The winter break is finally over and we’ve witnessed an incredible Bahrain F1 GP! With four teams and eight drivers in with a chance of fighting for podiums, this is sure to be one of the most exciting Formula 1 seasons we’ve had in a long time!
Let’s take a closer look at the biggest takeaways from the opening round of action in Bahrain.
Dream Start for Red Bull
Red Bull dominated the season opener with a 1-2 in Qualifying. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez then powered their way to a 1-2 finish in the race as well. Nothing seemed to slow the Dutchman down as he’s on the hunt for his third consecutive World Championship.
The rest of the grid will be playing catch-up throughout the season as the RB19 looks just as strong as its predecessor was in 2022.
Aston Martin Flying High
Aston Martin has been the surprise of the 2023 season so far. Fernando Alonso took a spectacular third-place finish at the season opener. The Spaniard showed massive fighting spirit to take his car from fifth on the grid to the podium position. Alonso pulled off incredible overtaking moves on Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz and walks away from Bahrain with a trophy and the ‘Driver of the Day’ award.
Aston Martin has made massive strides forward over the winter break, and the team has developed an incredible car for this season that might even be ahead of Mercedes and Ferrari.
In August of 2022, Mike Krack foreshadowed a more powerful AMR23 with Sebastian Vettel’s influence and feedback on the previous car. “Vettel is still working on the Aston Martin for 2023, and you can see how professional and determined he is” praises Krack. “Please keep that in mind for next year’s car, he’s in full swing!”. Vettel and Alonso’s fierce rivalry goes back a long way, but the German has left a magnificent car for Alosno who praised the team over the radio with a message: “This is a lovely car to drive.”
Long Season Ahead for Ferrari
Ferrari might have been upbeat coming into the first race of the season, and they certainly showed some pace during Qualifying. Despite starting in third and fourth, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz weren’t able to keep pace with the mighty Red Bulls.
The first worrying signs came overnight as Ferrari had to replace an energy store on Leclerc’s car — drivers only get two of these units for the entire season before they start taking penalties for replacing them.
Leclerc got a great start and made his way into second place, overtaking Sergio Perez, but it didn’t last long. On lap 41 of 57 Leclerc’s Ferrari power unit gave up as his car ground to a halt on the side of the track. Sainz struggled with worn tires toward the end of the race as he came under attack from Fernando Alonso who eventually overtook him to take third place.
Despite their hard work over the winter, it seems there are still some mechanical issues that Ferrari needs to work on this year.
It’s not just the top teams that are looking exciting this year, but the entire grid has been shaken up throughout the winter break! It’s impossible to predict which way this season will go.
First of all, there’s a red alert at McLaren. Not only did they struggle for pace in qualifying, but there were some reliability issues in the race too. Oscar Piastri had to retire from the Grand Prix, and Lando Norris had to make six pit stops in the race to continually top up the air in his engine — he suffered from a pneumatic issue and finished two laps down.
Alex Albon scored one point for Williams after finishing in 10th, and his rookie teammate Logan Sargeant drove a brilliant race to finish in 12th, just eight seconds behind Albon.
Alfa Romeo and Alpine also look competitive with Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly finishing in 8th and 9th respectively. Haas is still up in the air after Nico Hülkenburg qualified in 10th but finished in 15th with his teammate in 13th.
One thing is clear though, and that is that Alpha Tauri has taken a step backwards. Nyck De Vries and Yuki Tsunoda both struggled in Qualifying and the race, so there’s a ton of work to do there.
Who Can Respond?
Next up we have the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah on March 19th. It’s an incredibly fast track and Red Bull should have the advantage. However, Aston Martin is not far behind, and once Fernando Alonso gets his car dialled in, he’ll certainly be giving the Bulls a run for their money. Ferrari looks pacey, but they need to sort out their mechanical woes, and Mercedes have some work to do!