The 2023 Formula One season got off to a flier in the Bahrain night, with Max Verstappen continuing from where he left off in 2022, winning ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez in 2nd, and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in 3rd.
Verstappen led from pole position with a fantastic getaway off the line on his scrubbed set of soft tyres. Behind Verstappen, Perez and Carlos Sainz battled hard for P3, with the Mexican driver having lost out to Charles Leclerc, gifting the Monégasque driver second place at the start.
The Aston Martin pair behind, almost collided at turn 4 on lap 1 when Lance Stroll made a lunge on Alonso and tapped the rear of his AMR 23, allowing the Mercedes’ of both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell through. Although this did not hamper Alonso’s storm to the podium as he passed Leclerc who had an engine issue on lap 41 having to retire his car.
Leclerc’s engine issue cost what was a nailed-on 3rd place for Ferrari after Alonso had taken 5th place from Hamilton in a nail biting battle at the inside of turn 10. Alonso then passed his fellow Spaniard on lap 45 earning the 2-time world champion his first podium since Qatar 2021 and his maiden podium for Aston Martin.
Behind Alonso, Sainz came home to earn Ferrari’s first points of the season with a 4th place finish, holding off Hamilton who struggled in the opening stint for grip on the soft tyre. Stroll who has just returned from a wrist injury that left him out of testing last week finished 6th between the Mercedes, with Russell taking 7th place after he was undercut by the Aston Martin driver in the second round of pit stops.
Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas took 8th place for Alfa Romeo finishing ahead of Pierre Gasly, who started the race in last place for Alpine and finished in an impressive 9th place. Thailand’s Alex Albon took the last points paying position with 10th place.
Alpha Tauri driver, Yuki Tsunoda was the first to finish outside of the points finishing in 11th, whilst American rookie Logan Sargeant battled with Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu taking 12th place on his Formula One debut. Williams surprised most with their start to the season after many had written the British outfit off before the season.
Magnussen benefited from Zhou Guanyu, who pitted on the penultimate lap gifting the Haas driver 13th place. Frisian driver Nyck De Vries finished the race in 14th place for Alpha Tauri. Nico Hulkenberg finished 15th on his return to Formula One as a full-time driver for the first time since 2019. Zhou finished 16th place and McLaren’s Lando Norris rounded out the finishers, with the Brit having a tough race, pitting multiple times as he carried an issue.
The non finishers were Esteban Ocon, who had a woeful race, firstly receiving a 5-second penalty for lining up on his starting grid spot incorrectly, then receiving a 10-second penalty for not serving his 5-second penalty correctly, and a further 5-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Alpine decided to retire Ocon late in the race.
Leclerc ran into engine issues on lap 41 losing out on a podium. Debutant Oscar Piastri retired in the pits on lap 13 with his car not allowing him to downshift. McLaren revealed it was an electrical issue following the race.
Winners and Losers.
The big winners of the day were Red Bull, who stormed home to a 1-2 finish, beginning their 2023 season in dominant fashion. Red Bull will look to continue this form to retain the constructor’s world championship.
Aston Martin showed they have a good car with the AMR 23, that can fight with Mercedes and Ferrari. Mercedes although not running at the front impressed, as expectations were not high. Team principal, Toto Wolff stated they need to redesign their car, before the race.
Alfa Romeo started the season off well with Bottas taking an solid 8th place for the team and getting them off the mark scoring 4 points. Williams were another team who demonstrated they have made a lot of progress, with Albon scoring points following what seemed to be a poor three day test last week.
Ferrari have started on the wrong foot, with Sainz being their only points scorer as reliability is still plaguing the Italian outfit. Prior to the engine issue Leclerc ran comfortably in 3rd place showing the pace is there, they just need to get on top of their reliability issues. Alpine, had a disappointing start to the season although they scored points, their season has not got off to the start they would want with Ocon retiring due to a plethora of mistakes.
Alpha Tauri continued their poor form after testing and took away no points from the opening round, Haas scored a singular point benefitting from what happened in front of them with retirees, but look like they need to improve if they are going to battle in the midfield. McLaren began the season in poor form, scoring no points, and having major issues throughout the race. Norris impressed qualifying the car in 11th, but their race was disappointing from start to finish.
After round one of the 2023 Formula One season Red bull look to be the team to beat this season, dominating the first race of the year. It will be interesting to see whether the others will catch the Milton Keynes outfit in the next Grand Prix on March 19th in Saudi Arabia.