made sure to show his mettle against the grid in his very competitive race car.

Mercedes’s Meltdown:                  

Nothing much to talk here, except that the team isn’t even in the fight for wins at this point. The most appropriate words to sum up their horrendous plight would be that Toto Wolff has now mentioned that “retaining the zero-pod concept for 2023 was a mistake”, and that his team “suffered one of their worst days in racing” at the Bahrain GP. With a car concept not even remotely a frontrunner, despite it being an absolute looker, the public acceptance of a resentful team spirit isn’t all that helpful. Needless to say, their Bahrain GP was marred with failed defences and a pace-less W14 against the likes of others and even Aston Martin, a team which shares a significant chunk of Mercedes resources. Oh what a pity!

McLaren and Williams swapping metrics:

No disrespect to Williams, but orange seems to be the new blue this season. After retiring rookie Oscar Piastri for a seemingly erroneous steering column problem, reliability decided to ring McLaren’s bell once again as Norris reported a hydraulic pressure leak. Things spiralled down so much that the number 4 driver had to come into the pits every 10 laps to reinstate pressure into the MCL60’s system. That said, McLaren had clocked in the least mileage among the teams, once again owing to reliability issues, and their first upgrade package (albeit a major one) won’t be seen until Baku. If the team from Woking can manage to maintain a healthy application of upgrades, all hope is really not lost for them.

Piastri’s retiring pitstop

Meanwhile Williams, at the helm of rookie Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon, managed to bag a point in just the first race of the season, a performance magnitude the team has been looking for a long time. Sargeant came home 12th after an impressive debut, with Albon figthing his way up the field to manage a P10 finish; the team also poised to be in the regular fight for points in an excessively bunched up 2023 field!

Formula 1 2023 has posed new challenges to the teams while Red Bull seem to be as comfortable as it gets. Data suggest that Aston Martin and Ferrari are the teams in the top-dog fight, with Mercedes lagging quite the margin behind. If you are interested in the numbers game of F1, make sure to have a look at this in-depth piece of mine! Formula 1 will return to Saudi Arabia at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in two weeks’ time for the 2nd race of the season for some more action.

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